The Team of Note Design Studio

Ideas you can feel

Furniture, luminaires, interiors, brand presences: What Note Design Studio from Stockholm creates looks fresh and contemporary. Behind it is a collective of designers and architects. Even interviews are not necessarily the founders' business: we spoke to graphic designer and art director Johanna Lundberg and furniture designer Joel Fjällström.

Jasmin Jouhar: Dear Johanna and Joel, neither of you is one of the founders or the group of five partners of Note. You only joined when the studio was already established. What interested you about the concept?

Joel Fjällström: For me it was the possibility to really influence the results of the studio's work. To be part of something instead of just working for someone.

Johanna Lundberg:
What attracted me was the opportunity to work with people from different disciplines.

On Note's website you can find the sentence: "We are a studio with a strong collective spirit". How does this spirit make itself felt in everyday work?

Johanna: By having the three core teams of product design, interior design and graphic design work together across the different disciplines. The teams are in constant exchange and support each other. A good example is the design of an exhibition or a public space. In such places, there is always a graphic level as well. But instead of bringing in graphic designers at the last moment, at Note I am involved in the projects from the beginning. Graphic design can even influence architecture!

How exactly do the design processes work?

Johanna: Every project starts with a Point of Departure, a meeting where a series of questions are answered that set the framework for the project. This involves the actual project team and the focus group. The focus group then looks at the project from the outside from time to time during the development process. Usually the focus group includes at least one person from another discipline.

The feedback can be totally intuitive, whether you like something or not. It can also be about technical issues. In product design, for example, we definitely need the view of interior designers. How will the furniture be used? Is it practical at all? Would they use it in their own projects?

But a lot also happens spontaneously. You know the interests and qualifications of the individual people. Then you just pick them up and ask them for their opinion.

When you design something in the studio, is there that one moment when one person takes responsibility and decides that the design is now ready?

Johanna: The people who work on a particular project lead that project. But it is a transparent process, so someone from the partners always knows what is happening. Sometimes they are very actively involved in decision-making, sometimes they are just informed. It depends on the nature of the project.

In my experience, there are moments like that, but I'm sure it varies from team to team. But there is often some leeway. So if something is really important to me, I try to convince the leadership of the project to take the time for the final touches.

Are there defined hierarchies in the studio?

Johanna: Note tries to actively avoid hierarchies, but that is a challenge. The collective is something we strive for, it is our goal, but for many reasons there is still a hierarchy. The partners are ultimately the ones in charge, and they know about everything, whether it's business, financial planning or other sensitive information. I think the experience of working at Note can be very individual, depending on who your closest collaborators are. However, there is a lot of room for questions, discussion and debate - everyone is invited to speak up and that is expected.

I would say there is a hierarchy. But the decisions in the design processes are less hierarchical and open for all to discuss. This design is to allow you to have as much fun as possible with your work and to develop yourself. It also gives you a sense of security to have the studio and partners as a backup in case things get complicated or stressful.

How would you describe the relationship between the collective and the individual in the studio?

Johanna: Collective work does not mean that the individuals are not important. On the contrary, with us the individuals are very strong, they make up the studio. I think it's more about dispensing with prestige. The founders are proud that their names are not on the door. Everyone in the studio is encouraged to have a say. We can disagree, and that's good!

Absolutely! There is an opportunity to have your say on everything. Maybe you can't decide everything, but you can have a say in everything.

"Sprinkle" for Zero Lighting
"Kosta Boda" - Art direction / graphic design / photography project
"Making history" for Tarkett

Is there anything you would like to change?

Joel: Of course, there is always room for improvement. But the good thing is that there is the potential for development in this studio.

Nothing is without mistakes. That's why it's important to value the input of all team members and respond to it so that the collective spirit stays good.

How has the pandemic changed the studio's work?

Johanna: During the pandemic, we worked a lot at home. Our weekly meetings, where we had previously all gathered around the big table for breakfast and discussion, became a monthly digital meeting. As a result, we lost our lively discussion culture, because instead of the whole group, only one or a few people presented. I think this affected all of us, many voices in the collective went unheard, the dynamic was gone. There was also less collaboration between the three teams. However, there was also a positive effect, many noticed that they could concentrate better at home. The fact that we now have the possibility to work in a home office or even in other cities is very much appreciated.

Do you think that the Note project looks different because it is developed collectively?

Joel: Yes! That is definitely our ambition!

We love to be surprised by ideas and ambitions. Because there is room for each individual with us, the result doesn't look so customised.

And I think the projects will develop even more differently if you look at what we are currently working on.

So the model of collective working prevents a recognisable note style from emerging?

Johanna: At least that's what we assume. From the outside, it might be perceived differently. Recently we did an internal workshop to put into words what Note stands for. We also talked about style, but we agreed that that's not what we're about. We finally agreed on the phrase Ideas you can feel. Be it a chair, a room, a printed catalogue or a digital project – it should make you feel something.

Lounge Chair und Sunbed aus der "Pelago" Kollektion für Skagerak