While Bjorn Kusoffsky has lent his wit and eye to such prestigious projects as Scandinavian Airlines, IKEA and Moderna Museet, the man did not start out wanting a career in design. “Actually, I wanted to become a pop star when I was in my teens,” the award-winning Swedish designer, who spoke at Hong Kong Business of Design Week earlier this month, recalls. “The band I was in at the time made an album and guess who designed our cover? Andy Warhol.” The story goes that Warhol and the bassist’s father were chums from back in the day and the pop artist, upon hearing the band play, had volunteered to design for them. “It created a lot of hype, but people were only talking about the cover. That was when I realised that design was much more impactful.” Intrigued, we find out more.
Is there such thing as ‘Scandinavian design’?
Yes, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it is minimalist. If anything, Swedish design – like its music and fashion – samples across nations, but there is always that unique wit that anchors it. I’d say there are two main drivers behind Swedish design: that it is cold and dark for six months of the year, and that it used to be a very poor country.
Could you elaborate on the effects that the weather has on Swedish design?
Well the most cliché way of looking at it is that since the sky is so dark all time, we want bright furniture to light up a room. At Stockholm Design Lab, we don’t take things that seriously because it gets boring. This is especially true for those working in the minimalist tradition. You need something witty or else the message gets lost.
You’ve designed for notable Japanese firms including Askul and Ohmine. How did the collaborations come about?
I think they can relate to us because both Swedish and Japanese designs are about finding this fine balance between simplicity and functionality. The Japanese are also very impressed with what we in Sweden call ‘Allemansratt’, which is the freedom to roam freely in the countryside.
(Left) SAS Airline; (right) Moderna Museet
What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
I think the challenge facing any design student is to create something more original than anyone else. One question that you have to ask yourself is: Do I need to make [another] chair, shoe or typeface? Am I contributing to the existing world in any way? At the end of the day, design is about problem-solving and making the world a better place to live in.
What are you looking forward to designing next?
The logo of the Swedish police force. The thing with police force logos is that they are often designed in a way to scare people, but that’s no longer in keeping with the times. I’d also like to work with the LVMH group. The thing with luxury brands is that they tend to do the same thing over and over again, and I want to challenge that.
Bjorn Kusoffsky / Stockholm Design Lab