Form Us With Love raises the bar of a design studio – Interview with the CEO Jonas Pettersson
Form Us With Love elevates design studio standards: on the clear vision of bringing real change, it blends industrial design with range strategy to establish a sustainable mindset. CEO and Co-founder Jonas Pettersson tells the story and the affirmed practice behind FUWL, a fresh reality with a purpose
Have you ever heard about the term “insider”? According to Cambridge, it refers to “someone who is an accepted member of a group and who therefore has special or secret knowledge or influence”. Founded in Kalmar, a small city in Southeastern Sweden, Form Us With Love may be defined as a design insider: pursuing innovation, this fresh design reality found its key-value in proving that sustainable ideas are genuinely commercial, thus becoming a possible and admirable benchmark for the world of design studios.
Form Us With Love is, in fact, establishing a whole mindset, rather than acting as an ordinary studio. It was built step by step over the last 15 years, on the idea of creating a dream work environment with a strong purpose – designing real change.
For DesignWanted, interviewing FUWL’s CEO and Co-founder Jonas Pettersson was like tasting an inspiring design journey, which led to blending traditional industrial design with a lean, strategic application covering the consultancy, ventures and civic areas.
How did the journey for Form Us With Love begin?
“In school, 2003-2005, last year of our bachelor in design. We were not too excited to continue studying and there was not really a workplace we felt had what we were looking for, so we decided to create our own dream work environment.
Later that year, in 2005, the same day as graduation, we went to the bank to open an account and found a tiny space for us to start working from. That’s now 15 years ago.
With our tiny space in a small city called Kalmar, it was at arms reach to the majority of the Swedish furniture industry, but we also felt detached from the world and the need for interaction could not wait.
We applied as exhibitors both in Greenhouse at Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair as well as Salone Satellite at Salone del Mobile in Milan. We were first rejected by the jury at Greenhouse, but thanks to a second chance we were accepted and had our first real interaction with industry.”
Why Form Us With Love? Why focus on industrial design and range strategy while covering the three main areas of consultancy, ventures, and civic?
“The name? ‘Form’ is the result of our process, what people eventually use and what we do. ‘Us’ is who we are. Since its start, we believed in the team rather than the lonely star. We carefully build our culture and grow our expertise every day.
We are now 11 people and our intention is to stay small and expert-full. ‘With’ is our strong belief in collaboration with industry leaders and experts in order to design real change. Last and not least is ‘Love’, which is a constant reminder of why we started and how we can continue doing work that gives energy.”
FUWL continuously searches for opportunities to make sustainability an everyday thing. Which are the biggest challenges to face in pursuing this set purpose?
“The challenges are endless, but the energy of working on actual solutions that could do good gives us all the reason to put in all the time and energy needed. We would not withstand creating more stuff with nice shapes and color, it’s not what the world needs.
With many years of experience in transforming brands with more sustainable offers, we learned many things.
It often comes down to the user (consumer), where the sustainable choice needs to be the better choice. Looking at our daily life, at the end of the day, we tend to choose things that are affordable and convenient. If the sustainable choice is more pricey and is inconvenient it will most likely not succeed.”
Form Us With Love has been named in the top five of Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Design Companies for 2020. When did your work start to get recognition?
“We are honored to receive such prestigious recognition! With that said, we never felt we had this breakthrough and, to be honest, it’s a good thing as it keeps us awake.
It has been an ongoing journey to improve our profession during our fifteen years, but already from the start, we got some recognition for a project called Bendable Interior Objects, which was tapping into many of the issues we have today around the use of resources, recycling etc.
The recognition has been some kind of evidence that also other people believe we are on the right track, which has for sure helped when spending years into most of the projects.”
You have worked with renowned brands, including Tetra Pak and LG mobile. How do you choose the type of clients for your projects?
“People are key to us. We prefer to work with unknown brands with brave leaders rather than renowned brands with safe leaders. Our mission is to design real change and in order to do so, we need to team up with brave leaders and experts.
Brands that look for just another nice product to launch are not really for us. FUWL is so rooted into using design as a tool to create real change.”
Prior to starting a new project and according to the diverse natures of your works, what type of research do you do and why?
“Our process is divided into 6 steps, starting with Explore. We explore both culture and industry, meaning we dive into understanding both daily challenges in people’s lives, as well as, opportunities within the industry to produce relatively more sustainable things in cost-effective ways.
By combining insight from both culture and industry we are able to bring forward meaningful and sustainable solutions. Our method takes all different aspects into consideration at the project start, rather than bring them in at the end.
With the year behind us, our work methods have adapted, where we used to travel a lot more to gather insights both on culture and at the factory floor, we now find ourselves collaborating and exploring in different ways.”
From an industrial design perspective, which are your vital tools, resources, and methods for you during the prototyping phase?
“Prototyping is dear to us. We constantly improve our tools, but during the first half of 2021, we are moving to a new studio with an extended and integrated workshop area. The new studio will be on one large floor, which will improve our collaborative work.
When it comes to prototyping tools, it goes from digital ones to hands-on physical ones. We have for example developed our own Jig Chair, which makes it possible for our team to test out ergonomy and adjust when gathering insights.
At the digital spectrum, we have invested in VR, which could be a good tool to explore a product in its context. Our learning is also to keep it simple, so with basic tools like pen and paper take us pretty far.”
What can we expect next from Form Us With Love?
“Today (2021-02-08) we open the exhibition “Form Us With Love – 15 years of Problems” which will be open during Stockholm Design Week and to be seen via large windows in the city center of Stockholm or via our own digital channels. The exhibition also contains the book ‘Problems’, which can be found at selected book stores.
The exhibition and book dive into five problems and solutions, an in-depth look at the studio’s process towards designing novel solutions. As an accompaniment to this week’s exhibition, we’re releasing one story per day, taking people through the studio’s methodology of identifying problems and collaborating on a solution.”