Note Design Studio’s approach leverages collaboration and dialogue
The Stockholm-based studio applies an interdisciplinary approach to design that encompass everything from strategy to art direction, resulting in a wide range of project outputs that blend client needs with expert industry perspective
“Ideas you can feel” is the claim in the Instagram bio of Stockholm-based Note Design Studio.
This concept aptly encapsulates the spirit of design as taking concepts in the abstract and conveying them through tangible objects and solutions that have purpose and utility for the people who use them. That is exactly what Note Design Studio has been doing ever since it was founded in 2008 by architect Johannes Karlström and design manager Cristiano Pigazzini.
And now, 15 years down the road, Note boasts a 20-person multidisciplinary team of architects, interior designers, graphic designers and product designers.
The studio approaches design with a unique multidisciplinary perspective that encompasses strategy and art direction, offering consulting services to assist clients in pinpointing not only the desired project but understanding the overall context including factors like the relevant market and competitors.
Note is a one-stop shop that features a vast portfolio of projects ranging from furniture design to product sample boxes, from venues like high-tech health centers to visual communication including exhibits for the launch of new products like those of flooring company Tarkett.
We wanted to get an inside look at the studio‘s approach and their multidisciplinary methods, so we spoke with Karlström to learn more about how they work.
Note Design Studio has been going strong since 2008. How did the journey begin and what are the studio’s core values?
“We began as a multidisciplinary studio right from the start, and that heritage has been in the core of our work since then. We love to look at a project, a problem or a solution from different views and with different competences, it gives us a better holistic understanding of which direction to take and what decisions to make.”
Note specializes in a variety of disciplines from spatial design to visual communication to product design. How does a multidisciplinary approach make for better design projects?
“Our multidisciplinary approach allows us to take on bigger and more complex tasks. We have talented people in the studio who can handle a big variety of projects. It is also a huge advantage to be able to create the whole story of the project, not just the product or the spatial work but also the strategy beforehand and the packaging afterwards.”
How important is the research phase when embarking on a new project? Is there a difference in this factor when it comes to product design compared to other projects?
“Research is very important in our projects. It can vary from researching competitors, aesthetics, new materials, ways to produce or to look at bigger topics like understanding the context of how we live today and what we could perhaps expect from tomorrow.”
The studio launched the platform Note Editions just a couple of years ago to have a showcase for the studio’s products when the pandemic prevented design fairs from being held. Has the platform been successful?
“It has been successful in promoting an increased non-dependency of producers as designers, and a way for us to connect directly with the end consumer. It was a test of an idea which we have not elaborated enough with yet. Let’s see if it is successful in other ways in the future as well.”
How important and relevant are design fairs for the design industry and for designers?
“Design fairs are a topic that many are talking about these days. Following Covid and the restrictions of meeting face to face, many fairs struggled a lot. But also considering the substantial environmental effect of fairs, how can we allow the huge amount of waste material the fairs create?
We’ve been working a lot to find ways to minimize the waste from the stands we design, and we see an increasing demand from exhibitors to also look for new solutions that are sustainable – both environmentally and economically.
But yes, fairs are still very important, to meet people and share ideas and visions face to face. This is still the undisputed way of moving forward and developing new ways of thinking.”
Given the studio’s multidisciplinary approach, can you walk us through the process when you’re approached by a client?
“Normally a project starts with us getting a brief from the client, and our first task is to dig into the brief, to understand what the client is looking for and from what standpoints they made that decision to approach us with the specific brief.
In many cases we do not agree with the brief 100%, so we create our own brief and go back to the client and propose that, and while defining our brief we consider their brand, our brand, what the desired outcome should be and how this project would bring something new to the table.
For us this is a very important step both to get a deep understanding of the client and the brief and also to give our professional feedback on the request. Since we work in a multidisciplinary way, we can have a lot of different views on the project and find new ways of working with it.”
On the Note Editions website, one reads that the studio embraces failure in the design process. What is it about failure that makes for good design, and what advice can you give to designers who are experiencing disappointment?
“Failure is, of course, a painful experience, but as we see it, it is connected to being courageous: if you are brave enough to fail, you will have a better chance of discovering something new. And with this comes a lot of energy moving forward. We try, we fail, we find a new way of doing things, and we progress.”
What vision and plans does the studio have for the near future?
“We are striving to be one of the leading design studios in the world. This has been our ambition for some years now, and it is of course difficult to measure. But our absolute ambition over time is to always create top-level design.
In terms of our team, we are working on ways for everyone to be secure, brave and inspired to challenge the norms and to find new ways of designing this world into the future. On a more practical level we are planning to open a new studio in Copenhagen this summer in order to have a new platform in another context. We are excited to see what opportunities this will bring to us and if it will change the way we work.”