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Interview with Kari Thomsen

Home > Designer Interviews > Kari Thomsen

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Kari Thomsen (KT) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Kari Thomsen by clicking here.

Interview with Kari Thomsen at Thursday 24th of April 2014
Kari Thomsen
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
KT: As a child I was very creative and was always making drawings, painting, and experimenting with paper and wood models of houses, air crafts and cars. Living in a small village at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean pushed to challenges on being creative, experimental and to improve everyday tools and equipment. The nature surroundings and living conditions encouraged to close study of nature and biology combined to exploitation of structures and natural forces. After high school two ways opened to university in Copenhagen – either the study of biology or the art and construction as architect. So the childhood and very good circumstances for a free, creative and experimental life led in 1981 to a master degree in architecture at the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Architectural Department.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
KT: My company was established in 1986 in the center of the capital Torshavn, Faroe Islands, and registered as an traditional architectural office offering building and city planning advice as projects of all kinds of structures. The special building project in 1990 for the Greenland Society Cultural House in Torshavn, was a breakthrough by improving geodesic construction and design by building the first world wide full scale truncated icosahedron. This gave an Bronze A´Design Award in 2013, in the category Architecture, Building and Structure Design. My design/architectural office is engaged with technical designer as external engineering work when needed.

FS: What is "design" for you?
KT: Good design has a functional purpose combined or implemented to good proportions, manufactured in a solid and function useable material, as with the choose of which outside structure and / or color might be preferable. Other demands to good design have occur resent years where recycle, use of energy in both production as use, as the cradle to cradle principles must be implemented.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
KT: Primary design interest are buildings structures of all kinds.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
KT: The favorite design of my own is quite sure the geodesics, dome structures optimizing strength, the spatial room and living in such structure, as the row of demands to choose of in- and outside materials, use of energy, interior arrangements and the overall focus on sustainable building and materials.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
KT: My first small design project, beside bigger building structures, was a proposal for a box for gather of use batteries. The box was produced in 10 units in a solid wooden frame and made transparent by use of Plexiglas. The box was placed in supermarkets and bigger shops.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
KT: My favorite material and platform for work is primary laid to the process – from first ideas with pencil on paper, maybe some paper modelling too, and with next step to the computer with Auto Cad working.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
KT: Often the wintertime support good creativity as outside stay is not too easy. But in general evenings and relaxing situations reach a proper stage of ideas and creativity.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
KT: Primary aspects during the design process are the proportion of the product combined to its function being as practical as possible.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
KT: The design process feeling seems to be in a stage of high concentration and intense focus on the challenges to reach the idea and intended design. Sure a nice feeling.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
KT: The finished and realized design gives a feeling of good pleasure and satisfaction.

FS: What makes a design successful?
KT: If the product is popular and bought be customers, it can be stated as successful.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
KT: The intended function of a design is very important, and often goes for the primary aspect. But still, to my opinion, the combined function and design have to go hand by hand.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
KT: First responsibility for the designer to the society and environment must be the practical and recycle part of the product.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
KT: The design field has improved past years and quite clear a trend is seen where the pedagogical part is important, the ergonomic parts as high functionality and recycle possibilities.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
KT: Last exhibition was at the A´Design Award & Competition in Como, Italy, in 2013. Next exhibition will also be at the A´Design Award & Competition in august 2014, Italy.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
KT: Design ideas often occur in the daily life where products are analyzed and with ideas on how to make improvements. Otherwise design and architectural magazines are widely used for inspiration, and also visits to exhibitions give good ideas. Products even with nice design and proportions might not be especial good to intended purpose if chosen material or manufacturing technique and maintenance is too difficult.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
KT: My design style goes especial for the practical and functional solution combined to simplification of the product with good proportions, the best available choose of material and its structure, and a possible use of colors too. The approach is functionality and design fulfilling intended purpose as good as possible.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
KT: I live in the capital Torshavn, Faroe Islands, in the mid north of the Atlantic Ocean, and am highly affected by the cultural heritage though my knowledge and experiences to bigger and industrialized countries from long stay abroad, support to a basic understanding on where the goals are for good design. Living in a more isolated country depending on nature and living conditions for harvesting goods from sea and land set strength demands to good functionality of tools and equipment in daily life. His can be regarded as a pros in understanding the importance of the practical function of a design. And it is seen in example the viking boat, that the function is optimal and implemented to nature conditions to reach the perfectionism. Nature has the upper design, and the viking bot got implemented to the sea and ocean demands with almost perfect proportions. Cons working with modern design today, situated in isolated and small societies, is the contact and consultation to manufacturer on the mainland.

FS: How do you work with companies?
KT: Cooperation with companies are mostly by direct contact and consultation for development of a product. Agreements are mostly used for developments and how to keep the process going on until the product is ready for production.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
KT: Companies shall focus on the designers ability for analyzing an idea as his skills for visualization of the idea. Basic understanding and knowledge to materials, their strength and useability to the intended purpose, is also of vital importance. And further a good knowledge of production techniques as implementation of recycle demands will be necessary.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
KT: The design process is first the sketch of the idea based on the intended use of the product and its eligibility for better support to the daily life for people and the society / environment. From a maybe needed full scale modelling to understand and see the products possibilities in a good design, a Auto Cad drawings in both 2D and 3D will be necessary. Contacts to manufacturers will be needed to get support or supervision on how to produce the product to an as low cost as possible. Redesign and corrections to 3D modelling work will mostly be needed before a final decision is taken to the stated product. Here a few prototypes will be produced and often in different materials and structures, if any doubt should be to which material will be the best. After final corrections the decision will be made to start the production, marketing and sales work and so on.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
KT: Favorite design items at home are: the old lamp to the sofa and relaxing corner, the kitchen chairs in good danish quality and design, the coffee pot, the home designed advanced remote controlled hydro boat for play and spare time, and the own snow skate design for winter leisure.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
KT: The regular day of mine is first a good breakfast, the mandatory morning swimming, and next to the creative work at the office. Checking mails is often the first step, replying and commenting to mails, and further the ongoing work either at projecting or improving an ongoing work for a client. The day has often 8 hours of work, but it happens often that the evening has to be implemented. And next inspirational material, magazines and the internet, often goes for same design interests. When the work is similar to a hobby, the day or life becomes more easy and pleasant.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
KT: Some clues for young designers might be first to keep an open mind to designer products. One proposal is always to put questions on why the product has the particular design and how the functionality is met. Be critical and constructive and ask: Can this product be improved in design and functionality, how about choose of materials and structure, and does it fulfill nowadays demands for sustainability?

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
KT: The positive content of being a designer is first the process itself and seeing a good result take shape. And the greatest satisfaction is to have a design and product manufactured maybe even with an award for good design. Negative emotions might be if the process becomes difficult. The design might not be too good and the challenge to make improvements can fail more than once. Most negative result might be to have a design proposal rejected.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
KT: My ”golden rule” for a design task is always the question: Which is the design idea and what do I wish to reach for a good functionality. Implementation of the physical challenges are vital as a production has to be as simple as possible according to cost levels.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
KT: Most important skills for a designer are first the capability of free hand sketches combined to phantasy and realism as ”seeing” or imagining the product in 3D.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
KT: Designing tools are during the process first the handmade idea and sketches, next a combination of modelling in paper, wood or even plastic, and further a proper computer with all needed professional drawing and illustration programs. Inspirations are looked up either on the internet or magazines which every designer studio has to sign up for. Other sources are excursions and travel to specific location to experience similar tasks.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
KT: Design tasks can take long time to develop but also short time too. This depends on the task and content and how quick the good design idea is within reach. In need of time for a deadline evenings and weekends are often necessary.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
KT: Time spent for a good design can vary from a few weeks to several months. All depending on process to get the rely good idea. If the good idea is ”seen” at the beginning of a process, the time fulfilling a product might be short, and opposite, if the idea is difficult to reach, the challenge gets heavy, difficult and even the final result might not become the intended.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
KT: Most dominant question from a client is: Do you have an idea or good proposal, and how much does it cost for making a design proposal?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
KT: Most important job or project was the Greenland Society Cultural Dome in Torshavn. The task was very difficult as the geodesic load construction had not been built previous as a full scale building.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
KT: My clients are mostly companies, municipalities, official and governmental institutions and privates.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
KT: Design and construction of buildings have the most of interest.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
KT: Today and future work is primary to improve and market low cost and sustainable buildings.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
KT: I work partly with my design myself and partly as a team.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
KT: At moment three design projects are going one, one is a children school in Denmark, the city AArhus, another is an invitation to deliver two domes for the company Circle Resort to be built south of Stockholm, Sweeden, and a third project in preparation is to design and construct a resort and tourism area in the city Trogir in Croatia.

FS: How can people contact you?
KT: I can be contacted by mail: kt@olivant.fo or by phone: +298 311319 or mobile: +298 223703

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
KT: No


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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