Rolf Hay visited Australia at the end of January to open the new HAY Sydney store with retail partner Cult. Here is my interview with Rolf Hay on communicating design, the pros and cons of storytelling and what sets Danish design apart.
Penny Craswell: I’m interested in your approach to communicating design, because I’m writing my Masters in Design on design narratives at the moment.
Rolf Hay: To be honest we have always tried to be quite straightforward with communication. I’ve always had problems in wrapping products into stories. Storytelling is interesting if it’s relevant, the question is what is the important information. It’s different when it comes to communication of the brand and the values of the brand. But for products, we try to do as little as possible.
PC: I’m interested in which stories are told about products – and I have been quite critical of the celebrity designer angle.
RH: I totally agree. I think in the fashion industry and the furniture and design industry, a lot of people perhaps feel a little bit insecure in the fancy salons. The design industry has a reputation for being arrogant and hard to get. This has to do with an overload of information and stories behind how fantastic the company is, and how amazing the products are. For us, it’s important when we meet our clients that we meet them with an open and honest attitude. And of course it has been very important that we meet the client with a lot of knowledge about the product – about materials, about production, about environmental issues. For the client it’s less important if the designer had an idea to do this chair when he was at the beach or on the toilet.
I’m not interested in these stories. I’m interested in the comfort of the chair, the material of the chair. I’m interested in whether this is a long lasting product. If it’s a timber base, how is it treated? If it’s textiles, what is the difference between the two textiles? It is up to the client to decide if they like it or not. What they can be sure of is that if they have bought a product from us, then we have done our very best to provide high quality for a reasonable price. I’m not saying our products are cheap because they’re not, and you can’t have them cheap if you want the best quality, the best materials.
PC: I think the Danish are quite straightforward, would you agree?
RH: Danish design is providing a simplicity and perhaps that simplicity is connected with being quite straight about how we are communicating our products. You can also put it the other way around, perhaps there is not that much to say about the product. A good product will actually explain itself. It’s up to the consumer or client to decide if it’s good.
We aim to use the best possible materials and we aim to produce comfortable furniture with a simple and beautiful aesthetic – there’s really not much more to say than that.
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