A talk with Johan and Claes
“Some call our designs antidesign.” Johan Ragnar lightly taps his fingers on the armrest of the armchair. “And I think of that as something positive, like they understood our basic idea. We start with raw materials that we feel virtually design themselves. Whether it’s solid steel, delivered straight from the steel mill, that we make feet for the table frame out of. Or sheets of solid aluminum that we cut into the shape of a table top we want."
Claes Skogman nods. “It’s the raw, primitive nature of the material that attracts us. We want to show the genuine article in the raw materials. Our job is to refine, not distort. Only then can you be satisfied with the results.”
Johan grins. “We developed Ragnars.Work in 2000 because we felt there was a need for alternatives to the offices of the day in terms of organic shapes and simpler material solutions. For the Ragnars.Work concept, we created an expression in the furniture that we would want ourselves. We found inspiration in the art world. The primitive geometry of suprematism, the functionally beautiful architecture of the De Stijl movement and the fast, technical, revolutionary expressions of futurism.”
“We’ve always been interested in new materials, designs and technology,” Claes adds. “We’ve tried to apply the experience and knowledge we’ve amassed over many years to make the Ragnars.Work concept flexible.”
Johan nods in agreement. “We also focus a lot on the detail work. The entire staff at Ragnars has a passion for putting a high finish on the details. I’m really thankful for being able to work with people with so much skill and commitment.”
Claes stretches his legs and leans back in the armchair. “After all, details can also be related to function. We often begin by defining a functional need and then finding solutions to satisfy the need. We usually jokingly call it going down to the molecular level. We feel that you find the detail solutions at the molecular level that then give the product a design expression. If you succeed in creating good detail solutions, the product will beat the competition.”
The actual work of defining the functional needs is a major part of Johan’s and Claes’s daily work. They sit in the middle of the chatter from architects, customers and suppliers, which gives them a good insight into the problems that can arise and that demand solutions.
“You just have to listen,” says Johan. “Through the chatter, we get ideas for new solutions that our customers can use.”
“Deeper collaboration with architects is another rewarding process,” Claes continues before taking a sip of coffee. “Collaboration with architects provides ideas and knowledge that might be missing, which means that you start thinking along different lines.”
Johan agrees. “Absolutely. It’s always uplifting when architects do their magic on furniture that we get to manufacture. Colors that look strange on paper and in production turn out fantastic when they’re put in the environment that the architect had in mind for the customer. One example of this is Vasakronan’s new office with glass hatches in four different colors. The office creates a creative atmosphere that makes you happy to be in.”
“Or like now with Fond.Station,” continues Claes. “It actually has its origins in some architects questioning the entire conferencing culture. They defined a problem and we came up with a solution together. This collaboration leads to everybody involved learning something new and new products being created.”
“When we talk about creative environments, we just have to mention New York,” says Claes and adjusts his watch. “After all, it was in New York that everything began over breakfast at a café with Cornelis. Cornelis felt that it was the most creative place he had seen and I’m inclined to agree.”
“There’s an aggressive optimism in New York that re-energizes you,” adds Johan with a laugh.
It’s late in the day and the sun is on its way down. It’s time to wrap up our talk.
“By the way, Johan,” says Claes as he gets up out of the armchair. “Did you see the sketch of the new table? I think we’ve come up with a way to put it together.”
Their conversation continues. And it will continue as long as the eye is inquisitive.