Nicki van Roon and René Hansen are based in Aarhus and their designs were produced to solve a specific problem … they couldn’t find what they really wanted for their own apartment.
In fact, that seems to have become a key feature of their work … it’s problem led or do I mean solution driven? That’s a good starting point for any design … identify a problem - don’t just accept that something is and should be like that because it has always been like that and try to come at a problem from a different direction, a different viewpoint, to find a different solution.
Roon & Rahn also have a strong interest in graphics and they exploit engineering for the precision they want in manufacturing their designs.
Pieces in production include a bench and a round stool with three legs in wood; a rack for storing shoes; lighting and a wall hanging system called Moodboard and in development there is a very clever spice rack.
That might not sound like an extensive catalogue but Roon & Rahn are a young company and they are sensibly taking their time to add the right new designs. Moodboard took a year to develop, to come up with exactly what they wanted - the right design - and that is obvious in the quality of the finished product and in the clever way their system works. In fact, I liked the design so much that later in the Autumn, after seeing their work first at Northmodern, I tracked them down at Designer Space in Copenhagen to buy a Moodboard for my new apartment and then ended up buying a couple of their lights as well.
The pendant lights are interesting. They are simple with a large globe bulb hanging from a cable that runs through a brass stem but turned wood that drops over the bulb holder was made from timber salvaged from old recycled furniture. They use twisted flex in a natural linen colour that was chosen to give the lights a less clinical, less hard and less technical quality, as, over time, the brass will gain a patina.
R&R have a keen interest in the materials they use - the brass stems for the lights are made by them and we talked for quite a long time about sourcing good timber and about fuming or smoking oak. Again this is not about just designing at a drawing board but about working with materials and trying out ideas in the workshop to discover what a material can do or might do. The clear perspex used for the Moodboard is another good example because they had to experiment and had to work out how they could use laser cutting to get the precision and finish that they wanted.
From talking to Nicki and René, it was clear that in Aarhus there are local craftsmen, workshops and designers who together provide a mutual support group … so if they don’t know exactly how to do something then they know someone who does.
Packaging for their products is good. They use simple unbleached cardboard but again that disguises just how carefully thought out and stylish it all is … pictograms they designed for instructions for mounting the Moodboard on the wall are particularly good. These graphics are actually a step up from a pictogram but are still simple illustrations and are used instead of detailed written instructions … important when aiming for an international market. That same preference for good clear but sophisticated graphics can be seen in the design of their printed catalogue as well as the layout for their web site.
In the catalogue they use white lettering on a warm grey background … all simple but stylish and all very carefully thought through, as you would expect. A non-standard ampersand and their logo with interlocked Rs is interesting, one R inverted, so together they look like a bolt or screw head.
Roon & Rahn show yet again just why Danish design is so strong and why so many young designers and new companies are so successful … it’s not just about drive and ambition … they certainly have that … but about imaginative new solutions to old problems, with a clear sense of style, high standards for manufacturing with good, high-quality materials and the understanding that every detail really does matter.