Design for Mass Production: 3 Designers Speak

Designing products for mass production is a highly specialised situation that benefits from close collaboration and the sharing of best practice. As a leading global manufacturer of premium outdoor furniture that is ethically produced and socially compliant, ScanCom has an international design team familiar with the challenges and issues faced when designing for mass produced items.

Boje Bendtzen is the founder of ScanCom and one of its chief designers, and now with 2 other members of the team, Malene Lund Rasmussen and Inbal Kahener, the ScanCom design team speak about their experiences of, and insights into, this fascinating area.

In 1995 Boje founded ScanCom in order to create high-quality, innovative outdoor furniture for the mass market and has continued to design pieces for the company since its inception. While at primary school, he was encouraged to draw and paint by an inspiring and gifted teacher and this helped to develop is drawing skills. As a teenager Boje designed and made furniture for his own bedroom and this passion was given a commercial outlet while working for the Danish Co-Op in the 1960s, when he was asked to oversee the development of a department for camping goods and outdoor furniture. Following this, Boje started his own business designing and producing products and in many ways ScanCom is the culmination of a life dedicated to creating innovative, environmentally conscious products for people to use and enjoy in their home.

In terms of deign inspiration Boje says, “I was fortunate enough to grow up in an era when Danish design was experiencing a golden age, with people such as Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juel and Hans J. Wegner at the forefront, all of whom had been taught by the renowned Kare Klint at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Already having an interest in design, it would have been difficult to not have been inspired by what was going on in Denmark at that time.”

It is telling perhaps that the designers mentioned by Boje not only designed chairs and tables, but all types of products including lamps, door handles and taps for example, which helped Boje understand the importance of making products that were functional rather than solely decorative. “All of these great designers had their own strengths and qualities but they shared the idea of combining functionality with form to produce innovative products that looked great, were long-lasting and perfect for their purpose. I have always tried, and I like to think I have succeeded, to keep this vision alive in my own designs and in the products that ScanCom manufactures.”

Malene Lund Rasmussen, a fellow native of Denmark, attended the prestigious Aarhus School of Architecture where she spent her final three years focussing on product and furniture design. Malene has been designing for ScanCom since 2013 and draws inspiration from the rich cultural heritage of Danish design that includes those mentioned by Boje and others like Borge Mogensen. In a similar vein to Boje, Malene highlights the importance of combining aesthetics with construction to create pieces that look great, are functional and make optimum use of materials and their properties. She says “They were all craftsmen who understood their materials very well and they were able to design furniture for the people, with an incredible high level of design detail and understanding of comfort.”

Malene admits that at the outset of her time designing for mass production, she feared that it might be slightly limiting in that she would find designing outdoor furniture lacking in variety. However, the challenges of designing for mass production and the shifting tastes of consumers proved her wrong: “Now I don’t find it boring at all, because there are always changes in the market trends, in the materials and in the production methods that opens up new possibilities and pushes me as a designer to continuously develop and grow.”

Customer satisfaction and their interaction with the items is also a key aspect of Malene’s drive to design innovative products. In her own words: “I am fascinated by the psychology of consumers, how they use a product and designing for a multinational company like ScanCom has allowed me many opportunities to develop knowledge in this area. I love the fact I can be hands-on in terms of the products I design rather than simply sitting behind a screen and designing at a distance. It is essential to understand the materials you are working with and how the product is manufactured in order to create honest designs that unite functionality and appearance.”

The final member of the design team, Inbal, studied Industrial Design at the renowned Holon Academic Institute of Technology in her home country of Israel. From 2009-2014 she was a senior designer in Israel, specialising in designing furniture for mass production and products she designed have been sold worldwide in addition to winning a handful of prizes. “My early experience was in plastics, which obviously has been a key material in terms of the development of mass production in the last 70 years or so, and the knowledge I gained at that time has proven to be useful as my career has developed. Understanding the material you are working with, its strength and weaknesses, is vital to any design and the growing trend for mixed media design, or materials used in combination with others within the one item, has only served to illustrate the importance of a broad range of knowledge and expertise within a design team. Each of us has their own distinctive vision for our products but collaboration and knowledge-sharing is a very important part of the process.”

Since joining ScanCom in 2014 Inbal’s designs have demonstrated a passion for innovative design and an awareness of the factors that affect design for mass production. “As a designer, I have always been interested in developing innovative ideas and concepts in order to deliver functional products that look great. My real drive is to create affordable and accessible furniture that enhances the aesthetics of any outdoor space and it is a thrill to know that people all over the world are using one of my designs in their everyday life.”

Inbal sees this mind-set mirrored in many ways by ScanCom, as the continuous search for innovation is mirrored by the company as whole. She says, “It is part of the DNA of the company to develop new materials, products and technology to create sustainably-produced high-quality pieces for the global market. I think that the drive for improvement and new approaches to design and manufacturing is to be applauded as it demonstrates that the ScanCom vision of ‘Doing Business the Right Way’ is not simply a catchy slogan, but rather a real commitment to ongoing improvement of all the products and services offered by the company.”