Happy new week to you, all! If you are even a little bit interested in Swedish design, then you need to say hi to Hanna Werning – one of Sweden’s absolute top graphic designers. Her patterns have been seen on everything from wall papers and china for leading International brands to fashion prints and graphic identity tools. She is famous for thinking ahead and for bringing meaningful design and some color (imagine that!) to Swedish design.
I had the opportunity to work with Hanna years ago, when she was still in design school in London. She helped me develop a corporate image package for the company I was running marketing for. I have worked with many designers in my days and I can honestly say that I have never worked with a designer where there were not a least a few revisions going back and forth before the final product. Whenever I got something from Hanna, I always took it right off the bat. There was never a need to change, edit or add anything. Whatever she comes up with is always brilliant.
It is an honor for me to present Hanna Werning to you.
1. Describe your design style for us.
I would rather let someone else describe my style :). But I think that it is easy to see that I spring from a graphic background. I grew up close to the woods and nature in Sweden so that is always a great inspiration for me.
It is easier for me to describe my work method. I can define it in two categories; one where the design is driven by ideas and another that’s more visually driven by intuition of colors and rhythm. They can weave into each other. (Pay attention to the details in her work).
2. Where do you get your inspiration from?
From people watching, walking in cities, visiting the woods, from my mother’s things… Lots of inspiration comes from my childhood and the nature. I grew up in the southern middle of Sweden, which has a lot of dark woods. There was a local Swedish artist, John Bauer, that has inspired me a lot. I am also fond of Elsa Beskow’s stories. I also like folk art. My time in London has also inspired me, being able to get so much from all parts of the world at the same time.
(The kurbits wall sticker is Hanna’s design).
3. Do you have any design heroes?
The list is long! There are so many designers, artist, musicians, people that I admire. But I always enjoy seeing work by Charles & Ray Eames and listening to Otis Redding, Jackie Mitto and Patti Smith on my Iphone.
4. When did you realize that design was going to be your destiny?
I kind of knew it at an early stage of my life but I didn’t believe it was a profession I could live on. I used to go to pottery classes every Friday for ten years as a kid. After many years working as a trainee, working within different media and after finishing St. Martins College there was no more question about it. This is what I want to do.
5. You are described today as somewhat of a graphic trendsetter. How were you in school?
I was anything but a trend setter! I was shy and didn’t want any special attention. I liked arts and crafts the most and that was one of my best subjects and I guess the classmates of mine would agree.
6. Which design accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
I think I haven’t made that piece yet! I’m still striving…
But of course my first wallpaper collection, called Hanna, for Boråstapeter is special to me.
And I really enjoyed working with my husband on a specific project – a machine that makes random drawings on plain, white wall paper. We call it Aparatus No. 1 ”Suddenly my wall was a mess – and I like it.”
7. Any particular design element(s) that you want to do more of?
I always have an urge to develop my skills and work process. Thinking environmentally – I probably should be doing less work?!
As a designer I always feel that it is a my responsibility to ask myself if my project is going to add something to the world or if it is going to ruin it. I am becoming more and more interested in ”public spaces” and making design worth while. Create meaningful art (at least to me and hopefully to others as well). There are so many existing places that need to be enhanced and visually beautified. Places that children and adults pass everyday – where its presence will influence people in the future – whether they are aware of it or not.
8. What is your take on Swedish design in general?
I think that I paid more attention to it when I lived in London than now when I am right in the middle of it. But when I think of Swedish design of today and when I visit design schools, I see a lot creativity and new ways of thinking. Swedes have always been keen on sustainable design. I think that Swedish design tends to be honest to the material, distinct and often a bit humorous.
When people in general hear Scandinavian design they most likely think of simple, clean, classic lines. And I might not fit in that category! But things change quickly nowadays and with the Internet people get influences from all over the world. I think that design becomes more multi faceted and less homogeneous.
9. Anything new and interesting you are working on at the moment?
Earlier this year I finished an interior/public decoration for a small movie theater in a local school. The theater a is called the “Owl”. (See the owl eyes in the dark!)
Currently I am working on decorating the walls of the corridors of the same school. It is a very positive project in the sense that it is a space with lots of kids from different parts of the world with different cultures. The surroundings really affects kids growing up and if I could make a positive impact on these kids’ daily life I really think I have succeeded in a worthwhile design.
Other fun and interesting things I am currently working on are: Design work for a Spanish bathroom company. Making a Christmas illustration, thinking of a new wallpaper collection for Boråstapeter. And designing a new Summer picnic set for Sagaform.
10. Has motherhood changed you as an artist?
So far, it has only changed how I work practically (less time in my studio and more time working from home).
But becoming a parent is a truly an incredible experience and I starting to see the world with new eyes. For sure motherhood that will change my design process in the future.
11. Of all your skills and talent which one do you hope that your own daughter inherits?
Hard to answer… I hope she will be curious, confident in herself and not become a mini-me.
12. If your husband said (horror!) that you could only bring one design item to your next home. What would it be?
I hate to say it, but I guess it would be my Apple laptop! Not really an interior object but defiantly an object of design and usage.
13. Lastly, if we all got to spend an afternoon in Stockholm with you – where would you take us?
Summer in Stockholm is so beautiful! How about some Boule, Beer and BBQ in a beautiful park setting by the seaside? I would bring you to “Boule och Berså”.
Thank you Hanna! It has been a pleasure getting to know you (even) better! Best wishes for continued success. We will all be watching you!
Images: 1. Hanna Werning via Gustav Karlsson Frost, 2 + 3. Boråstapeter, 4. House of Dagmar, 5. Rörstrand, 6 + 7. Hanna Werning, 8. Elsa Beskow, 9. John Bauer, 10. Hanna Werning, 11-13. Pulled from the internet – can’t remember the source – sorry!, 14. Boråstapeter, 15-20. Hanna Werning. 21. Sagaform, 22. Apple, 23+ 24. Flickr.