Interview with Jacob Holm, CEO Republic of Fritz Hansen
In an e-mail interview with Austrian professional furniture producer Bene, Jacob Holm, CEO of Danish design furniture maker Fritz Hansen, talked about Fritz Hansen’s design DNA, explained why Danish design is so popular and told what makes employees creative.
Founded in 1872 by the carpenter Fritz Hansen as a carpentry workshop, today the Republic of Fritz Hansen is known all over the world. The Republic of Fritz Hansen works with internationally selected designers and architects. Thanks to creative partnerships with visionaries such as Arne Jacobsen, Hans J. Wegner and Poul Kjærholm, Fritz Hansen has created a number of trendsetting, technically revolutionary and functional furniture classics which became classics.
New creations also demonstrate the innovative power of the brand: The success of the models FAVNTM and RoTM by Spanish top designer Jamie Hayón or the series minusculeTM by Cecilie Manz are testimony to their flair for design and materials.
Fritz Hansen is famous for a number of iconic design classics, but you also work with contemporary designers a lot. How do you connect past and future? How can one move into the modern world without breaking with the past?
I wouldn’t distinguish between design classics from the past and new design for the future – at Fritz Hansen we are keen to ensure there is a common thread running through our “design DNA”. It is important for us to design new things that can stand next to pieces that are 50 years old – for example, take our combination of a new table by Jaime Hayon with a 55-year-old Arne Jacobson design!
What do you like most about your work?
I really like to work in a highly internationally-orientated environment and with Fritz Hansen exports at 80%, it means I am travelling a lot. At the same time I really like the combination of business and design – it is a privilege to work with design and innovation.
I am sure that you have heard this question numerous times already, but still: How come, in your opinion, that Danish (and more general, Scandinavian) design is so popular worldwide? What is it that makes Danish design so loveable?
Danish design has a unique position around the world – I believe the reason for this lies in a few characteristics inherent to the Danes. We are known for being a very transparent country – in the same way our design is transparent, both in conception and execution. Clean lines and a look that always takes functionality as the point of departure is a fundamental factor. Secondly, it is a fact that for internationally-oriented people who have an interest in design, art and architecture, Scandinavia and especially Denmark are desirable locations where there is social balance, low levels of criminality and high quality of living. Denmark is known as a pleasant place, with excellent and healthy quality food. But above all, we want our lives to have aesthetic standards, both inside and outside. All of these things combined make Denmark a special place.
How should we picture a typical workday in your life? Is there even such a thing?
I do not have a special work routine. The only common feature is travel – since Fritz Hansen has subsidiaries in Japan and Singapore in the East, and in USA and Mexico in the West, I am often away on business.
Do you have a main workplace? Which places are a part of your work life, which are important to you or your inspiration?
Of course I have a workplace and I really appreciate being able to sit with the others in an open area that is as transparent as our design! Being able to hear from the others what the day’s challenges are provides me with a lot of inspiration. It saves a huge amount of time that I would otherwise have to spend going around and hearing some of the news.
Where do you most like to work?
I can work anywhere where there is Fritz Hansen furniture!
What is the most important tool for your work?
My iPhone and iPad – I cannot live without them.
Are there certain rituals that you consider important in your everyday work routine?
I am not autistic in the sense of having special ways or habits – but I really do like to be one of the first ones to arrive and one of the last ones to go home.
It is Bene’s believe that people work better in a well-designed workplace, a workplace that meets their needs and offers different places and spaces for different tasks. What, in your opinion, makes a good workplace?
I am certain that well-designed and functional surroundings result in higher efficiency, fewer absences and greater quality and work satisfaction. Unfortunately you also see offices that have lovely interior designs but lack spirit and humour so that the employees forget to have fun while they work. I believe this “having fun” is very important and it cannot be designed – you have to create that yourself!
The thing you most wish for in an office?
In many working environments what I miss most is inspiration! How can you expect employees to think outside the box and be innovative when they just sit and stare at the same white wall or old picture all day? Employees need to have inspiring and innovative surroundings to be able to reach their goal!