Fold. Snap. Then fold again.
You may not realize it, but that was enough to assemble your very own handcrafted leather wallet. Assuming, of course, that Nanna Ringsing and Fernando Vale, the founders of the Denmark-based Lemur Design Studio and recent TUMO Studios product design atelier leaders, made the wallet.
When they set about creating their leather wallet, they wanted to make a handcrafted accessory that someone making an average income could afford. In order to do this, they had to confront the fact that labor is expensive in Denmark, meaning that constructing a leather wallet there would automatically drive its price up. So instead, they designed a product that doesn’t need outside sources for assembly by allowing the customers to assemble it themselves. In cutting this step, Lemur guaranteed the product could still be produced with the highest caliber material, yet not require sticking a tag with an exorbitant price on it. Or in other words, good design that covers all the bases. This was the starting point for their product design atelier at TUMO Studios.
The focus for the atelier was on the dining room — more precisely, the dining room table. The dining table is where you have lunch. But it’s also your home office, where the family gets together to play board games, where you put down bags you’re unpacking. The problem (or fun challenge, depending on how design-minded you are) is that different dining table activities require different dining table accessories. During dinner, you need the food tray, which you then replace with the iPad stand while you’re working, which you later substitute for the lovely candlesticks when guests come over. So the students and designers in the Studios atelier decided to confront that issue by developing a new type of dining table centerpiece that doesn’t need to be shuffled about depending on the time of day. They created a multi-functional tray that caters to a variety of needs according to the occasion. The tray can hold warm pans, has a snack compartment and seats an iPad, all while still functioning as an attractive centerpiece in its down time. Though really, function dictated the final form of the tray. “We wanted everything to have a reason,” explains Nanna, “each piece of this tray has a purpose and we didn’t include anything for the sake of beauty alone. The tray turned out attractive because, in our experience, when you focus on function, the aesthetics always fall into place.”
As adherents to the slow design movement, these two take a more holistic approach to the design process. Part of this means placing an emphasis on preliminary research and taking into account the unique regional factors, like the high cost of labor in Denmark for example, that will later play a role in production. Part of this also means designing with sustainability in mind. They don’t churn out products that will be used one day and relegated to an attic corner the next — these devotees design with sustainability and longevity in mind.
One offshoot of the slow design movement is the idea of producing a high-quality product that is also affordable and will last. In a market that is dictated by cheap goods produced fast, affordable products that don’t sacrifice quality are few and far between. They do that by focusing on good design, and that’s all about utility and function infused with beauty and aesthetics.
Focusing on good design doesn’t mean focusing on any one particular aspect whether it’s aesthetics, function, or regional peculiarities. They all work together seamlessly, each has its role and no one element is more valuable than the other. Because of the meticulous nature of this process, creating a slew of meaningless products to be strewn about the home just isn’t an option. Thoughtful design gives the customer the chance to pick and choose a select few items that speak to them. As Fernando notes,
“If your house is on fire, you’re not going to grab the trinket you bought as an impulse item. You’re going to grab the items that mean something to you. It’s about having less and caring more.”