On recent trip to see the renovations that Ikea has undertaken on its Montreal store, which is now its biggest in North America, I had the pleasure of interviewing designer Francis Cayouette.
Born in Montreal and now based in Copenhagen, where he lives with his wife Marie, also a designer, Cayouette sat down and shared his thoughts with me. Parts of that interview will appear in my Hot Home column in the Saturday edition of the Toronto Star. In the meantime, here are some other conversational nuggets.
On the evolution of Scandinavian design:
FC: Scandinavia has a very long, very established tradition, but even, say 15 years ago, it still very much referred to the 50s and 60s. There was discussion about how it might be a bit stuck. There as a sense that had the heritage but they wanted to take it further.On Canadian vs Scandinavian design processes:
FC:It’s very different from doing design here. We all work with the same material and mostly the same techniques. But I think designers there are not as trained in technical stuff — they rely on other to fine tune the details. But they’re very conscious of functionality, and I had this background of always trying to find a good solution to a problem, so that was common ground. Especially when I started to work for Ikea.
On connecting with Ikea:
FC:At the end of 2001, I got my first contract. We wanted to present a little wooden puzzle house that Marie had worked on in school. We worked on it a bit further and presented it. They really loved it because it was the iconic thing about the house. That was the beginning.
On working with Ikea:
FC:I like that there is a framework because it’s very clear – to create a better everyday life for the many people. It’s good function, at a good price, it must be durable and sustainable. The whole company is based on that. I gets a brief — sometimes it’s very specific; they need to replace a product or they have some capacity with some kind of material and they need ideas – what can they do with this? Sometimes it’s not exactly defined, but they know they need a new family or line of products. In general they have a strategy of what they need to develop for the next few years.
On the need to get out into the world:
FC: You need to get out and to travel, and meet a lot of suppliers. You need to see how people work — you cannot just design things in your office.On inspiration:
FC:I get it from a lot of things. I listen to a lot of music while I work. I look at what’s going on in the world – social media, politics, everything. It’s not’s conscious - I think I’m like a sponge. When I start to sketch, it comes out. Design is always interpretation. But I try and get some emotion in it, so it reflects something I want to express.