Design brands need creative directors to avoid "terrible" photography says Jasper Morrison


Stockholm 2016: too many furniture brands don't understand the importance of good photographic styling and would benefit from hiring designers as art directors, says Jasper Morrison.

The British industrial designer believes that companies should call on designers to help create imagery that will catch a customer's eye, and to avoid "terrible" photography that can "sink a product".

"Most customers discover the furniture through magazines and websites like [Dezeen]," Morrison told Dezeen. "So it is really critical. I don't think many companies get that. You see the terrible shots they do."

"I would like to be more involved with presentation," he added. "It's really important. Bad photos will sink a product."

Morrison is considered one of the world's best industrial designers, and has created products for many renowned design brands. A retrospective exhibition of his work spanning four decades will open in Zurich this week.

Morrison spoke to Dezeen at this week's Stockholm Furniture Fair, where he is launching a collection for Danish brand Fredericia. He also designed the display stand for the brand, creating a workshop-style floor using ash wood blocks arranged so their end grain faces up. The blocks are mounted onto panels, so the pieces can be lifted out and reused.

"This floor [of the Fredericia stand] for example, cost a fortune," Morrison said. "The idea is that we can use it for photography and for shoots to create a common identity for [the brand]."

Jasper Morrison collection for Fredericia
Morrison launches a furniture collection for Fredericia, but also designed the Danish brand's display stand at the Stockholm Furniture Fair

A few furniture and homeware brands have already appointed designers as art or creative directors to unify their collections, branding, showrooms and overall image – following a model that large product companies and the fashion industry have used for some time.

Last year, designer Patricia Urquiola was appointed art director at Italian brand Cassina, while architect David Chipperfield was hired as artistic director of Driade in 2014 to steer the Italian company's direction.

"We [designers] are pretty well suited to do the job," said Morrison. "It's a difficult job, I'm not sure I'd want to have complete responsibility for it. But to lend some advice is a good idea."

"Sometimes there's a resistance to that, because [brands] want their independence," he continued. "But I think a lot of companies could benefit from being a bit more directed."

Morrison also commented on Scandinavia's recent resurgence in the design industry, and said that Stockholm's answer to the annual Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan shows promising signs.

"I think it has really strong of potential, if they control it well, to be a really important fair," he said. "Before Milan, it was all happening here. It's cyclical – a 50-year cycle."

"I don't think the Italians will go away, they're still very strong," he said. "But the Scandinavians seem to be picking up."

Stockholm Furniture Fair takes place from 9 to 13 February 2016.

  • Roberto Sideris

    This is what I believe (as a product design student going into university) being a product designer is about. We understand the product on an emotional level deeper than any one else, like an artist with their masterpiece we are the best people to craft its image to the consumer.

    The message a product has is often lost through the marketing department as artistic craft is ever more blended with the needs to sell items than at the stage of design.

  • Anders

    He is right in one manner; to have a strong personality with the right input for the brand is great. But not all brands, upcoming or already established, can afford the compensation for this.

    In the end, here in Sweden at least, the responsible people who actually purchase products and don’t care about pictures. In Sweden (since Stockholm Furniture Fair is mentioned) you always have to write “or similar” after a product is specified.

    The price is what matters, unfortunately, and quality of the product itself is secondary. So nice pictures? In my opinion, they don’t matter that much to the people who have the wallet.

    Hopefully that’ll change.

    • Harry

      You can take nice and dynamic pictures on a small budget. You just have to have the creativity to do so. The brand image is a product in itself.

  • John

    Its called Fredericia, not Federicia.

    • Hi, thanks for pointing this out. we have updated the article accordingly.

  • details

    Which brands is he referring to? I hardly believe that any company worth mentioning lets non-professionals design their marketing material.

  • Charlotte

    Please note that designer Monica Förster is appointed Creative Director for Swedish producer Swedese and that designer Ola Rune from designstudio Claesson Koivisto Rune succeeds Gunilla Lagerhem-Ullberg as Creative Director for carpet producer Kasthall.