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Daniel Rybakken sits at a desk in his studio, with drawings pinned to the wall behind him

"Most of my projects are self-initiated" says Daniel Rybakken

The best way to land exciting design commissions is to be proactive about pitching ideas to brands, according to Norwegian designer Daniel Rybakken.

Speaking to Dezeen ahead of Stockholm Design Week, Rybakken said that many of his best-known projects resulted from him reaching out to a brand with a proposal.

"Most of my projects are self-initiated," he said. "When you are a student you think that people will just call and assign you pieces, but almost everything that I've done has been because I started the conversation."

Daniel Rybakken with his Petit Standard chairs for Hay
Rybakken is a Norwegian designer based in Gothenburg, Sweden

Rybakken has been established on the international design scene for over a decade. Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, he has created products with manufacturers including Italian lighting brand Luceplan, Danish homeware label Hay and Finnish furniture company Artek.

The designer said that, even though he typically makes the first move, he finds brands really open to listening to his ideas.

He points to the Arbour Sofa, which he and fellow Norwegian designer Andreas Engesvik created for Hay, as an example.

"We approached Rolf Hay"

It was only after the pair pitched the concept to Hay co-founder Rolf Hay that they found out he was a fan of their work.

"We approached him saying that we wanted to do a sofa," said Rybakken. "At the meeting, he said there was no one else in Scandinavia he would like to work with more. I think he was telling the truth. But people are busy. You have to be the one to reach out."

Daniel Rybakken, Andreas Engesvik and Rolf Hay on the Arbour Sofa for Hay
Rybakken and Andreas Engesvik (left) created the Arbour sofa after approaching Hay co-founder Rolf Hay (centre) with a concept

Rybakken said that when brands do give him briefs, they tend to be too similar to projects he has already done.

For example, he has been approached by lighting manufacturers to work on lamps that are "not copies, but in the style of" designs he previously developed with Luceplan.

The designer believes he would have been pigeon-holed as a lighting designer if he hadn't taken the initiative to share ideas with furniture producers.

"I had to make the transition from designing lamps to furniture myself," he said. "People only see what already exists; if you want to do something else, you have to take that step on your own."

Circular version of Ypsilon, a bench designed by Daniel Rybakken for Vestre
Rybakken has launched the Ypsilon bench in Stockholm with Vestre

Rybakken is debuting a new product at Stockholm Furniture Fair – the Ypsilon Bench, an outdoor seat developed with Norwegian street-furniture company Vestre.

Available in both linear and circular forms, the design consists of two solid glulam wood beams that angle towards one another to create a more comfortable and supportive seat.

Rybakken first came up with the idea in 2005. It stayed in his mind until the summer of 2022, when he decided to pitch it to Vestre. "They immediately liked the concept," he said.

Protoype version of Ypsilon, a bench designed by Daniel Rybakken for Vestre
The distinctive angled seat was an idea Rybakken first came up with in 2005

Vestre's skilled manufacturing team helped Rybakken to develop an innovative steel leg that could be produced from a single folded sheet of steel, without any need for welding.

However the shape of the bench is still the same as the designer's first prototype. This meant the product could be fast-tracked from concept to launch in under a year.

"I have a lot of ideas in mental storage"

"My process is very thought-driven," said Rybakken. "Some designers start by drawing, and see what comes out of the drawing. But I like to start with the overall structure."

"I have a lot of ideas in mental storage," he added.

Daniel Rybakken stands with his Stochastic lamp for Luceplan
Rybakken has worked with Luceplan on designs including the Stochastic chandelier

Also at Stockholm Design Week, Rybakken is presenting Shelter, a marooned pavilion designed to symbolise the plight of refugees.

Upcoming projects include new furniture products with Artek, Luceplan and Japanese brand Karimoku, which are all due to launch in Milan in the spring.

Rybakken believes his successful track record with brands is a result of designing with himself in mind.

"You might say it's egotistical, but I don't design for other people," he said. "I have myself in mind as the end user. I think I can be my most honest when I do that."

Ypsilon is on show at Stockholm Furniture Fair, which runs from 7 to 11 February as part of Stockholm Design Week. Browse our digital guide to the festival or visit Dezeen Events Guide for more architecture and design events taking place around the world.