A man in a black sweater and grey cap drawing at a desk with pieces of wood beside him.

Friso on creating value-based designs

IKEA designer Friso Wiersma believes in keeping things simple. So, when we wanted to understand what makes him so wonderfully creative, he shared his two secrets on creativity. The key, for him, lies in understanding a need and then identifying the feasibility of the best idea to fulfil that need.

The 31-year-old designer says he never entirely stops thinking about ideas to create things in a new way. It’s not a surprise then that currently, he is working on 12 different design projects in IKEA, ranging from storage to a new family of dining tables.

“Creativity is not a magical thing. It’s very much like a muscle that one can train,” he says.

Portrait of a man in a green shirt.

A person drawing at a table holding a white pen mug and pieces of wood.

A trained woodworker, boatmaker, and cabinetmaker, Friso started working at his uncle’s carpentry workshop at the age of 12. Since then, from building a 15 meters boat to designing the IKEA VINTER 2020 collection to designing versatile stools for small space living, Friso has been giving shape to his creative ideas every day.

“I don’t believe in making something for the sake of it. It needs to come from a question, and I need to answer that question. I like to make the idea as personal as possible,” says Friso, who grew up in a country home in the northern part of the Netherlands.

Friso says he wants to create designs with a core value relevant not only today and several decades from now. That is because he sees a significant change happening in our ways of living life at home, including shrinking spaces.

“Most of us have come from households that enjoyed gathering a lot of things. Now people want to have less. But what they want to have needs to be very good, not only in function but also in its material and story,” says Friso.

A man in a grey patterned cap and beige scarf, in front of a body of water with a rock breaking the surface.

So, the focus is on good craftsmanship, construction, and working with sustainable materials. Friso also wants to make good craftsmanship available to the many people.

“Sometimes design can be a bit snobbish and for the happy few. I was always interested in how you can bring things to a bigger audience. Craftsmanship is very value-driven, and IKEA, with its scale, can do that,” Friso says.

For my personal work, I like it where there is a merging of art and crafts. And that type of work still inspires me a lot. To let it not be functional sometimes

A designer at work is often a designer at home. For himself, Friso recently created a cabinet where he used the weaving technique used in basketry. The cabinet is purely a decorative piece.

“For my personal work, I like it where there is a merging of art and crafts. And that type of work still inspires me a lot. To let it not be functional sometimes,” he says.

A man in a brown leather jacket and a grey cap, with a green undulating landscape in the background.

When was the last time you felt creative?
“I would say this morning. Creativity is not something I notice much because I think I do it all the time. I would say my brain is programmed in a nonlinear way. So, when I see things, I always look at them in a creative way. I’m working on a new collection of light lamps in the garden for summer. And, I was thinking about how to frame that project.”

I want to create things that people will still value in 50 years.

What inspires you the most?
“I learn a lot from looking at historical books because I think for human beings, there is a core, a basis, to what we like. Of course, things can change through fashion. But I’m inspired by what is at the heart of what we like. And, I find this by looking at old books and auctions. I find this very interesting because if people want to buy something second-hand, then it means that there’s something in value at the core of that. And that inspires me a lot, and I want to use those aspects in my design that I create for IKEA because I want to create things that people will still value in 50 years.”

Where in your home do you feel the most creative?
“It’s funny; it’s in the shower where I always feel super creative. I don’t know it’s something with the water, but that’s where I can relax my mind and thoughts.”

Friso Wiersma, designer at IKEA.

How has your view of creativity changed over the last year?
“Over the last year, with the COVID-19 situation, I have felt challenged a bit because I’m a very physical person. I want to work as physically as possible, always with the team and people around me. But I decided to bring the best out of me as I want to be agile with this new situation. I’ve trained myself a lot with the ideas of working on a computer and through the Miro board (an online whiteboard to work on ideas and ideas). I am also making use of the different apps available. I use the iPad a lot now to draw, something I didn’t do before. So, it’s moved a little bit into this digital world, but I try not to let go of my values as well.”

What are you missing to be able to unleash your full creativity?
“I think it’s not about missing creativity, creativity is always there, and you don’t need anything for creativity. Inspiration can be found anywhere, at any time. I have missed traveling and seeing my family and friends.”