Highlights the need for designers to cooperate with manufacturers

Highlights the need for designers to cooperate with manufacturers for promoting innovation and competitiveness in the wood and furniture industry

On January 18th in Valmiera (Latvia) and on January 19th in Väimela (Estonia) a workshop on design thinking took place for promoting the export opportunities of the wood industry where wood and furniture industry representatives took part. The seminar served as a discussion platform and place where designers, architects, entrepreneurs and students cooperated. It highlighted the importance of design for product development and innovation, and more critically – industry’s existing cooperation problems between key players in the industry.

Participants learned how design thinking could create value for their product, as well how it could give a different perspective on the functionality of existing products. The workshop highlighted the key brand building trends, gave the understanding about brand stories, in nuances of creating a visual identity – the logo and other elements. Participants also gained insights into how a design approach can help arrange processes in the company to understand the needs of their target audience better, and improve relationships between employees, clients and business partners.

The most active exchange of ideas developed in the practical part of the seminar. Participants asked questions about entrepreneurs’ practical experience in product development, as well as what are current characteristics of the development of the wood and furniture industry, the key issues for the implementation of the product, and how design approach can help. Companies had the opportunity to audit their design under the guidance of experts to analyze design issues from their company and product perspective.

One of the seminar speakers, Executive Director of the Latvian wood construction cluster, Gatis Zamurs, pointed that in the wood construction industry, there is a lack of productive cooperation between, for example, designers, architects, entrepreneurs and sellers, since each of the parties mostly think of their tasks without seeking to add the value of the design to the product. “This paradigm needs to be changed to escape from the low value-added and low-income trap,” says G. Zamurs.

He is convinced that the competencies in each area are excellent, and lack of synergy does not directly cause problems. “Our design is excellent, the manufacturers are laborious, and the traders are professional, but the lack of cooperation between fields prevents us from getting out of a certain “mediocrity trap”, IKEA and BAUHAUS do not occur here. We are hostages of success and lowest prices.” 

One of the leaders of the design workshop, which is also the lecturer of the Latvian Academy of Arts, Aija Freimane admits: “The workshop in a very broad audience brought together furniture and wood designers and others who were interested in the field to understand how design could be used for each business and also for the regions as a whole in the long run.” She emphasizes that after the practical part of the seminar, the participants acknowledged that they had gained an understanding of how to better shape their product story and develop the idea and that it was essential to do so with a responsibility to the end-user. The participants also gained an in-depth understanding of contemporary design thinking and the transfer of product stories to the target market.

The workshop shows that it is still and perhaps more than ever necessary to update and thus enhance the understanding of design as a process. This is one aspect that gives particular importance to the project “Innovation and export of wood and furniture in Võru County and Vidzeme Planning Region” by its implementers to develop innovation-rich industry in both regions. The workshop shows that by offering the right knowledge and practical tools, industry players have the potential to collaborate and find new solutions for development.

The seminar “Wood meets design and innovations” organized by Vidzeme Planning region in coordination with Wood and furniture manufacturing centre in Estonia (Tsenter – Puidutöötlemise ja mööblitootmise kompetentsikeskus) – in project “Innovation and export of wood and furniture in Võru County and Vidzeme Planning Region”, within the framework Latvian- Estonian cross-border cooperation programme.

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