What is the ideal balance between new ideas and critical evaluation of the old? As BOLON gets ready to reveal its renewed collections for 2018, designer Klara Persson discusses BOLON’s review process, published alongside two photographic explorations of the flooring.
Ever since Marie and Annica Eklund took over their grandfather Nils-Erik Eklund’s company in the early 2000s, creative revision and analysis has been an important part of the way in which Bolon works. While this process takes place on a day-to-day basis, once every three years it plays out on a grander scale. This is the Triennial Review, an opportunity for the team to formally meet to discuss Bolon’s existing collections and to find ways in which they might be improved. Perhaps the team discuss how one existing colour might have proven “functional but less charismatic”, or how a particular flooring style could now be paired with a new accent colour. “Together, we revisit the collections,” says Klara Persson, a designer at Bolon. “Perhaps the quality of a product is fantastic but the colours feel dated. Instead of reducing the whole concept, we develop colours that make you experience the range differently.”
For the past three years, Persson and her colleagues have kept 2018’s iteration of the Triennial Review at the back of their minds, collecting performance data from within the company’s existing product range – good and bad, predictable and surprising. For instance, ideas for new colourways might emerge through chance occurrences on the production line as different coloured threads are switched; a bespoke commission might generate new ideas for the general market; or a previously rejected idea might be revitalised and placed within the context of new collections. “This process is invigorating, because we are constantly evaluating what we have, guided by what feels both rationally and emotionally sound,” says Persson. “We’re learning by questioning our current work in order to anticipate progress. What sells? What products are strategically more viable than others? What is BOLON’s positioning on the market? This analysis is always balanced. On the one hand, it is based on data, but on the other it is driven by our creative intuition.”
The Triennial Review is an act of creative curation: an opportunity to add to BOLON’s collections, but also to remove, reshape and reformulate existing products, and to extend the design process throughout a product’s lifespan. For 2018, several collections have been revitalised with a new set of rich, confident colours. The Artisan collection, for example, was launched in 2011 in a series of earthy tones and in 2014 was relaunched with a brighter set of colours. It is now set to be further extended with new additions including a dusty pink, an earthy orange, a denim blue, a concrete grey, and a rich emerald green. “Artisan feels like a true painter’s palette, including both strong base and fun accent colours,” says Persson. Another example is BOLON’s popular Botanic collection, launched in 2012. This year, Botanic’s nature-inspired colours are up for renewal, with the collection’s neutrals having been spread across a wider colour spectrum that includes a new shade of green, a blue, and a red that complements a rich yellow. The Now collection has also been reconfigured around dark, oily tones of brass, copper and titanium that sit alongside anthracite, silver and champagne.
The Triennial Review is typically informed by projects from around the world in which designers and architects have used BOLON flooring. These references are collected, before being analysed and debated. In addition, BOLON invites designers and architects to join the dialogue, hosting them at the Urban House townhouse in Ulricehamn or the Villa La Madonna vineyard in Piedmont, Italy. “The most exciting thing with the Triennial Review is to follow how our amendments to the collections are interpreted and used by architects and designers,” says Persson. “How do they use BOLON? That’s precisely why designing a material is distinctly different to designing other forms of product – BOLON’s product is only complete when the architect or designer has installed it.”
This process of range rejuvenation takes place over many separate rounds of review. In order to simulate different routes of enquiry, the Review is stretched over many months, with product samples pinned to a board, discussed and then swapped out for further development. It is only consensus – a democratic decision taken by a large multidisciplinary team – that will determine if a new colour makes it into the collections. “For instance, there was a request to bring a black colour into the Silence collection, and we decided to try it and brought back a number of samples of black material,” says Persson. “They all came out great and we even discussed bringing out a complete collection in black. There is no need for that collection yet, but the exercise did bring two new blacks into Silence.”
Reviewing a product range is an art, and rejuvenation is difficult to achieve. Central to this is BOLON’s willingness to kill its darlings. In a process of this kind, everyone has to let go of a few ideas – something which Persson describes as a collective gut feeling. “It’s an exciting challenge to nurture what you already have in place,” she says. “It’s difficult to improve ranges that you’ve already created, but it’s crucial for letting them remain relevant for decades to come.”
First published in Projects We Love.