INTERIORS+DESIGN for architects
HENRIETTA THOMPSON

The theme for 100% Norway's tenth anniversary exhibition at the London Design Festival is 10 x 10 - ten designers that represent Norwegian design heritage alongside ten up and coming designers. Almost every product will be seen for the first time, many of which we are showcasing in this issue of INSIDE.

We meet Henrietta Thompson, co-curator of 100% Norway, Editor-at-Large at Wallpaper, writer and columnist for numerous publications including The Telegraph, BA Business Life Magazine and author of five books.

Can you tell me about your background, how have you got to where you are now?

I grew up in Oxford, where I was always to be found with my nose in magazines and newspaper supplements, devouring them every Sunday and whenever I got the chance. I guess I have always wanted to be a part of that world. I studied design, and the more I learned about it (and architecture, and art) the more compelling and fascinating it became to me: these are subjects that very often get sidelined as being frivolous but they impact everyone! So I feel very lucky to have been able to combine the two worlds I love the most: writing and design, in what I do for a living.

I started my career in fashion, on OK! Magazine, before moving to a small publisher to help set up a new design magazine (called New Design). I went from there to Blueprint, and from there to Wallpaper. I have freelanced/"moonlighted" with other jobs the entire time (books and exhibitions for example), partly to boost income, partly to keep things interesting, mostly just because I could...

You have curated 100% Norway since 2006, how has Norwegian design changed in that time, and where do you see the future of design in Norway?

There has been a huge boom over the last couple of years in emerging young designers in Norway. Many are demonstrating sophisticated skills and intellectually informed concepts before they even graduate - and even though we are only showing the cream of the creative crop at 100% Norway the selection criteria just gets tougher and tougher. At the start we'd really have to go out and worked hard to find it all!

I think it's partly because these young designers are encouraged by the successes of their peers and mentors, as well as by the increasing attention Norwegian design attracts from the international media, since the first 100% Norway exhibition in 2002 the design scene on this side of Scandinavia has snowballed. It's also refreshingly evolved far beyond the cultural clich├ęs that have sometimes blighted the North in the past: Norway's design output today is internationally relevant, planet-aware and innovation-driven. And it just gets better all the time.

As a curator you have worked with designers to commission new products that explore ideas and themes, what determined the theme of this year's exhibition 'Light and Nature'?

This year's theme happened almost by accident. There was such a huge synergy in all the products we wanted to bring over, and when we had made our selection and looked at it all together, this was a very clear overarching idea. We couldn't ignore it! Especially as we're bringing over the Sun from Tromsoe...

How did you go about finding up and coming designers to participate in 100% Norway?

When I first started curating this show it was a case of scouring the country! But now it's much easier, as 100% Norway is quite well known now so we have an application procedure. We also make sure to keep on top of what's going on in the colleges, and around the country, so if there's anyone tipped for the top we know about it early and can invite them to apply.

Other than raising the profile of Norwegian design, what else is the Norwegian Design Council hoping to achieve by their participation in London Design week?

It's a great networking opportunity for everyone. In particular it's a chance for Norwegian designers to find manufacturers, and for manufacturers to find new distribution channels. There's also a lot going on around the city obviously, which is great inspiration for everyone!

Apart from curating exhibitions, your role as Editor-at-large of Wallpaper Magazine and your work with luxury brands including editing magazines for the Maybourne Hotel Group magazine, Mulberry and Nyetimber, you also divide your time between London and Barcelona, how on earth do you find the time?

I don't know! The line between work and play is very blurry... I also have an amazing team of people who help with my client projects.

Your new weekly design column in the Telegraph's new luxury magazine is launched this month. Does your column focus mainly on architecture and design or all aspects of luxury lifestyle?

The focus is really on design, and there's another columnist looking after architecture, but "design" can be pretty broad really - there's so much cross over now. My fascination at the moment is where design meets craftsmanship, so that's bound to feature a lot.

What or who is inspiring you most at the moment in your work? How does your time in Barcelona influence your take on design?

Three of my closest friends are really talented designers, and I'm definitely influenced by them, their tastes and the stuff we all get excited about is the same. I haven't spent much time in Barcelona lately actually, mainly because I've been traveling elsewhere so much and there hasn't been time. Travel - to anywhere - definitely brings new perspectives to design and what it means though. I always come back from trips with new ideas.

What do you see as the most important trends in design at the moment?

I've always been particularly interested in designers who don't just rethink products but whole systems. Generally though, I think it's important to zoom out and not to just look at trends in design, but trends in the world at large: the ways we're communicating, making things, living our lives are changing hugely at the moment. That all connects back to design, and vice versa. It's a really exciting time to be a designer, or to be writing about it!

Are there any designers or artists you are currently working closely with and in what capacity?

One project I'm really excited about at the moment is a new social enterprise I'm setting up called Operation Illustration www.operationillustration.com - for which I'm commissioning designers, artists and illustrators, musicians and writers to redesign information worth sharing. That could be anything from first aid instructions to health advice. It's a lot of fun, but will be a few months yet. Some of the artists on board so far are very exciting - including one very famous street artist!

How do you see your work evolving in the future? Do you see yourself as working more on one particular area over another?

I'd like to formalize my client work into a company, which is something I'm working on doing now, so that will be a great way of working with more talented people more regularly and more effectively! We want to set up the office of the future: an amazing workplace that is a haven for freelancers, and will make the work lives of everyone involved easier and more fun. The working title is Further More. We're talking about it as being a collaborative, rather than a collective, and I don't know if it will happen, but we'll have a go...

Annalisa Hammond - Editor