At the end of every year Maison&Objet announce a Designer of the Year to be the focus at the following year's January Maison&Objet event. Danish designer Cecilia Manz has been selected for 2018 following in the footsteps of a long list of influential designers such as Dimore Studio, Tom Dixon, Nendo, Ilse Crawford and Pierre Chapin. But unlike other design fairs Maison&Objet operates twice a year - in January and September - so two Designers of the Year are announced with the work of one being highlighted in January while the other is lauded in September ........confused? Well the point is that Manz has been given the accolade for the next Maison in early 2018 and because of this we all get to take a look at her exceptional body of work more intently.
According to legend Cecilie Manz gained her first little bit of notoriety with 'The Ladder', a ladder that was also a chair. The design went into production with Bavarian brand Nils Holger Moorman in 1999 after Moormann saw the prototype in magazine. Manz had by this time completed a degree in object and furniture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, furthered her education at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki and opened her own studio in Copenhagen.
2005 was the year when Manz really came into the global spotlight with the launch of her most successful design, the 'Caravaggio' pendant lamp - a simple spun metal shade with a shapely profile, red fabric cord and delicate cable management, that took the world by storm.
The 'Caravaggio' lamp has been heavily copied over the years but still manages to sell in large numbers and the collection has increased to include wall, floor, table and two different sizes of adjustable reading lamps. The light is restrained in shape with just enough clever details to make it different to other lamps of a similar style. It's subtlety suggests it will have stylistic longevity for many decades but conversely also achieves a certain cuteness that is hard to resist. The light comes in the original gloss painted finish plus more recent matt variants, along with an opaline glass version. There is virtually a model of 'Caravaggio' for every application.
Manz has developed a strong relationship with high profile Danish brand Fritz Hansen over recent years creating the 'Essay' table in 2009, the 'Minuscule' chair in 2012 and more recently the 'Origami' basket and 'Pouf' for Fritz Hansen Object.
Manz's design work favours low key, natural materials, simplified shapes and highly resolved detailing. Her understated objects and furniture are embraced for their friendly, tactile qualities and a certain visual softness that effortlessly combines Danish Modernism with contemporary concepts.
Danish and Japanese aesthetics have a lot in common and for Manz this affords the opportunity to explore the overlap of these two design cultures on some of her projects projects. A case in point is her extremely Japanese folding basket for Fritz Hansen Object shown below right. Called 'Origami' for obvious reasons, the basket is an art work in itself when folded but pops out to a beautiful 30 cm cube basket in natural linen and leather. The chair shown below left was designed for Japanese furniture company Nissin Mokkou. It references classic early 20th Century European design like the 'Postsparkasse' (Post Office Bank) chair by Otto Wagner but in a raw and unadorned way that revels in the Scandinavian and Japanese love of sculpted timber.
At the same time as designing soft sculptural pieces, Manz is produces some surprising work that almost reaches Deiter Rams-like purity. In this sense Manz is a highly flexible designer working across categories and styles to produce the most appropriate outcome for the project. Her matter of fact view on design should be taught in design colleges - if there is not a valid reason for a new product dont make it.
"I work with things that have a meaning to me. My general idea is always to have a clear argument legitimizing the designs that I make. Function is essential, and if I cannot formulate a good reason for a new product, it is better to refrain from making it"
Manz has done her fair share of highly industrialised projects such as the Beolit 12 and Beolit 15 music players for Bang & Olufsen. She has also designed several bluetooth speakers for B&O - the A1 ultra portable and P2 portable speakers. The Beolit 12 is shown below left the P2 shown below right.