Nicholai Wiig Hansen: a fearless designer

9 July 2024

Nicholai Wiig Hansen

Son of an artist, raised in the countryside, he chose an approach to design that focuses on colour, simplicity and durability.

Nicholai Wiig Hansen is the founder, together with Bo Raahauge, of the Raawii brand as well as a designer for other companies, including Normann Copenhagen and Fritz Hansen.

Danese, son of an artist, does not have behind him the canonical academic studies of someone who carries out his profession but a life made up of encounters that he has been able to transform into opportunities and opportunities seized on the fly and with courage.

In 2023 he was included among the AD100, the 100 designers to follow according to the international editorial staff of AD magazine and his motto is “don’t be afraid to fail”.

What is your story and why did you decide to be a designer?

I have a particular story from this point of view because I went to school very little and spent more time in the forest. Therefore, I have practically no type of education: I lived in the countryside, my father Svend Wiig Hansen was one of the most famous Danish artists so design, art and color have always been an important presence in my life. We lived in the countryside; I had been expelled from various schools because I have severe dyslexia and have difficulty reading and writing. But I’ve always been good at building things with my hands.

Normann Copenhagen My Chair
Normann Copenhagen My Chair lounge chair

And very soon I understood that when problems arose, I wanted to solve them by building things that I then sold. When I was 18, I was skateboarding with a friend, his stepfather was the designer Niels Gammelgaard who designed for Ikea and so I started working with him in this field. Then, around the age of 24 I opened my own studio, so you can say that my life was my education.

Do you feel influenced by the great masters of Danish design?

I believe we are all influenced by our lives, many of my father’s friends were famous designers and I grew up in an environment that stimulated my curiosity and aesthetic. Everyone needs to express themselves and I do it through my products but there is no need for them to be self-explanatory products, because I am not able to describe them in writing. I believe that my way of being a designer is above all due to curiosity towards things and how they work.

Fritz Hansen Night Owl

And regarding production, it is no coincidence that I spend a lot of time in the factories that produce our objects, there are people who make our products and having a relationship with them, understanding how they work offers you the possibility of obtaining better quality. It is necessary to know the production process to have a quality product.

In addition to this, I believe that in my life I have taken all the opportunities that have come my way without fear of failure. Life, relationships are difficult, sometimes you will fail but you must try.

Normann Copenhagen Tablo

How was the Raawii brand born?

It was born from a discussion with Bo Raahauge, we had a studio together and we were frustrated by the long times associated with collaborations with companies. I had a nice network of people I worked with, friends and colleagues and I decided to create an old-fashioned company where I have a personal relationship with all the designers who work with us.

Raawii Vaso Strøm Large

In most cases people don’t send me a project or an idea but it all starts with a conversation, and we place a lot of trust in the designers by letting them decide the various aspects of their project. I’ve always found it strange when companies choose, for example, the color of your objects and if the project fails, they blame the project. Listening to creatives is something I care a lot about.

Color is a recurring theme in your projects, what inspires you?

I don’t have a favorite color because all colors are too important to choose just one. The colors emerge from the project in a certain sense, because the project is something alive and the color has to work with it. We choose them by doing various tests but sometimes it happens that you find a color and then look for the right product for that color.

Raawii Strøm Medium Jug

What are the priorities in your way of working?

Many, many designers would answer that it is the need to solve a problem, but the reality is that the best way to solve problems is to do fewer things. For me it’s about expressing myself, something I have inside.

Or the idea of ​​being able to do something in a better way, to do it in such a way that those who buy it now will not have the need to replace it for many years. Like the old yellow jug that I find at all my friends’ houses, which didn’t cost anything but belonged to my grandmother who used it to pour soup. I want our products to have the same quality and the same emotional and memory content.

What I wonder is: will this product last a long time, and will it be able to absorb the emotions of those who use it? It’s not easy but if I can make at least three really good products in my life, then I’ll be happy.

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