Any colour, as long as it’s Ordning&Reda. Charles Eames, Henry Ford & a Swedish brand.
I recently read a letter that Charles Eames penned in 1954 to Henry Ford. He was writing to request that a particular spec of car could be made, after being unsuccessful in his pleads to Ford dealers. It was not an extraordinary request; just the model of car he liked and was used to, but with basic interior trim (simple neutral tan leather or good neutral colour synthetic material, no two-tone) and minimal branding/badges – that was all. A polite request from a man who believed strongly in standard production, and had been driving Fords since 1929.
The letter evoked a timely twinge of resonance, as I’d been writing about the small Swedish brand that make my diary.
My first encounter with Ordning&Reda products was seven years ago, in London’s Oxford St. Selfridges – Christmas shopping. In a distracted, self-indulgent moment, I bought a 2010 diary – justified by the idea it would be good to be organised for the year ahead, using the old-fashioned method rather than the mobile phone calendar. At twenty-something pounds, (more expensive than a Molskine) I needed a little convincing.
The inside swayed me to part with the cash. The typeface was clean, minimal, legible, beautiful. The pages a very easy-on-the-eye ivory white (who wants to eyeball gleaming bright white as the first thing you look at in your working day?) and the layout open, inviting, yet orderly.
Seven years on, time has revealed that it was actually very good value (my 2016 costing £26.90). I use this product almost every day of the year, and I don’t mind if it is nearby even on weekends. It is made incredibly well – withstanding being stuffed into bags, site visits, sometimes being used as a makeshift tea tray when walking to the garden office. The leather always feels good to carry, it opens well – and the elasticated band holds it all together and carries a pencil perfectly. (It also puts up with being repeatedly stabbed, as I push the nib of the retractible pencil back into place before holstering).
I will go on, just a bit more.
Finally, it’s about the colours. If the products by Ordning&Reda are recognisable for one thing, it is the range of colours; limited in choice, but each one a strong contender. You can tell that somebody put a laborious amount of time into getting the right tone, shade, strength of colour. I say this even though the first one I bought was black. At the time I didn’t pay attention to the other colours, because I wanted black, a good no-nonesense diary colour. But then one year I was too late, and they sold out of my colour, so I strayed over to a rich dark brown (channelling the Ron Burgundy within, as we all must do from time to time) This year, it was strong green – a tough choice over a bold pillar box red, and a mightily nice dark blue.
It is frustrating when businesses offer too much choice, more-so in the design-product industry. If this Swedish brand began offering their goods in a whole myriad of colours, there would be something lost. Their choice is limited because it has been considered. And it is evident that the choices have been made by someone, or people, who know their stuff.
And so, last week I was looking for inspiration, a brand with a simple but well-designed product that I could use to create a retail concept that used one of my own products. The company seemed a perfect fit to test an idea that set rules for a common design language – letting the space be recognisable through its actual merchandise. The concept uses balance and clear spacing in the layout, and calls upon a purposefuly-limited set of materials; concrete-grey composite, black cloth, black leather and cherry-veneered plywood. More images can be seen here.
Now, back to the start – did The Eames’ get the quality understated Ford they wanted? Well, no – apparently not, and from then on only bought Mercedes Benz. Writing a letter to the top can sometimes bear colourful fruit (please, no two-tone), but even people like Charles Eames can be unsuccessful.
Thankfully for me, I don’t need to write a letter to Ordning&Reda. Since 2003 they have been a subsidiary of the BODUM Group (the folks who make nice glass coffee pots) and now operate in 14 counties through independent franchises and concessions. Their range of products still remaining close to the core values; design, quality, simplicity & inspiration. Long may it continue.
Letter reference: An Eames Anthology: Articles, Film Scripts, Interviews, Letters, Notes and Speeches. 7 Apr 2015
by Charles Eames (Author), Ray Eames (Author), Daniel Ostrfoff (Author