Where I Work: Nina Bruun of Muuto

Copenhagen-based Nina Bruun joined revered Danish design company Muuto, who works with designers like Ole Jensen, Harri Koskinen, Matti Klenell, Form Us With Love, and Jens Fager, to name a few, after receiving her master’s degree in furniture and spatial design from the Royal Danish Academy of Design. Her expertise in trendspotting, colors, and textures makes her the perfect addition to the Muuto family as it continues to expand its collection of furniture, lighting, and accessories. Her role keeps her working directly with the designers from the initial product brief to the final stages of the product. She’s a force of creative nature inspiring her coworkers and guiding the Nordic designers through the design process. Besides her career at Muuto, she manages to keep her own studio thriving. Let’s follow along to see more about Bruun’s job and the space she works in, in this month’s Where I Work.

What is your typical work style?

During the weekdays I am at the office every day from morning to late afternoon and I often spend time during the weekend working from home. But to be honest, I am at work 24/7 – I can’t move through the city without being inspired and I can’t open a magazine without getting an idea. My job is my hobby and my hobby is my job.


What’s your studio/work environment like?

It’s clean but messy. I need to have my tools, samples, and work around me and I always like to be surrounded by plants, textiles, and color samples. I share an office full of male product developers and designers who really seem to enjoy a good mess… So sometimes it can get more than enough!


How is your office organized/arranged?

I sit in the Design and Product Development department at Muuto in a beautiful big space with metal framed windows. Our room is located on the fourth floor of a historic building facing the back yard, right in the centre of Copenhagen. We call it the secret room as only colleagues from the Muuto team are allowed to enter. We work with the development and design of new products and it’s important that the prototypes and samples we have lying around the room are kept under wraps. We have a total of 75 employees in the office at the moment, although this is growing all of the time! I share the Design and Product Development room with eight colleagues from the department and we all have open desks.


How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

I have been working here for two years now. Our building is old and charming and when we first moved in a lot of thought and work went into renovation and designing a comfortable working environment that suited the Muuto ethos. We have two floors at the top of the building and a big rooftop terrace with fantastic views over downtown Copenhagen. This is particularly enjoyable in the lovely Danish summertime where we plant all sorts of edible stuff on the roof garden for our chef to prepare. Prior to working here, I had my own studio ‘Nina Bruun’ in the canals area of Copenhagen known as Christianshavn. It was located in a gorgeous house in an old back yard.


If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

It would be lovely to have enough space to make a workshop area where I could work with prototypes and be more hands on with new ideas. I would also love to have a big message board to collect and group things that have inspired me.


Is there an office pet?

No, unfortunately not at the moment! But I really wish we had a dog. We could give it one of our Muuto Restore baskets and let it stay under my table. That would be nice!

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

Yes I often listen to music while I work. As we are in an open office, this is either on my headphones or on a speaker if my nearest colleagues are in the mood! I love all sorts of music, but lately I have been listening to Rhye, Joan as a Police Woman, and Stan Getz with Jazz Samba. Apart from that, I love listening to ‘This American Life’ and politics and culture shows on the radio.


How do you record ideas?

For me, every idea that comes into my head ends up on paper, whether it’s words or doodles or early design thoughts. Napkins, newspaper, and Moleskine are a few of my favorites and seem to get used quite a lot.


Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now? 

Yes and no. My desk which is quite large serves as an inspirational board. As usual, it has color and material samples, magazine cuttings and product briefs on it. I also use Instagram as a kind of digital inspiration board. At my profile @nina_bruun, I collect the images that I have taken that really inspire me and hopefully inspire others too.


What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

I am involved in many different projects and it seems like every process is different. However, I would say that roughly my process works in the following way: Defining the area, researching, sketching, deciding, prototyping, testing, finalizing. As I work with areas that are often quite different, such as strategy, interiors, product design, colors, and textiles, it’s quite hard to define an overall process or rhythm that matches each strand of my work.

Push by Mette Duedahl

Push by Mette Duedahl

Corky Carafe by Andreas Engesvik

Corky Carafe and glasses by Andreas Engesvik

What kind of design objects might you have scattered about the space?

At the office, we make a great deal out of living with the products that make up the Muuto collection. Therefore, the objects that I have scattered around me are all pieces of our own design that I use while I am at work. These include the Push coffee maker by Mette Duedahl, the Corky water carafe and glasses by Andreas Engesvik (above), and the Leaf lamp by Broberg Ridderstråle, I also have my plant pot on top of a marble Groove trivet by Hallgeir Homstvedt as I really like the combination of dark green and white!


Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

A folding ruler and a caliper.

What tool do you most enjoy using in the design process?

My eyes. My eyes are the most important tool I’ll ever get my hands on. As I work so much with colors, textile and, textures, they are the one thing that I always depend on.


Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

Oh I love good gadgets and technical devices! Right now I have a MacBook Pro, Apple 27″ LED Cinema Display Thunderbolt, and a Wacom Intuos pen tablet. Besides that, I love my iPhone 6 – I am addicted to taking pictures. My Mum always says that I see the world in motifs!

What design software do you use, if any, and for what?

Mostly I use Illustrator, Indesign, and Photoshop.


Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on?

This is a tough question to answer as I get quite attached to the projects I work on. I suppose the Fiber Chair (above) stands out as being something really special. This is our unique shell chair designed by Iskos-Berlin that we finally launched in September last year. The Fiber Chair is made of a very unusual composite material that includes 25% pine wood fibers. This gives the chair a fantastic warm and textured quality which is completely unexpected in a moulded shell chair. The whole process of development in finding and testing the correct mix of material took over two years and was very challenging. We also decided to make the chair available in 12 different colors and fabrics so this meant extra work for me. After all of this it was amazingly satisfying to see our team’s efforts finally result in such a great piece of design furniture.

Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? What has made you feel like you’ve become successful? At what moment/circumstances? Or what will it take to get there?

Yes, right now I think I can say that I have made it even though I know I have a long way to go on the career ladder. I feel like I have made it because I am very happy where I am, I love to go to work every day and to be surrounded by creative people and exciting assignments. To be so happy going to work has always been absolutely key for me. I also think I am successful in my trend and color work/spotting and really enjoy seeing my ideas bringing an extra dimension to the Muuto collection.


Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

Right now I’m looking into our color strategy for the next 3 years – I love the searching, spotting and deciding part of my job. Colors are of course a critical part of what we do here at Muuto. The challenge is always to find a color that can stand perfectly on its own but also fits with the overall palette of the collection. I work with our traditional Scandinavian colors and have the space to develop them into all sorts of tones by giving them a New Nordic twist.


What’s on your desk right now?

Reference samples. Color schemes, books, plants, Pantone chips, project folders, pens, clips, a monitor screen, and a laptop.

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

Yes I have a daybed made of solid wood named Kilim. This was something I made for a project ordered by The Danish Ministry of Culture for an exhibition in Milan. I also have different small models and pieces of wall art that I have created.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.