Business / product design
Thinkobjects the design team behind Milla & Milli
About Milla & Milli
Thinkobjects is a design collective founded by Jelena Lukač Kirš, Jakov Šrajer and Maša Vukmanović. They design furniture and provide product and industrial design and spatial design mostly for Croatian clients. The design aesthetic is clean, easily recognizable and memorable, regardless of the material used.
While working on Milla & Milli’s article, we asked a few questions about the brand and working together, since they are the team behind the award-winning furniture. However, we didn’t stop our conversation there, because Thinkobjects work for other clients and industries too.
The team is based in Zagreb and started collaboration in 2014.
Working for Milla & Milli
In 2017, Thinkobjects made a small exhibition of one self-initiated project; they exhibited the pendant lamp Ola!. Making a lighting fixture is one of those items, besides chairs, that every product designer wants to create at least once. They decided to try and make it together.
The result was an elegant combination of wood placed together in a continuous curve. Ola! is now produced by the Milla & Milli and it’s one of the several award-winning products made by Thinkobjects.
The most recognizable is probably the Waves Bar Cabinet awarded with the prestigious design award Red Dot, as well as several others. It was made from solid wood and steel.
Did you participate in the process of building the Milla & Milli brand?
Yes! Milla & Milli is a result of prior cooperation with the company called Mundus Viridis and Ksenija Pašalić. We talked a lot about the production of furniture. It was a long process, and we are happy to see that the values we set are starting to show on all levels. We just recently got the special recognition award for the best-integrated project at the 19/20 Croatian Design Exhibition. The team worked on the design of the products, presentation and visual communication. Kitica Kekić, Creative Director and a Copywriter made the creative concept of the brand.
The design of a series, even a single piece of furniture, is a long process. In short, what are the main steps? And who is included in the process?
The first step is a design brief. Together with the investor, we first agree on the main goal and general direction of the upcoming collection, whether we want a complete novelty and push the boundaries or whether we want to stay on the safer side and make a refresh.
For now, we mostly chose the first way. The second step is brainstorming and making sketches. After that, we produce 3D models and prototypes. After that, we make a presentation to a client.
If a client decides we are on the right track, we start to make the final technical drawings and create a prototype. Together with the technicians, we are working to optimize the production process, and only then the production of the new product can start.
How do you choose the type of wood? Do you start from the wood or from the design idea?
It is connected, one conditions the other. For designing wooden furniture, good knowledge is a must. Only then we can talk about the right type for the collection. For instance, the design of the Blum series is very expressive, so the textured wood would not be a good choice.
Where do you get other materials, marble and steel?
We try to get as many materials as possible from the Croatian producers. All steel and stone parts are made in Croatia. Sadly, for now, the stone material is not Croatian, but we are trying to change that. For instance, we would like to get the opportunity to work with the iconic stone from the Island of Brač.
Besides furniture, Jelena, Jakov and Maša designed a few other smaller household objects. Octo designed the coffee set in 2015, where the initial idea was transforming a square into an octagon. The wool rug Loop, made in the same year for Era Group, follows a similar idea. Both products are based on a simple geometric form transformed by the subtle, yet playful intervention.
In 2016, Thinkobjects stepped into the smart home industry, designing a set of minimalistic operating smart home units for a Croatian telecommunication provider Iskon, now part of the Deutsche Telekom Group.
Although it is a completely different product and material, recognizable aesthetics and simplicity have been retained. All those products have a recognizable coherence in the final form, which is not easy to achieve. Yet, when it does, it is almost certainly followed by industry awards.
In just a few years, you made an impressive number of furniture series and won numerous industry awards. What is the recipe for becoming a winner? Trusting clients, open communication or something else?
Tough question! In general, our approach to every design work is to push our own boundaries. We always want to make something new and different. And a strong concept to back it up. We are very lucky that we have an investor with a similar vision. Another important thing is the high level of mutual trust.
What are the benefits of working in a team of designers?
Teamwork has quite a few benefits. The most valuable one is easier processing in the phase of getting ideas and establishing concepts. It’s much more enjoyable than doing it alone.
There is no better thing than verbal sparring with a business partner. And, since we don’t have strictly established team roles, we complement each other and exchange in leading roles depending on a project.
What are you working on and what are your future plans?
We are managing several projects at the same time, designing a new collection for Milla & Milli, currently in the prototype phase. Another one is a chair design, after what we are planning to start making designs for the seating furniture series.