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Serial: Auxiliary Line for Things and People #11: The Designer Named Cecilie Manz

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Mai Tsunoo / Design Writer
Mai Tsunoo / Design Writer

After graduating from the Faculty of Environment and Information Studies at Keio University, she worked for a manufacturer and then from 2012 to 2016, she served as an assistant to design engineer Toshiharu Yamanaka. Afterward, she spent a year in Scotland and is now working as a freelancer.
While exploring expressions to unabashedly convey what needs to be communicated, she writes for media outlets like "Nikkei Design" while taking on tasks like organizing exhibits and copywriting.
Some of her main work includes organizing University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science 70th Anniversary Exhibition "Potential Future: Engineering x Design" (National Art Center, 2018), and text writing for "Insects: Models for Design" (21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, 2019).
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The first solo exhibition of Danish designer Cecilie Manz in Japan was held at the art space "BaBaBa" in Takadanobaba and "maruni tokyo" in Higashi-Nihonbashi. The title of the exhibition was "TRANSPOSE: The Circulation of Ideas". The installation by Manz featured not only her own works but also sources of inspiration and tools from her office. Displayed on the long table was "Floyd", a design she created for Kvadrat, a leading fabric manufacturer in Northern Denmark.
Since interviewing her last year during the unveiling of her new furniture series "EN" for the Japanese furniture brand Maruni, I apologize for not being able to share our conversation until now, but I decided to take this opportunity to do so. The main topic I asked her about at the time was "Women and design work". I was interested in how she built her career and what her early years were like.
In addition to Maruni's furniture, the most famous of Manz's works in Japan is probably her speaker for Bang & Olufsen. As a product designer who has undertaken a wide range of designs for furniture, home appliances, and tableware, she speaks with an honest mindset, "Design is useful, functional. There are many constraints such as materials and manufacturing methods, and it's essential to understand the client". At the same time, she says these constraints do not "kill ideas". Because certain requirements are narrowed down, you are able to focus on the work.
When I asked about her situation in her early years, with her now being active in various fields, she told me, "Around the age of 20, just after graduating from university, the workplace I entered was full of men. The only work for women was making coffee," a story that coincidentally overlapped with Japan during the Showa era (1926-1989). However, the recent situation in Denmark is vastly different. Men and women both take parental leave, and it is common for both genders to have roughly the same income. She stated that it was difficult for this change to take place at the individual level, and support from corporations and the government was essential. I wonder how Japan will change in the future.
During her long career, there is a feeling she seems to almost inevitably face as a woman working freelance. We also talked about such topics.
"I should not be chosen because I am a woman. I want to be chosen because someone likes my work. I have actually told this to many companies up until now, and I have dared to ask why on occasion. Whether the other party is a man or a woman, or a person of high rank in a company, the ability to communicate is necessary," she says.
While working, I have occasionally been told, "We think it would be good to have a female on the project." I'm not completely unaware of the company's feelings, but I have always had trouble with this. I wanted to be chosen for me, not because I am a woman. So I felt saved by her comment and I feel the necessity to have courage and express this clearly.
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