How It All Started
“The almond is a simple and natural shape, and that’s what Almond Studio captures in its design.” -Erlend Storsul Opdahl, Industrial Designer
Similar to its design concept, the founders of Almond Studio came together organically during their studies at the International Design School for Advanced Studies, a post-graduate design school in Seoul.
Erlend Storsul Opdahl, coming from Norway, was connected on his first day of classes to Milla Niskakoski, from Finland. A match the school thought was appropriate due to their general Scandinavian roots. They became fast friends. Jo Shua, a Korean native, was drawn to Erlend’s electric guitar performance and they began jamming together during their down time from their studies. Naturally, when school projects came along, they worked together, seamlessly meshing their concepts into a shared vision for product design.
Shua, who had already formed his own business selling his crafts consisting of rings, wallets, and leather goods, knew it wasn’t easy managing sales and crafting art alone. Together with Erlend and Milla, they formed Almond Studio, a Scandinavian-inspired design company manufacturing their products in Seoul, Korea.
Almond Studio’s first crowdfunding campaign was for a bag designed by Milla, and its orders estimated at $20,000 US dollars. The product itself was large, and the manufacturing of all its pieces complex. Working long hours and negotiating sources throughout the city for materials, they managed to deliver their products on time. They ensured that their next products would require less sweat to manufacture, and they continued to build their product line around single source materials. One of their most popular products is the MIR leather business card holder series, designed by Erlend, all made without stitching and seams.
The challenge to create minimal design, which requires countless renditions to acquire its aesthetics and functionality, wasn’t their main challenge.
“Getting the details just right is a challenge, but it’s a process we love.”
The bigger challenge was forming the company, resolving working visa issues for the non-native cofounders, Erlend and Milla, and finally getting incorporated. The process was grueling and took away from their art, but they managed to create their product and their company to forge a firm foundation for Almond Studio.
In September, Shua, Erlend, and Milla outgrew the Seoul Global Startup Center office and scored a studio in the gentrifying area of the Euljiro industrial manufacturing complex. Aa Creative Space, a collaborative workspace with Above Studio, is within the Sewoon Makers’ cube, an urban renewal project organized by the Seoul Metropolitan government. Their rooftop location is located in a walkway with newly opened retro cafes and restaurants. In the summer they plan to open up their studio as a pop up shop for the mingling pedestrians.
As they continue to expand their product line with innovative design such as using 3D printing, their studio is sure to pop up and pique the interest of consumers and clients.
“If you want to put yourself out there, you have to believe you can do something different.”