Sofia Frilund, IDSA, was surrounded by creativity growing up in Aarhus, Denmark. Her mother, a tailor; her father, a musician and entrepreneur; her sister, an architect. “I always cared about design,” she recalls. “I was very specific about my room as a child. I would take an old chair from the basement and ask my mom if I could paint it. I would find stuff on the street to keep and spend a lot of time in the woodshop and clay room in my after-school program.”
“When I found out there was such a thing as industrial design as a line of study, I knew it was what I wanted to do immediately. But I was also scared to fail at the thing I cared so much about, so it took me a few years before I actually dared to go for it.” Not only she did go for it, Frilund, who speaks four languages, managed to adapt to a new country, a new school and motherhood after arriving in the United States from Denmark in 2007.
In spring 2017, she added the titles of BFA product design graduate from Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York City and IDSA Student Merit Award winner in the Northeast District. Her presentations were Linus, a hardwood dining chair that can adjust to fit a child in different growth stages all the way into adulthood; Ljoma, a lantern that can be made of ice in the home freezer and displayed with a candle inside; Brim, bags created from Manhattan millinery felt scraps that otherwise would’ve ended up in a landfill; and Array, a plywood chair cut by a computer-controlled machine, known as CNC, yet designed to look handcrafted.
“My product design preference tends to be projects that are innovative in either function or material choice,” explains Frilund. “The social, environmental or behavioral considerations in a design are important to me in most cases, while I also enjoy more conceptual ideas with an element of surprise in either material choice or form. I love working hands on with actual materials and pushing the limits of their conventional use.”
In a year when—for the first time—all five SMA winners are women, Frilund knows all too well the challenges faced by women. “I have two boys who were 1- and 2-years-old when I started at Parsons,” she shares. “It’s been incredibly hard for me to balance school and motherhood. But it’s certainly possible when you love both. My real challenge comes now when it is time to work.”
She hopes to start her own design studio or take on an entrepreneurial project solo or with others to be able to find a work-life balance. Frilund feels men are often gifted with a natural sense of higher self-esteem. “This means that as a woman you have to work harder to push designs forward. We have to believe that women see the world differently than men and can understand certain challenges of daily life in a way a man can't. Our perspective is just as valuable.”