"If you have a passion, you really should go for it, because you need to be where your heart burns."

An interview with Marianne Goebl — Managing director at Artek

14 February 2022

Marianne Goebl is the Managing Director of Artek. With more than a decade of experience in the design field, Marianne has developed and disseminated numerous projects at the intersection of culture and commerce. From 2011 to 2014, she served as Director of Design Miami/, the leading international fair for collectible design, with yearly events in Miami/USA and Basel/Switzerland.

From 2001 to 2011, she worked at Vitra, where she significantly contributed to new initiatives such as the Vitra Home Collection, the Vitra Edition and the VitraHaus, collaborating with leading designers and architects, including Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, Hella Jongerius, and Jasper Morrison. Marianne is a native Austrian and studied economics in Vienna and Paris.

MAD had a talk with Marianne Goebl.

"Our biggest challenge, like any manufacturing company, is climate change."

Marianne Goebl

You have been CEO of Artek for a few years now. Can you describe exactly what your position entails?

"Artek is a relatively small company. We have a production team and a marketing and branding team. I work very closely with both teams. Then there is our network of distributors with whom I am in contact. My role as CEO is more hands on than it would be in a larger company. We take care of everything that is product development, working with designers and designing new pieces. I also research the archives and revisit the old designs, that's how we decide if we want to relaunch certain pieces."

"We also think about how we distribute our products. This means thinking about a communication strategy, deciding how we talk about the pieces or how we introduce them to vendors, distributors, or customers. We have two pillars: the creation of the product and the creation of the content. Artek doesn't just design products, there is a narrative behind them. As a manufacturer, we think a lot about the pressing questions of our time and how we can then convey this to our audience. My job is very versatile, it goes from designing a product, creating the content to being the liaison with our external partners and getting our story across. In the end, I am the guardian of this brand."


What are the biggest challenges you have faced in recent years? 

"Our biggest challenge, like any manufacturing company, is climate change. We often ask ourselves how we should respond. How to make products in an age in which we know that making additional products is not necessarily what this planet needs? This is an important question."

"Then there is the supply chain: how can we keep up with the high demand from our customers? It's a luxury problem, but if your products are successful and the demand is high, you must ask yourself how to deal with this correctly. We try to balance high demand with ongoing climate change. For me, that involves how we make our products, where we get the material and how we process this material. We do a lot of research on the ecosystem of the Finnish birch and the impact our production has on it. Thanks to this research we have already changed several things."

"That leaves the question: what is the life cycle of our product? We work with renewable, natural materials, but it's not that simple. What happens to the products once it gets to the customer? How long will the product last? Can it be repaired? Will it get a second life? Artek 2nd Cycle is part of our environmental strategy. We take back furniture when people no longer want it and sell it to others who can give it a second life." 

"If you have a specific interest, go for this specific interest, and don't get distracted by big names or money."

Marianne Goebl

What is your favourite Artek piece and why?

"My favourite design is constantly changing. Depending on what we are working on or what we are delving into, I am always discovering new aspects. Right now, my favourite Artek object is a pendant lamp called A201, which we introduced two years ago. Very typical of Aalto lamps is that there is direct light coming down from the cone, but there is also indirect light going to the ceiling and light thrown to the side. It interacts with the space in a beautiful way and that's why I like it so much."


In collaboration with the Belgian architectural firm Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Artek developed benches for Woodland Cemetery. How did this collaboration go? Is there a possibility for another collaboration or collection in the future? 

"The contest was launched by the Woodland Cemetery in Sweden in honour of the 100th anniversary of the cemetery, which has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a beautiful landscape with great architecture. People go there to walk their dogs or have a picnic; it's a very romantic place."

"It was a super interesting project. An architectural practice participating in a competition is very normal. Many interesting commissions in architecture, especially in the public realm, come from competitions. For furniture companies, it's not that common. Office and Artek were brought together by a studio in Sweden, Studio Näv. It was a multi-step project, and we ended up winning the competition. Currently, we are still in the process of finalizing the product. We are not sure if the product will actually be used at the cemetery, but if it is, the product will be widely available. If not, perhaps we will see if there is another opportunity to partner up with Office." 


Looking back on your career, what advice would you like to give to young creatives? 

"If you have a specific interest, go for this specific interest, and don't get distracted by big names or money. In addition, it's also about opening different doors, having different experiences, and seizing every opportunity. No one can plan a career and a sense of entitlement will not help. It's about finding your place." 

"I've been working in the design industry for over 20 years, and that's because I love the craft. If you have a passion, you should really go for it because you need to be where your heart is burning."