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Designer spotlight: Rytė Milišiūnaitė, Narbutas

We speak to the Narbutas product designer on collaborating across the globe and why shaping trumps adapting.

Feature in partnership with

Narbutas International


3 min read

Collaborating with designers from North America to Denmark, Narbutas products are sold in over 60 countries, with showrooms in London, Paris, New York, Chicago, Düsseldorf and beyond. Despite a global reach, its products all manufactured in one place, the Narbutas factory in Lithuania. Joining Narbutas after graduating from Vilnius Academy of Arts, we sit down with product designer Rytė Milišiūnaitė to discuss designing collaboratively on an international scale, finding inspiration and research-driven design.

Narbutas collaborates with designers from across the globe – how do you bring a sense of cohesion to your products? Are there any common threads that run throughout?

Narbutas products are created by designers from all over the world, so we are not influenced by trends in one country or fast fashion – focusing more on globally recognisable and enduring design. Our design credo is ‘Nothing Unnecessary.’ I think it is a real challenge to create furniture that is simple and attractive as well as comfortable and ergonomic – distinctiveness and uniqueness in its simplicity seem to me to be a great achievement and value.

Our design team and the whole product development team have the same approach to products, their aesthetics and functionality. In my view, teams must share the same values, so that they can understand each other and co-create. And when they are cohesive, the furniture range maintains its stylistic unity.

Sustainability is increasingly at the heart of our business – woven into the production and design process from stage one. For example, when designing a new product, we try to choose furniture shapes and colours that are more resistant to the challenges of fashion; we think about the materials we are going to use and make sure that the same piece of furniture is not made from too many raw materials of different origins – anticipating the disassembly and recycling of its materials when it is worn out after many years.

How does your design process work?

I have always thought that it is much more fun to shape your own environment than to adapt to an existing one. For me, design is a tool for creating my own environment and that of others.

When creating a new product, it is important to have a clear idea of the problem it will solve. At Narbutas, the product development team and the creative team consisting of a product manager, designer and engineers work on new products. The product manager brings a need and an initial idea, which is then developed further by creating a purposeful design and engineering solutions.

For me, the collaboration between professionals from different fields is one of the best parts of my job. It allows me to learn more about the stages in the development of furniture, the different materials and the possibilities of production. I get to see how a product idea evolves from a sketch to technical solutions, prototypes and finally a new piece of furniture.

Tell us more about the inspiration behind your new COMBUS collection – how did research drive the design process?

In open-plan offices and collaboration spaces, COMBUS can be used not only as a shelf to store things but also as a wall that can divide and structure spaces, making them cosier and more functional. It is a modular system with many different shapes as well as heights and therefore has a wide range of applications.

COMBUS, like all our products, is based on market demand, research and analysis of alternatives offered by our competitors. We also keep a close eye on the global changes and developments in workspaces. For example, even before the pandemic, collaboration spaces, desk sharing and open-plan offices were gaining popularity – furnishing this type of spaces requires different furniture from that previously used in closed offices, and COMBUS has lived up to these expectations.

I think the success of COMBUS is due to the fact that this multi-functional, multi-purpose shelf with multiple design options is in line with the latest trends in workspaces, the market needs, and is also a very beautiful product that can become a real office decoration. The shelving unit can have holders for indoor plants and be a tool for creating a biophilic environment.

Simple yet distinctive, the COMBUS shelving unit reflects the philosophy of Narbutas products. It is a piece of furniture that blends easily into any environment – and at the same time shapes it.

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