This Copenhagen Design Duo Uses 3D Software to Create Interiors — And Art

When we first encountered Swedish-born Anny Wang’s furniture and 3D illustrations via Instagram, she was fresh out of design school, where she had studied interior architecture. At the time she was moving to Copenhagen and launching her first project with Tim Söderström, her partner and a fellow 3D whiz with a background in architecture. Recently, however, the two decided to make their business partnership official, opening a Copenhagen-based studio called Wang & Söderström, where they create illustrations and animations for clients such as Nike, Refinery29, The New York Times, Apartamento and more, while pursuing their own projects as well. They recently sat down with us to chat about their new space, their ambitions for the coming year, and their hopes for the public response to their relatable, yet otherworldly, creations. 

Photos by Andreas Omvik & Wang & Söderström

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For those unfamiliar with the practice of 3D illustration, can you explain what your process is?

Anny: We work in 3D software, which is a tool we have used for two years to create art. We started out using 3D software for architecture projects, and then we discovered this unlimited world. Our process usually begins with the idea that we want to explore things. Either we want to invent a new material or just express how a certain material feels.

Is there anything old-fashioned about the process? Do you sketch something out first before working with the software?

Tim: All inspiration comes from the real world, of course. We always start from physical experience — whether that’s a curtain or how a textile falls. We ask ourselves: How does that look in the real world and how can we play with it further?

Anny: Or sometimes we see beautiful lighting in a room and get inspired. But I think we always jump almost directly into the software and start from there.

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Could you talk a little about your respective backgrounds? How did your upbringing influence your work in the arts? How did you arrive on 3D illustration as a major means of expression?

Anny: I grew up in a small town in Sweden, and I studied art in high school. That was a shock for my family. They had something else in mind for me. But slowly they came to support me. I thought I’d only be an artist and just work with fine art. But then I discovered design and the world of interior architecture, so I studied that for my BA. At the university, I found this software called Luxology Modo. It’s said to be easier to learn compared to what Tim works in, for instance, 3ds Max. So I used it for furniture or interior architecture, until I started to experiment with it. It has a very intuitive interface and that triggered my lust for doing images. I started to post them on Instagram, and now I’m able to work with it full-time.

Tim: I have been studying architecture here in Copenhagen. I got into 3D software as part of my practice. I used more and more of the technology, and it became the same story as Anny’s. You realize you can take things further.

You met as students?

Anny: We went to different schools — I studied in Gothenburg, and he studied in Copenhagen —but we met through a friend. We noticed that we always worked well together, even on creative efforts. I also admired Tim’s very open fantasy about life and his ability to get things done, which is inspiring. I started to involve Tim with my freelance work a year ago, and in the summer we decided to really join forces and start our studio together.

How is your 3D work informed by your past explorations of architecture?

Tim: For starters, we always place our work in a room or in a space. Surroundings play a big part.

Anny: All the stuff in the images might be surreal, but we don’t want to skew the viewing angle too much, which is something we’ve taken from the architecture world.

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What are the biggest challenges you encounter in your 3D work?

Tim: I think the challenge is also what’s inspiring — the meeting between the virtual and physical world. It’s really hard to recreate something you can relate to from the physical world, but it’s the most inspiring part.

Anny: Then there’s always this question of working in 3D software, a world where things move forward very fast. It’s a challenge to keep up with the fast-moving technology. It becomes very important to stay curious and open to new things.

Tim: We are technical, but we’re not technical masterminds so we’ll never be at the edge of this world technically. But rather, we try to push our aesthetics and architectural experience and knowledge into it to give it a unique perspective.

Is there such a thing as a typical day for you in the studio?

Anny: Since we only started in September we’re just getting used to having our own company, and routine may come in a couple of years. But we’re here all the time. Usually we start in the late morning and stay late, just because we love the environment and our life is on the computer. Even if we’re not working on a specific project we sit and explore things.

Tim: And the studio is located in a great place, close to the city in a nice area. We don’t have a routine I think, because we have a lot of small parallel projects. If we have a big project, one of us will work on it for a while, then we’ll meet. Maybe the other will jump in and bring it new life. But I can’t find a strict routine yet.

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What is the ideal venue for your work — do you see it hanging on gallery walls? Do you see it reproduced in magazines?

Anny: We always love to see it come to life in a bigger scale or exhibition and to be able to see when people watch the things. Otherwise when we post it on our homepage or on Instagram, we don’t see the reactions. An ideal world would be one in which we can discuss and see people interact with the art.

Tim: We’re trying to explore how to give 3D art a more physical form. We’ll try to have exhibitions next year that explore this.

Anny: We’re also working on an AR (augmented reality) project for a fashion brand. It’s super fun to explore.

How do you make your living through art? Do you have clients who purchase the illustrations or do you primarily work for publications? Is there a commercial potential to everything you produce, such as the animations or do you have a commercial and non-commercial practice?

Tim: It’s really a combination. There are some smaller projects, such as illustrations for different magazines or artwork for new music artists. Then there are bigger projects connected to a peer agency, such as a campaign. We feel it’s important to keep doing our own projects too.

When you create an illustration, do you produce it in editions?

Anny: We have a couple of prints out, and they are usually limited editions that are signed and numbered. It’s fun to be able to give something extra that people can hang on their wall, since everything is online-based otherwise.

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Are you able to sell the animations?

Tim: That’s always a tricky thing, because that would more be like an art piece then. That’s more connected to the commercial part of us I would say, like campaigns. There we have done animations as well.

What is a work you’re particularly proud of and why?

Anny: I think our personal ongoing project called Physlab. It’s about taking experiences from the physical world and putting them in a surreal setting. But the viewer recognizes something from the physical world so they can relate to it more easily. We have six short movies now under this series, which is something we’ll still do as soon as we have time. There’s so much to explore within that physical vs. digital world.

You are both from Sweden — why did you settle on Copenhagen as the location of your studio?

Anny: We always loved Copenhagen. I’ve been here working as an interior architect, and Tim studied here a long time. It’s just such a vibrant city, and there are so many international people. We never get tired of the city; it feels unlimited.

Tim: At the same time it’s not super big, and it has its own charm.

What are some of your favorite features of the studio?

Anny: We’re happy it has quite tall ceilings and nice windows that let lots of light in.

Tim: We are surrounded by a lot of galleries, restaurants and workshops. We even have a workshop connected to our studio, so we can go in and do some models. That’s something we want to extend and connect to our 3D practice. And also we hope to do furniture.

Anny: Even if we live on our 3D illustrations and animations, we do want to do physical projects. For instance, we built the furniture in our studio ourselves with our colleague, the architect Anders Skjeldal Gaasø.

What else do you have planned for the future?

Tim: We’re going to keep doing the Physlab series. And we’re working on some physical exhibitions in Sweden and Copenhagen.

Anny: We’re also going to Shanghai and Seoul and would like to exhibit there as well.

What do you hope people get out of your work?

Anny: We want to evoke this naïve thought for the person watching that everything is possible and generally make them curious about things.

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