We’re super excited to launch a new brand all the way from Copenhagen, Denmark — Kartotek.
Kartotek reflects Scandinavian simplicity with a modern touch that use the finest of material, are manufactured using eco-friendly production processes and the best craftsmanship to create a joyous user experience. Kartotek designs stationery for those small, every day moments where we can be at peace with ourselves or share time with those we care for.
Kartotek keeps the user in mind and they carefully select the best FSC-certified, Scandinavian paper and the friendly production methods involves separating biosediment that fulfils the criteria for use within agriculture, thereby creating a natural eco-cycle. Keeping within this eco and economic cycle, Kartotek ensure that any waste that is created at the paper mills has a system for sorting and recycling materials and energy recovery.
The affordable range features notebooks, desk planners, writing pads and greetings cards.
We chat to founder, Julie Warberg about her inspiration behind the brand and what’s next.
Where did Kartotek originate from and why did you choose to create a stationery and design accessories brand?
In my view, stationery combines aesthetics and everyday life in a unique way. A well-made notebook is an item that follows you anywhere. It serves a function, and at the same time it is a little piece of design. I am deeply convinced that writing a note or scribbling down an idea does something good to us; that pen and paper create a certain space, where we feel more at peace with ourselves and with people around us. Where we are able to focus and reflect, which is not always the case in our fast-paced hyper digitalised world.
With Kartotek Copenhagen, I wish to create everyday design items that invite people into a calm setting. My dream is to bring more of those free spaces to life.
Apart from this, I have always had a great passion for paper, pens, stationery and everything related to the office. When I visit foreign countries, these are the kinds of shops I seek out. It is like entering a candy store for me when I visit a nice stationery shop. I have a huge amount of stationery in my home and it just gives me great pleasure to write with a good pen on quality paper – simple as that!
I studied political science and psychology at universities in Denmark and Canada and have worked with research and project management. This has provided me with tools for converting a great idea into reality, for organising and planning. This, in conjunction with my creative mindset, is providing the basis for building the company.
The choice of stationery is pure passion – it comes from my heart. I have always – as described above – enjoyed these kinds of items and apart from my academic career I have designed and created greeting cards, notebooks, posters etc. all my life. So when I had the chance to make this my job and life path I had no hesitation.
Where did the name Kartotek come from?
The name KARTOTEK came to me when I saw a documentary about the functionalist gem Nyborg Library (situated on Funen, Denmark). The library is a stunning architectural masterpiece built by architects Flemming Lassen and Erik Møller in 1938-40.
The font that was designed for the library was beautiful and simple and when I saw a sign with KARTOTEK written on it I found the word appealing and just right for my brand name.
“Kartotek” is the Danish word for a card-index or card file system or furniture – used in libraries and lots of other places to keep track of users, files etc. I like the graphical features of it and the sound. I have later visited the library with my mother, talked to the staff and gotten a tour. Unfortunately they have taken down the original signs – but a lot of the other original decoration has been kept. Worth a visit!
Your products are simple yet modern with a classic touch, how do you achieve this? Do you have any particular influences?
Art, good design and textiles inspire me a lot. I love simplistic graphic design from the last century. The design universe we are creating is a fine mixture of simplistic design with references to last century graphic design — and modern patterns and colour scales.
As part of your design process, you ask: “could we make it more simple?” What is the reason for this simplicity? How important is this to you?
In our team, we are extremely aware of the details and quality of each and every product. We try to focus on and express only the most essential and necessary elements of a particular product so as to make the form and function stand out and be easy to comprehend and use.
This is also why we expand the product range slowly – it has to be just right before we launch it. I am extremely lucky to be working with designers and manufacturers who understand this – and thus have the patience to keep trying until we get it right.
in my view, I guess it goes hand-in-hand with our philosophy about creating moments of focus, reflection and room for letting your thoughts come alive with pen and paper — to create that you need to get rid of any excessive and unnecessary components and features.
Where did your love of stationery and design originate?
My mum used to buy tons of greeting cards, small notepads, planners, etc. and she was a huge to-do list fan. Her style was a bit more maximalistic — with cute animals and flowers spread throughout her stationery. But I inherited her love for paper goods.
Her sister, my aunt, was a designer, and often when I visited her as a child we would draw together and she taught me the essentials of drawing and designing. She always bought me drawing and sketching “gadgets” for my birthdays — and thus I taught myself calligraphy, for example. I guess that’s where it all started.
How important is it for you to have your products designed and made in Europe?
I have spent quite some time finding the right paper type. Being Scandinavian, I live close to the source – Swedish and Finnish woods. When I found this particular type of Swedish paper I knew right away that this was it. It is smooth, durable and has a lovely colour tone, which all makes it pleasant both to write on and look at. The papers are high-quality uncoated fine papers. They are environmentally friendly and leave a genuine natural impression in their printed material.
I also found at that paper is the number one product going from Scandinavia to Asia. So it does not make sense to ship the paper to China and then back to Europe. Production close to where the materials come from is important.
Furthermore, I love that I can easily visit the production facilities. We produce quite a lot of our products in Denmark and it is so nice to be a short journey or a phone call away.
Is the Kartotek brand today what you first envisioned? Has it evolved beyond your initial expectations?
Good question! I don’t think you can ever imagine how things will end out when you embark on such a journey. It started with passion, a lot of ideas and a huge amount of optimism — but I never imagined that my designs would be sold worldwide within a few years. It has been a steep learning curve and I continually come up with new ideas and plans and expand my knowledge about what is possible.
Also, I love how people often share their stories about how they use and love our products. To imagine that my designs would make an impact in people’s every day lives and that someone in Japan or Australia would pick one of my paper babies and really enjoy using them — that’s hard to imagine beforehand.
What three stationery items can you not live without?
A weekly planner notepad to keep track of all my plans, a to-do notepad for my daily tasks and a good hard cover journal for my inner thoughts. 🙂
Can you tell us a business (or life) lesson you learnt since starting Kartotek?
I have learned a lot since I started Kartotek. First of all that you have to let go of your perfectionism when you have a fast growing company. If you are going to micro-manage and set ultra high standards for everything you do, you will die of stress within a very short period of time.
So write it down, prioritise and focus on what is most important right now and leave the rest — that’s the way to go. Also, entrepreneurial success requires stamina and a bit of naive optimism. You will face hard times when you feel like quitting and going back to your comfort zone — the trick is to acknowledge this and let it exist but not react upon it. The downs are a part of life just like the ups, and you need to stick through them to obtain your goals.
What are you working on right now and what’s next for Kartotek?
I have lots of plans! My mind is constantly thinking up new products and designs. We started working with leather and heavier cloths for our notebooks and I will continue exploring these materials in conjunction with paper.
And of course, my range of paper products will expand all the time. We recently launched a new series of “guided journals” where I use my background as a psychologist quite a lot in the design process. Next up is the GOALS journal and I cannot wait to have it in my hands!
Enjoyed this interview? Read our interview with Redfries creator, Daniel Rosenhammer, or talented designer, Evi O who we collaborated with across our Milligram Studio 2019 diaries.