Where did you study design?
I started by taking a college degree in mechanical engineering and then entered the School of Art and Craft at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
During my university program I also did an exchange program at the Design Academy Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, and I spent about twenty months as an intern at Dutch companies like NPK Design in Leiden, Lou Beeren Design in Groningen and Philips Design in Eindhoven.
What inspired you to become a designer?
What really attracted me to it was the opportunity to use both my left and my right brain. I had always been good at mathematics and art, and design allowed me to combine these two talents.
Where did you get your first job in design, and how did you progress to where you are now?
The transition from school to work was very smooth as I had extended my student time with a rather long internship period. When I did my internship with Philips Design I was offered the opportunity to stay, while finalising my graduation project. So I had a job offer before graduation.
Have there been any major turning points in your career?
The biggest turning point was during my student days when I went to the Netherlands to visit a friend. I picked up the phone book and called NPK, even though I knew nothing of the company – I had done no research and didn’t know it was the largest consultancy in the Netherlands at that time.
I would not recommend this approach; how-ever, I think spontaneity and charm landed me with my first internship.
Since then, it has been a pretty smooth ride. I see my career as a big journey and it has taken me to three continents, five countries and many more cities. I started out designing telephones at Philips Design in Eindhoven.
When the business moved to Le Mans in France, I followed, and when we went into a joint venture with Lucent Technology, I moved to Eatontown, New Jersey, in the States.
Ten years ago I moved to Singapore, where I was involved in building the home entertainment range. I then led the Philips Design team in Singapore before joining Electrolux in October last year.
Have there been any designers or managers that you have worked with that you admire?
I have met many great designers and some very good managers, but there is one who deserves a special mention and that is Graham Hinde at GRO Design.
I worked with Graham for many years at Philips Design and really admire his approach to design and people. If I went to him with a question, he would make sure he understood where I was coming from and at the end of our conversation I knew the answer myself, without him having to tell me. He was a great coach and his approach built confidence, independence and trust.
You have been very successful in your career. How have you been able to get where you are now?
Hard work, a positive, proactive atti-tude to solving problems and a never-ending drive to learn and improve.
What are the biggest issues facing designers today?
The reality is that talent will only take you so far. Design is a strong competitive business tool and to be a good designer you need to hit the mark through a creative and analytical process. Often the best result is achieved with teams working together in a highly interactive way: debating, sketching, critiquing, debating, sketching, and so on.
What are the important issues facing design managers and directors of design?
It’s important to build that team dynamic, with designers who have different yet complementing styles. It’s like setting up an orchestra. You need contrast, harmony and synergy to create a masterpiece. Another challenge is to formulate an insightful brief by working collaboratively across a multifunctional team. A tight brief is most effective.
As the new design director at Electrolux Asia-Pacific, can you explain your responsibilities?
I am responsible for the translation of regional opportunities into creative and differentiated solutions. We have a strong research team working actively to understand this highly diverse region and we use this knowledge to create insights that serve as a starting point for our design explorations.
We are putting great emphasis on doing local research and it’s this understanding that drives our innovation process and product plans. As a design team we work on two fronts. On one hand we need to inspire and have a vision of what can be, and on the other hand we work to bring agreed concepts to market effectively.
Where has Electrolux based its design teams in the Asia-Pacific region and how many staff do Electrolux have in the region? Will this be expanding or changing in any way?
We have a team of nine designers in Sydney and a team of three in Singapore. The team in Singapore is quite new and it will grow with the addition of a few designers when we see that the global economy becomes more stable.
The intention is also to work with freelancers and other design houses when the demand goes beyond our own capacity. We have a competency centre in Stockholm that we can tap into when we need specific capabilities.
We launched the Design and Innovation Center in Singapore last year and have a multifunctional team here, covering product management, marketing, purchasing and design, all working closely together to drive innovation in this region. We also have development centres in China, Thailand and Australia.
Are there any new developments in the region, for Electrolux, that you can talk about?
We have some really great products in the market. In China, we are about to launch a colour range for cooking. In Australia we have very exciting barbeque solutions for DesignEx in Melbourne and later in the year we will launch a complete new kitchen.
Additionally, we have many innovative ideas and products in the pipeline. The coming years will be very exciting both for us and the consumer.