Andreas Johansson graduated from the Advanced Product Design
Programme in 2007.
What is your academic background?
In the spring 2000, at the age of 20, studying history at a
small Swedish university, I decided that I was going to be a
designer. I had studied art at the gymnasium, and was amongst other
things into blacksmithing, so the step might not be as big as it
At the time there where only three design schools in Sweden (HDK in
Gothenburg, Konstfack in Stockholm, and UID in Umeå)
so I knew that the competition would be hard. In order to get in, I
studied a year at Ålsta folkhögskola, and the following year
I was accepted to the bachelor&s programme at HDK.
The bachelor&s programme in design at HDK had a broad grasp
of the subject, meaning that the foundations in graphic design,
industrial design and spatial design was studied, and the student
was to decide their own focus.
After my degree I had internships at various places for a
When I chose to apply for the master&s programme in Advanced Product Design at UID, I
did as I deemed it to be the most efficient education in the world
on the subject.
In short I have a BA in Design from HDK in Gothenburg, a MA in
Advanced Product Design from UID in Umeå and on top of that some
courses in history and history of arts.
Since you left Umeå, what have you been doing?
The same fall I graduated from UID, I started working for Husqvarna, one of the leading power tool
companies in the world, owning brands such as Gardena, Partner,
Jonsered, and Zenoah amongst others. The work at Husqvarna gave me
the opportunity to be involved in quite a few products that have
already hit the market.
I stayed there for about two years, until I was offered a
position with Motorola as the first industrial designer
on site in the Copenhagen office, and I have now been working with
Motorola for a year, as part of the Global Innovation Design Team.
My main focus has been what is referred to as mission critical
communication, which means communication issues for police and fire
fighters. The Innovation Design team has offices throughout the
world in for instance Singapore, New York and Florida. The team
works closely together with other parts of the company, in
developing concepts for the next step of mission critical
communications, in different regions.
What is your best memory from your time in Umeå?
There is so many to choose from that have had impact on my life,
at a personal as well as a professional level.
The degree project was of course something special. That
atmosphere of total focus and dedication, amongst hyper-ambitious
people from all over the globe is hard to describe for somebody who
has not experienced it. There were people working round the clock
at the school, trying to perform their absolute best, since
everybody knew that the UID degree show is an international
I don&t know if the memories of all those hard working hours
are good memories, but I am very fond of them, and during that time
I made friends for life.
Which aspects of your education at UID have been most useful
for what you are currently doing?
The analytical way of creating and presenting concepts is at the
core of my knowledge today. Anybody can make plastic pretty, but
that is only styling. Good design is much more than that.
UID also provided me with the skill set in form giving and
visualization, which is an absolute must in competing for global
positions. In addition it has given me access to a truly global
network within the design world.
If I had studied at any other school in Sweden, my design
perspective would have been Scandinavian. One of the great things
about UID is that you obtain such a wide perspective on design
because of all the different cultures. You meet people from all
over the globe, and you work in an English-speaking environment on
a cross-cultural level. As I am currently working at Motorola,
it&s a huge benefit to have that kind of global thinking
Do you have any good advice for new UID students?
UID is all about what you put in to it. It can give you all the
skills you need for a flying start of your career as an industrial
designer, but it comes at the price of lots and lots of hard
Be prepared to study hard, and give these few years all you
have. You will gain from it in the long run.
How do you think the tuition fees for non-EU students will
affect UID? Will UID be able to compete with other design
Pasadena costs a fortune and RCA is not
free anymore either so I honestly don&t know how the tuition
fees will affect the intake of new students. Some Asian students
might not apply, or they will apply if there are scholarships. The
European standard however will not be affected, at least not
momentarily. When it comes to people from South America, I
don&t think there will be a big difference. But yes,
competition will be harder about the top-notch students.
What is the advantage of taking a Master&s degree; why did
My Bachelor&s degree was rather broad, and at the time HDK
was more art than market-directed; this was in 2005, and it was a
big recession going on. This made it difficult finding a job. To be
able to compete for the right jobs, a Master&s degree was more
or less required. This applies to many positions, at least in
industrial design. I know that many BA students from Umeå Institute
of Design are ready to fly, but they are kind of special cases.
After my BA at HDK I went on long internships, for instance at
NOKIA and after that it was clear that I wanted to study industrial
design. For me it was three schools to choose from; Royal College
of Art, where I believe the quality of the graduated students is
rather uneven, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and from
there I haven&t seen more than vehicle design, so then for me,
that left only Umeå Institute of Design.
What is the difference with UID Bachelor students?
They are good, damn good, and they acquire the needed skill set.
In many design educations currently, people don&t get those
The UID Bachelor students, on the other hand, they know the
skills, they have many of the basic tools you need as an industrial
designer, but in general I think a master&s degree is a boost
to start a career with, as an extra push in the beginning of your
Do you have any advice for students moving from school into
internships and careers, for the students leaving the school?
Put in lots of work into the portfolio, go over it again and
again, and think about whom you are directing the portfolio to. It
is a shallow thing to point out, but you have to be able to
communicate why you are the best candidate. See it as a design
project, and know that it is better with a slim portfolio with a
few great projects. Start looking for interesting companies rather
than what jobs are advertised. Gather all those companies you want
to work for, and start trying to get to the interview, and keep
many going at the same time. Get as many hooks into the sea as
Don&t get disappointed if you do not get the first job, or
the second, or the third one. Don&t take it personal when you
get a "no", or, by all means: take it personal and try to improve
your portfolio, instead of getting all beaten up about it.
Does a degree from UID look good for companies looking at your
Yes, without a doubt. When I started here at Motorola,
(Andreas laughs) one of the first greetings to my new
position was in Swedish: "Hej och välkommen" (i.e Hi and welcome),
and the funny thing was that it was from a Malaysian guy, Paul
Yong, who also studied at UID a few years before me. He now works
at Motorola&s Singapore office. So it is a truly globally known
school and one tends to run into former UID students in almost any
larger design department.
Would you change any of your steps if you knew better?
I never believed in remorse, but knowing what I know now, I
probably should have gone for the BA in Umeå as well... probably.
On the other hand though, HDK gave something as well. I have a good
foundation, and I am happy where I am now, so I can&t say I
would have done anything different.
I guess that when I applied for Gothenburg I was a bit put off
by the fact that Umeå is freezing and dark, as I just had finished
a year on the preparation school which was also located in Norrland
I think that is one of the secrets of UID: you put a bunch of
hyper-ambitious students, with some of the sharpest portfolios in
the world in one building, not too far away from the Arctic Circle,
with nothing but design to do, and you see what comes out
Now that might be a bit harsh, but it does hold some truth to
it, as it creates an atmosphere on the school of sharing and common
interest. Everyone is there for a reason. UID has great teachers,
interesting lectures and so on and so forth, but the key thing is
your fellow students, and that sharing environment.
Are your contacts from your time at UID important for your
One of the reasons I have this job is that a UK-based
headhunting firm that regularly visits UID, contacted me, and they
had this position open, so yes, the contacts you get in UID is very
useful. Furthermore, in that very special environment at UID, you
make friends for life.
By the way, I will probably come to see UID&s degree show in
2012 when the exhibition will be in the new museum of fine arts at
the Arts Campus, as this is a global event.
What was the party scene like in your time?
I met my wife-to-be in one of those parties, so the party scene
was perfect! There were good parties, but it was strange with the
spring parties, since it is bright all the time. You go in into a
nightclub, and when you come out it is broad daylight.
Andreas was interviewed in November 2010 by Anton Garland and