Bengt Palmgren awarded the Umeå University Medal of Honour

As the founder of Umeå Institute of Design, and the person behind the idea of an Arts Campus at Umeå University, professor Bengt Palmgren is awarded the Umeå University Medal of Honour.

Professor Bengt Palmgren (1944) received his degree in Industrial Design in Stockholm in 1972. In 1987 he won the competition "Utmärkt svensk form" ("Excellent Swedish Form"), and in 1989 he was appointed "Årets industridesigner" ("the Industrial Designer of the Year") in Sweden. 1989 he was appointed Professor in Industrial Design at Umeå Institute of Design, where he worked as Head of Department (1990 - 2003) and Rector until his retirement in 2009.

Under Bengt Palmgren's leadership, Umeå Institute of Design developed into one of the leading design schools in the world. His visionary and strategic work also strongly contributed to the development of Umeå Art Campus, which was inaugurated in 2012.

Congratulations Bengt Palmgren!

Bengt Palmgren och Maria Goransdotter

Photo left: Bengt Palmgren and Maria Göransdotter, UID, at the UID 25th anniversary.

What was your reaction when the university announced that you have been awarded the Umeå University Medal of Honour?
- I was really surprised when the vice-chancellor of Umeå University, Lena Gustafsson, called. I was working with construction work on one of my daughter's apartment in Stockholm. I stood right beside a craftsman who was cutting a marble worktop. It was very dusty and noisy so I hardly heard what Lena said. The contrast between talking about a ceremony in tailcoat and my dirty work-cloth at that time was total. Of course I was happy for the recognition of my work at Umeå University.

What do you do today? Is design still a part of your life?
- Once a designer - always a designer. Even if I'm not working with industrial design professionally nowadays, I design and use design thinking in my everyday work. Beside totally redesigning an apartment, as in the example above, I manage a website, I have some vague ideas of an electrical powered hybrid powerboat, I do some photography and have realized an old dream - painting in watercolours. Currently I do some work for UKÄ, the Swedish Higher Education Authority and hope soon to get some time for writing about design.

When you founded UID, what vision did you have for the school? What did you hope that it would become?
- Initially the intention was to create an education of industrial designers with such a high competence that they should be highly attractive on the job market - by collaborating closely with professional industrial designers in various lines of business.
Later on a second phase appeared. By the combination of professional excellence and outstanding research such a level of knowledge and competence should be obtained that UID would lead the development of some of the industrial design fields.

Do you think that vision is fulfilled today?
- Phase one: Yes indeed. To see that dream come true is an amazing experience. It's one thing to set up a goal to strive for and quite another to realize it. Thanks to good students and staff it has been possible. I'm really impressed of what the UID has become today.
Phase two: The journey has started and it looks promising!

What do you think will be the most important quality of the Industrial Designer of the future?
- The profession has moved from mainly managing physical objects, to also managing interactions with objects and services. What will be the next step? I believe that an important future competence could be managing mind sets. The environmental issues will become dominant. The transition of our ways of thinking about objects and services in relation to global resources will be crucial. Automation will come also to industrial design - what a designer did yesterday will to some extent be performed by robots.
Applying elements of the design process and the design thinking on mind transition could open a new, very challenging field of work for designers.

How will you celebrate the award?
- Well, let's see what happens after the ceremony when I actually have got  the distinction.