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