Andreas Johansson

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 seems.

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 year.

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 event.

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 background.

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 work.

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 schools?

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 you?

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 basic skills.

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 career.

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 possible!

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 CV?

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 (northern Sweden).

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 (laughs).

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 professional life?

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 Elinn Bolonassos