This is the latest installment of our Core77 Questionnaire. Previously, we talked to Fred Bould of Bould Design.
Name: Harri Koskinen
Occupation: I'm a designer.
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Current projects: At the moment, we're doing a lot of work with Finnish-based companies. We are doing work in the safety field, creating some locking systems. We're also doing tableware objects, and we have some material-based studies in the works—these are innovations with new materials, and we are doing some trials in our workshop around those. Then I also share my time with Iittala; I'm there two days a week as the design director.
Mission: To do my best. I would like to have a big, big mission, but at the moment I'm doing things a bit more slowly, step by step, just trying to do my best in this design field.
Koskinen's most recent projects include the Cyclebar bike rack for Valpastin (above) and the M Series two-way active speaker for Genelec (below).
When did you decide that you wanted to be a designer? I never actually made a decision that someday I was going to be a designer. It just happened. I didn't have any idea about this profession when I was in high school. But I worked with my uncle over many summers, building things with him as a summer job. I felt quite happy doing this, working with my hands. So I thought that design would be something that connects many different interests and skills. And it has been like that, pretty much.
Education: First I studied at the Lahte Design Institute; that was more like workshop studies. Then I applied and entered the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. There I studied industrial design and more conceptual design.
First design job: Well, I worked as a intern at some advertising agencies. But my first actual job as a designer was in 1996, when I was invited to work for Iittala glassworks. And then I was invited to work as an in-house designer at Iittala in 1998.
Who is your design hero? Maybe Dieter Rams—he was perhaps the most important for me. Also Richard Sapper. And, of course, in Finland we cannot forget Alvar Aalto. He's an obvious choice, but still it's amazing the amount of work that he made at a really high-quality level.
Above and below: Some of Koskinen's designs in his Helsinki studio, including his Genelec speakers and subwoofer (above) A sofa bed for Harri Koskinen Works, the designer's own furniture and lighting collection, with an Iittala lantern The HK 002 lounge chair and HK 022 table for Artek, with the Loistava candleholder for Marimekko
Describe your workspace: At the moment, my studio is in downtown Helsinki, by the sea. So we are really privileged to have all four seasons here every day. We are on the ground floor, and I have a pretty nice space with a lot of big windows. I have a big workshop combined with my studio. Let's see... The walls are white.
I now have two full-time employees, one half-time employee, and one trainee. And one assistant every now and then. So we're a good size for me, at the moment.
Other than the computer, what is your most important tool? Let's say imagination. And then maybe a pen and paper. Although I tend not to draw that much nowadays; it's more like I try to think and generate things in my head. And that requires conversation with other people, so it's like a social happening pretty much, how we innovate ideas and concepts. So you might say that my colleagues are really my most important tool.
What is the best part of your job? That is an easy one. The best part is to meet new great people. Almost every day I meet new people, and that is so rewarding.
What is the worst part of your job? It has to be the bookkeeping.
Koskinen's Art Works collection for Iittala Kupu smoke alarms for Jalo Helskinki
What time do you get up and go to bed? It varies. I usually wake up around 7:00 a.m. And then I go to sleep around midnight.
How do you procrastinate? I do it alongside my work pretty much every day. But that is part of the thinking process. I think it's good that we let things be for a while. Of course we need to make decisions, but sometimes it's also good to postpone a decision a bit, and to let things flow.
What is your favorite productivity tip or trick? I think it helps to have a schedule. Of course this schedule should be a bit flexible, but I've been feeling more and more comfortable having an organized daily routine. Also, when I come to the studio a bit earlier, that helps to make the day more understandable. So maybe the best tip is to start work half an hour before you normally would. Mostly, I start work at 8:30 a.m. But I try to be here at 8:00.
What is the most important quality in a designer? Self-confidence in a constructive way. You need to feel safe in what you are doing, but you need to have the freedom to also feel unsafe before you are feeling safe.
What is the most widespread misunderstanding about design or designers? That design is understood as an extra value in business, when it is the really core thing. Like Apple, for example, has understood this already. Design is not decorating things. It's a really fundamental and integrated part of any industrial field.
A user interface for the automated-parking company LeanPark A 2012 bench for Nikari A set of drinking glasses for Alessi that can also be used as measuring cups
What is your most prized design possession? I don't have that kind of approach. But I really like to bicycle, so if I had to name an object that I cannot live without, it has to be a bicycle.
What is exciting you in design right now? Many things. We all are more aware about the situation with our environment, and it's great to see that more and more designers are more interested in that issue, in how you generate really long-lasting and fundamental design. It's great to see more social design ventures and such.
Also, on the other hand, there is a global phenomenon where young designers are establishing their own studios and their own brands, and I like watching how they survive and find their place in the design world. It's always fascinating to see new entrepreneurs and how they interpret design.
If you could redesign anything, what would you choose? It's really challenging to name any specific object that needs to be redesigned. If the knife is not sharp, then we need to design a sharp knife, and so on. But I think those basic daily objects are already really well-designed, so it has to be something a bit more technical and a more innovative solution. So I don't know.
What do you hope to be doing in ten years? I think that I'll still be doing design work in ten years. I hope that I am more wise. But I don't think that there will be a drastic change in my personal work.
Lastly, who's more fun to have a drink with: architects, industrial designers or graphic designers? I don't really care about the profession; it's about the individual. When I go to drink, I hardly ever talk about work or professional issues. So, anything goes. Whoever likes to buy me a drink.