In anticipation of the upcoming IDSA 2012 International Conference, Core77 had an opportunity to talk to speaker Stefan Andrén, who will share his experiences in his keynote "From Employee to Entrepreneur - A Designer's Leap," just one of many topics encompassed in this year's conference theme, The Future Is...
The Future Is... about us. How we work, laugh, learn, cooperate, connect and stay healthy. Topic experts will address the dramatically changing playing field in business and technology in a format where attendees contribute to the understanding of the information.
We are in times of extreme economic stress and yet the rules of business and commerce keep changing at an almost impossible rate. How do the best stay ahead, and what is design's role in addressing change?
Don't forget to REGISTER TODAY for the conference; registration closes on Monday, August 6, at midnight EST.
Core77: Your practice is very broad, from telecommunications to architectural hardware, not to mention your work for Nike. Do you find that these different disciplines are converging, or do you prefer working between them precisely because they are distinct?
Stefan Andrén: I find that it's both. The variety keeps me on my toes, and in my opinion there is plenty of opportunity for cross-pollination between categories. A design solution to a product in one area applied to another can provide that creative break-though that you are looking for. I find this to often be true for material usage and manufacturing techniques.
Not only do you travel extensively, you've lived in various cities in Europe, Asia and America. Does the setting inform your approach to design, or is it more a matter of the task at hand?
I don't feel it does. Perhaps because I spend time and get influenced from multiple places and cultures at any given point in time. I do believe that there can be a distinct advantage to experience multiple cultures; to see that there are widely different solutions to similar problems. I think it opens up your mind. To use a cliché, it can help you think outside of the box.
As a designer with intimate (if not altogether privileged) insight into the so-called "Quantified Self" movement, do you have any predictions for the future of fitness?
With advancements in everything from our understanding of the human body to our ability to track and record biometrics, I believe that the proliferation of companies offering products and services related to fitness will continue. I generally believe that knowledge is power, and I am convinced that this movement will continue to help educate and motivate us to become healthier... if we so choose to be.
The successful companies will be the ones that are capable to delivering meaningful information in a simple and intuitive way, and provide a connected community around the sharing of this information. For these very reasons I believe that companies like Nike will continue to be leaders in this space.
Seeing as you've worked for and with a variety of tech companies, how do you see design entrepreneurship in relation to tech entrepreneurship?
I am not sure that I see a clear distinction between the two....
Do you have any advice to would-be entrepreneurs (designers or otherwise) who are thinking about making the leap?
If you are going the self-funded route and want to play the odds, stay away from most of the consumer electronic product sector. The capital requirements and the time-crunch makes the stakes to play in this category very, very high. I founded Krown Lab very much because the of the timeless nature of the products, and the relative low initial capital investment needed. I began the collaborations with the start-up companies Atomic Floyd and Phosphor for similar reasons. While they can both be considered to be within the CE sector, the product categories both companies play within both have long product cycles which reduces the pressure of time to market.
Investors today are for good reasons very interested in software and services, and perhaps less than before in products. I don't blame them. While competition often is razor sharp, speed to market and scalability is in most cases much faster compared to products.
Stefan Andrén is an accomplished designer with significant global experience. Over his 15-year career, the former product design director of Nike+ has worked with some of the largest companies and brands in the world, including Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Philips and Motorola. Andrén's work has been featured in numerous publications including Business Week, ID Magazine, Wired, Dwell magazine, Interior Design and FORM and has been awarded multiple IDEA, ID Magazine and Red Dot design awards. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Andrén travels the world extensively and is based in Portland, OR.