Designer Portrait – 1. Lars Falk
Name: Lars Falk
Profession: Vice President, Product Design China
Location: Shanghai. Volvo R&D centre is located in Jiading and we live in HongQiaoI spend my free time with my family and when I find time on windsurfing
Why did you become a designer?
I was hung up on drawing objects when I was younger. Gadgets, vehicles, cars and motorbikes. I understood early on that I wanted to be the one who designs them.
How did you become a designer?
After high school I got an internship at a Swedish product design firm where I learnt the importance of the customer, ergonomics, user friendliness and what we in Sweden call “humanistic/social design” which is based on people´s needs (not technology for its own sake). This served as an eye opener for me, realizing that good design can make life better for people. After that I applied to design schools and began my education in Umeå, Sweden. I changed school to Detroit and was suddenly naturally closer to designing cars. I graduated in Gothenburg and got my first job with Saab. I can identify myself with Volvo Cars since we are a less superficial car company than the competition, but still very cool.
What’s the focus right now?
Together with a great and small, but efficient, Chinese design team we are working hard to establish a Volvo Design studio in China. Me and my Director of Design Operations Anders Fogde are the only ISE´s/expats in design. The rest of the team are Chinese. They are the best! Our days are mostly focused on the start-up process. From networking and employing local designers to purchasing software as well as clay modeling equipment. This is a new dimension of design for me – setting up the underlying infrastructure to be able to produce results.
How does a regular day look for you?
The team sit down and start with a Swedish coffee (We try to convince each other to change habits, the local employees want us to switch to tea and hot water…) while planning the activities of the day as well as the week. I usually work 8.30am-6.30pm. We talk about design, China and new exciting business propositions for Volvo all the time. We develop and present lots of ideas on cars that are right for China while keeping a worldwide focus. I am lucky. This must be what Detroit was like in The 50s and it is happening right here and right now.
Which are the most inspiring projects you have taken part in and why?
The S60 concept car (2008) interior was a super fun privilege to be a part of. It really was the star of the 2009 Detroit motor show. I also enjoyed helping Andreas Nilsson, working closely with him on Volvo’s new design vision!
How do you spend your free time?
Family. And windsurfing when I get a chance. It is harder for me to find spots and wind in China. I will however go surfing in Vietnam soon, and now Australia is “within reach” (only 10-11 hours he he).
What in the local culture has inspired you?
I find inspiration everywhere in China. But I am really inspired by the warm, open and friendly atmosphere. China has been widely known for “copying” Western design; however now I start to see a growing/emerging self-confidence among young Chinese fashion, graphic and product design. A paradigm shift is coming – you’d better believe it!
I would love to find some windsurfing spots in China. This is from Sweden.