Customer in the centre
It’s only natural that industrial design makes an entrance into the traditional industries. Arkio calls it the megatrend of customer-centricity.
“For an industrial designer, user-friendliness, i.e., customer-centricity – has always been the core of it all, the very starting point. In an industrial setup, you might think of the paying customer first-hand when developing solutions, but at the end of the chain, there is always the end-user. So our equation can be summed up as designing things that the end-user finds easy to use while also fulfilling the needs of the paying customer.”
Usually these two tend to converge into what’s easy to use is also more efficient.
This is where the interview is interrupted by a phone call from Arkio’s 9-year-old son. After having sorted out the details of being picked up from the library, the iPhone still resting in Arkio’s hand, he points out that digitalisation is what has propelled this trend.
“Our everyday gadgets have helped us define user-friendliness. We demand from our smartphones, TVs, cars – everything – that they are intuitive, and this extends also to our work environment.”
And good design solutions where you truly understand the end-user are the starting point for intuitive products.
More than good looks
Product semantics is one dimension of good design. Here the sceptic will say it doesn’t matter what the machinery looks like in an engine room as long as it does the job.
But then again, the customer is a human being and is subconsciously affected by how things look.
“So, the right product semantics makes the products also look meaningful and valuable, i.e., safe, high quality and reliable. This is also the link between design and brand. Our products need to be recognised as Wärtsilä equipment by our core values whether the brand label is visible or not,” says Arkio.
And that’s why industrial design was an integral part of the R&D work in the newly launched Wärtsilä 31 engine.
“It needed to be easy to use, safe to operate and convey high-tech and quality.”
At Wärtsilä, Arkio is experiencing a professional dream come true: managing a design team in a creative design studio environment. Because that’s partly how he sees his work at the Innovation Node, where Wärtsilä experiments with completely new concepts.
“Design studio activities have always been instrumental in envisioning the future, and we are increasingly seeing more fusion between industrial design and innovation in companies in general. This is what modern product design is all about.”
The Industrial Design Artist
Orcum Erdem spent last summer at the Innovation Node in Otaniemi, a 15-minute drive from Wärtsilä’s head office, as a trainee. A student of industrial design at Aalto University, he has a knack for illustrating, Arkio noted quickly from looking at Erdem’s portfolio. Erdem used a digital painting technique for the illustrations.
“These images represent very high quality in the field of creativity and futuristic design,” Arkio says.
Product semantics is an old paradigm in the design world and means an attempt to convey what a product is or does through its form. A designer using product semantics creates products that are understandable and engaging. Today, the phrase is increasingly being reevaluated to also including a user-centred approach.