July 02, 2019

Colour entering Tech Design

This time Per Boicel from Omuus, contacted Zina Kranck, Design Director for the Graphic Design Team at LEGO, for an interview. They talked about Zina’s journey to LEGO, what inspires her and has she changed as designer while working for LEGO. Also covering the aspect of how it differs to design products for kids from adults. Enjoy!

Can you tell us about your journey to LEGO?

Zina:

30 years ago, I worked for the Swedish sports fashion designer Eliza. I assisted her in designing for Hang Ten, Progress (Reima), Gulins, etc. This was the time when we formulated a color-combinationthat was more colorful than others, brighter neon than anything else. Eliza taught me that coloris the first aspect of a product that your brain recognizes as you enter a shop. After color, the shape, the quality and eventually the price come into consideration. This instruction stuck with me.

In March 1995 I began my job as a product manager at Nokia for mobilephones in Salo, Finland. I was about to use all previous knowledge on color, design, marketing and even on plastics and paints that I had never heard of since the day I was born. This turned out to be the time, when color really changed my world – and you could argue perhaps even with the rest of the world (in terms of mobile phones).

I didn’t invent the coloredcover as a concept, but I did take part in making it relevant and fashionable. I volunteered to make a range that we could commercialize.I went to Premiere Vision, the textile fair in Paris, as I had done during my fashion career. I listened to the trend gurus, gathered the colors of the next season and delivered them back to the team. We updated first range, then we put color on a few actual phones, then on many. It became coloring millions and millions of phones.

Color really was what drew the needed attention to the product in the very competitive landscape. The fashion-industry also saw us. I made countless interviews and appearances on TV-shows and conferences.I could even see that the trend gurus now featured our phones in their predictions. Of course, Nokia was known to make the best and easiest phones on the market at the time, but color is still what the human brain recognizes first. On a global scale, where millions of people have a mobile phone in their hands, business became easier.

In the meantime, Nokia Design and CMG (Colors, Materials, Graphics) as part of it was founded while Nokia grew to be the third most valuable brand in the world, we had the run of our lives!

2016, I took the job as Design Director for the Graphic Design Team at Lego in Billund, Denmark. Two years later the textile team was added to my group, expanding us to Graphic and Material Design (GMD). We are about 40 people, mostly designers, from 14 different countries. This dream-job puts me, and us, right in the center of design at LEGO. Me and my four teams work cross-functional, meaning across all projects from Duplo and Disney Princesses to Star Wars and LEGO Mindstorms. We say we are ‘putting the smile on the face’, as we actually design all graphics printed on LEGO-bricks and stickers.

The power of play and inspiration

When designing for children what is the major difference compared to designing for grown-ups?

Zina:

Designing is answering questions and finding new ways, inspiring people to see different things and give experiences. At Lego we say: ‘Designing for children is us inspiring builders for tomorrow’.

It’s inspiring small people to do remarkable things, we are not giving them solutions we are giving them tools create something big for themselves. We present them (the children) with a lot of suggestions of course, we have fantastic building instructions and hope they build the set at least once and perhaps rebuild again many more times.

What inspires you?

Zina:

At LEGO we take inspiration from the way children play, children under 12 years old are always welcome to visit us in the office and we play together at work, and thats how we get inspired.

Think of how children are playing at the playground, they don’t think ‘its dinner at 6pm’, they are so into their play and they want to play with someone. They are fully immersed in their story, 100% focused on what they do. I believe children should inspire us in many ways and they already do. Children see monsters and they see elves under stones, they see a lot of things we don’t see. We adults are horrible for telling them its ”just” imaginations when imagination is a good thing, its not only ”just Imaginations”, its the most important thing we have.

Since the children don’t pay for the products, the parents do, what impact does it have on the design and how the product is presented?

Zina:

For the design it doesn’t have that much impact in the fact that the parents are paying for it per se except in the communication and in the packaging, we definitely take it into the account that the parents or the grandparents are the shoppers. But in the end it has to revolve around what the child needs and how we want the child to grow in creativity and confidence.

Have you changed as person and designer after some time at LEGO?

Zina:

I think so, I think I have become much kinder, if you ask my team they might not agree but my family think so. I actually see things with a different lens, I begin to see much more like a child. My family would say I always had a child in me but I pretended like I did not for a long time, but now I feel like it’s ok to be childlike.

We want to Thank Zina Kranck for this interview! For our readers, stay tuned – this was just part 1 with Zina…