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Niklas Löfberg is the kind of person who keeps his cards close to his chest. When you're at the cutting edge of industrial design, as he is, it pays to be tight-lipped about the projects you're working on. These are, after all, projects that rival companies would move mountains to see.
"Let's just say we're constantly developing new solutions and looking into the near and distant future to plan and predict what we need to improve and develop, and keep our customers happy," says Löfberg, Expert – Industrial Design who’s been with KONE for 13 years.
When function meets form
If you'd stolen a glimpse into Löfberg's office a couple of years ago, you might have seen preliminary designs for a number of projects that would go on to win coveted Red Dot Design Awards – KONE was handed an impressive five awards by the jury this year.
Some of them were Löfberg's projects – and he praises the group efforts involving multiple people. "Collaboration is the key to developing successful industrial design products," says Löfberg. We asked him to talk us through one of his favorite projects.
"It's called KONE Lane, a new type of turnstile with a disruptive design compared to existing access gates," he says. "Everything is different. It takes up to 90% less of the highly valuable and expensive space in lobbies that these systems typically need, and it uses the latest time of flight camera technology."
From an architect's perspective, he says, it's a game-changer. "Turnstiles often don't look all that nice in high-end lobbies, where architects pay attention to every detail," says Löfberg. "Now, though, I think we have a gate that both architects and users can fall in love with."
Pain points and prototypes
Löfberg has been involved in moving people from A to B for much of his career – prior to KONE, he designed buses. He finds the people flow aspect of his work especially rewarding.
"My work support KONE's vision to create the best people flow experience. We take each step of the customer's journey into account and are always looking to iron out any pain points," he says.
Typically engaged in several projects at once, Löfberg explains that his designs usually begin on computers and are then iterated through multiple physical prototypes to see and test how things look, feel, and function. "Things like usability and accessibility are very important to us," he says.
Designing with eye on sustainability
In addition to marrying form with function, Löfberg is committed to creating products that have a lifespan that goes above and beyond expectations.
"KONE Office Flow, for example, is designed in such a way that the products and user interfaces can be easily updated and upgraded," he says. It's something that is especially important post-COVID, and Löfberg says it will be interesting to see how office spaces transform in the coming years.
What every client is ultimately looking for, he says, is beautifully designed, versatile systems that can be adapted to accommodate future needs. "We're always looking ahead – and we're really able to innovate here," Löfberg says.
What do you love about your job?
I really like collaborating with different teams. That's the best way to learn and together achieve the best possible industrial design and products.
What are your priorities when starting new design projects?
It needs to provide something new and innovative to our end users and customers. And it needs to solve a problem in a better way than existing solutions and products in the market.
What do the Red Dot Design Awards mean to you?
It's really nice to be recognized for our work like this. We've been working on these projects for a long time, and the awards mean that we've done something right!
What are your thoughts on eventually returning to the office?
I'm looking forward to it. Working in the same space as my colleagues without COVID restrictions means a lot – it's much more fun to collaborate physically instead of virtually, which also works well. Psychologically, though, it's not the same.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I enjoy product development and want to work on projects that can improve the lives of end users and customers. When a product enters the market and we see it being used, it's really satisfying, especially if we've been able to push things in terms of sustainability.
What is your best habit that helps you to do your job better?
I'm quite results-oriented, so I like to get things done, but also the journey needs to be meaningful.
Interested in contributing to award-winning designs and innovations?
KONE design professionals are part of KONE Technology and Innovation that combines the physical world – escalators and elevators – with smart and connected digital systems. If you’re interested in joining a global multi-expertise design team either in Espoo or Hyvinkää, Finland, or Shanghai, China, read more here: KONE Technology and Innovation careers