One of Northmill’s latest recruits is Jonas Lundgren, a visual designer and travel enthusiast who just joined the company’s marketing department. We sat down with Jonas over a cup of coffee to learn a bit more about him.
Nice to meet you, Jonas! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and some of your experiences?
Sure! I’m a Swede who’s spent the last 4 years in the US, and before that, I spent some time in Paris and Oslo. Besides studying, I’ve been a freelance graphic designer & product designer, and I’ve worked at design and advertising agencies. I’ve also done some work with visual merchandising. Most recently I worked with a startup telecom company to deliver their entire visual identity.
Sounds like you’ve worked with quite a few areas of design. What would you say is the biggest difference between physical and digital design?
It’s definitely different to work with a physical product, compared to the primary digital work I’m doing right now. With a physical product, you have other challenges, like ergonomics, and other stakeholders, like engineers. But the end result is the same. Design exists because you have a problem; you need to simplify a concept for your audience. You need the product to illustrate its function well, so people instinctively can understand what to do with it. In that way, I see design at its core, no matter the genre, as the same thing. You solve a problem by communicating as efficiently and simply as possible.
Do you think people underestimate parts of the design process?
People underestimate how important it is to deliver a certain feeling. For example, if we’re creating a ”hero image”, the main visual attached to a piece of content, then what is the feeling we want to evoke in the consumer? Does the tonality match the rest of the company’s content? Does it match with whatever we want to communicate in that particular piece of content? You need to understand the brand you’re working with to know what kind of feeling matches it.
“You need to be able to try what works and doesn’t work, and it can take thousands of hours before you’re completely confident.”
And that takes time and practice. You need to be able to try what works and doesn’t work, and it can take thousands of hours before you’re completely confident. More than what works for a particular company, you need to understand what people perceive as pleasing to their eyes.
So I guess you need some time when working with a new brand?
Yeah! In Northmill’s situation, it’s a bit interesting, because we’re now undergoing a rebranding project for parts of the product portfolio. We want to go in a direction that’s a bit more playful; brands that feel more human, that speak in layman’s terms. This also includes the copy we have - we have to change what kind of language we are using, and how we are tying it together with the design.
This is something we see more frequently, although less so in banks. In other industries, a lot of successful brands are moving away from corporate, formal forms of communication, because they want to seem more relaxed when expressing themselves, both visually and verbally.
Are there any specific challenges with working in finance?
You have to be a bit careful when deciding what to communicate, because of the regulatory aspects and the nature of the business. We want people to know that we’re a safe and secure company but without being too traditional in our design. That needs to be easily identifiable in all forms of our communication. Because we’re one of the companies that handle your money, we need to find a balance between what’s interesting and what’s familiar and trustworthy.
What do you think about working at an agency versus in-house?
The perspective changes a lot. At an agency, you often work with a bunch of different brands for a limited time. You don’t really form a bond with the brands. Even though I work with multiple brands now, there’s this sense of ownership since I’ll work to nurture those same brands for years. It becomes personal because it’s done by me, and I need to be 100 percent happy before I show designs to anyone. So my job is now completely focused on giving the right visual communication for one company.
“You can evolve the design more in-house because you’ll get ideas all the time. After a while, you know the brands inside out, and that’s really when you can go the extra mile in its development.”
You also evolve the design more, because you’ll get ideas all the time, especially when you start to feel familiar with the brands. After a while, you know the brands inside out, and that’s really when you can go the extra mile in its development. When you expand and start to build up a separate design team, it’s really important that you have someone who already knows exactly what kind of tone you are going for.
You’ve lived in the US until this summer. Can you talk a bit about the differences in work culture in the US compared to Sweden?
Most recently I worked at a startup, so it’s hard to generalise based on that environment. But if you compare to the bigger companies, you have another type of hierarchical structure in the US. Everybody has their role and their tasks, and they never move outside of them. I’d say it’s a much stiffer work culture. Possibilities for being social isn’t nearly as developed. You do your job, that’s it.
It sounds pretty different – how does it feel to come back to Sweden after years across the pond?
It takes some time to re-adapt into Swedish working life. In a way, it still kinda feels like I’m not in Stockholm permanently, more like I’m on some kind of vacation, because I have always moved around before. Especially working 9-5 after doing a lot of agency and freelance work feels strange, because we didn’t have the same sense of being a team and had less social interactions. It feels great to be part of a team that exchanges ideas.
Any interests you’ve picked back up when you’re back in Sweden?
Traveling and experiencing new cultures has been my biggest interest for such a long time now. But skiing has been a very big part of my life, so I wouldn’t say no to a trip to the Alps. But right now, in November, I think I’d prefer to go somewhere where the sun shines for a while!
You studied at Parsons School of Design, which has a prestigious reputation – what was the vibe like there?
It’s a great school that lives up to the name, most of the time. You had a few people who acted out the preppy artist stereotype, especially in fashion design. Some of them could wear clothes worth an average person’s annual salary. However, that was kind of the nature of the fashion specifically - everybody wants to be the next Tom Ford in an extremely competitive industry.
What I studied, industrial design was much more laid back. Everybody was insanely ambitious, and still very ”artsy” - compared to most students, I was more like a typical sports guy. But within my track, everyone was very different from each other - one guy just wanted to work on furniture, someone else just wanted to work on accessories and jewellery. So there’s a great variety in people and their ambitions.
Lastly, Rebilla has been our biggest design effort so far – what do you think about it?
From my point of view, we want to really blow things out of the water. We know the product is good, so we just have to be creative with our design and marketing to communicate that to the rest of the world. We need to do it in a way that nobody else quite does it. Together with the entire team that works on Rebilla - from the engineers to UX:ers, to the marketers - I think we can make something really special.