Just four years out of design school, at her first job as an industrial designer, collaborating with one the world’s largest home furnishing companies and Klara Petersén manages to nab one of the most coveted design prizes, a Red Dot. Not a bad start to your career.
“It means a lot,what kind of product it is and that it is a good product,” says Klara.
Klara doesn’t rush; she has a measured way of speaking – unflustered. When we meet for the interview, she has brought with her several other products that she has designed. A slick silver pocket watch attached to a chain and prototypes for a hot drink holder that you can attach to a bike. Urban, minimal, useful, hipster.
When taking her portrait, of course, we wanted to see Klara using TILLREDA. When we ask what she likes cooking she answers, “broccoli”. We ask her if she likes cooking: “I have to say yes, but I’m not really that into it. Quick and easy so that it tastes good.”
Klara got much more excited when we suggested using the stove to dye fabric. An award-winning stove designer who doesn’t like to cook. How does that work?
At People People, the design agency that Klara works for, they use a method called human-centred design; a creative approach to problem-solving. A design firm that pioneered this approach, IDEO, defines it as “a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs.”
When developing TILLREDA the team went to great lengths to get an overview of different user’s needs – from families with four children to professional chefs. What are the products people say they want? What is it that they don’t even know they need? “We go to people’s homes and watch how they behave and look for behavioural patterns,” says Klara.
This is how Klara develops empathy for the people she is designing for and an understanding of the products she is working with – even if she has other interests herself.
Insights insights insights
Why TILLREDA is causing a fuss is because it is one of those products that reflects the changes that are happening around us. Both its design and function say something about new ways of living. This new set of needs is sometimes a choice but it’s also a product of circumstance.
Design at IKEA is firmly anchored in research and insights. IKEA conducts thousands of home visits every year in cities all over the world. It is all collated online for the public in the Life at Home Report. It was a clear brief that Klara received from IKEA. This brief is in no doubt a product of the insights obtained from home visits.
The brief was to design a portable induction hob that fits into a trolley in the SUNNERSTA kitchen. You can’t tell the story of TILLREDA without talking about SUNNERSTA.
I wanted to make a product that is simple, clean, functional – that speaks for itself and is easy to use. That is my inspiration.
Gerry Dufresne, Range Manager for Kitchen and Dining at IKEA, says that from the IKEA home visits “we see that not all people are interested in having a system kitchen, not all people have the same needs.”
SUNNERSTA, a kitchen you can carry home on the subway, is a product developed for a new type of IKEA customer. He continues, “it reflects another lifestyle, a more conscious urban customer, more nomadic.” A person who has other priorities than investing in home furnishing, but a person who still needs to cook and prepare food.
From the latest Life at Home Report: “In the cities, many of us move house more often than we would want to.” With TILLREDA you can access a cooking hob no matter where you are living.
But can TILLREDA and SUNNERSTA withstand really extensive cooking? Gerry answered emphatically, “of course it can! That’s why you have an induction hob. Up until now, we have had induction cooking as something customers could have only at the mid or high price segment, now we have induction as our starting out offer.”
An induction that needs no introduction
From the 2016 Life at Home Report: “All over the world we see increasingly fluid living.” Fluid living is a concept developed by IKEA. It gives a name to a change of behavior we are seeing in the home. Instead of eating in the kitchen, sleeping in the bedroom and washing in the bathroom; we now eat in the living room, watch tv on a laptop in the bath and work whilst lying on the sofa.
“People are living in smaller apartments so the kitchen and living room are starting to melt together, the surfaces are changing,” says Klara. “Having a small portable hob, I believe, is really important.” TILLREDA is a product that is missing from the market.
The fact that you can hang it up is a bonus, the fact that it’s only 30x38x5.4 cm means that even if you have a full system kitchen – if you need an extra stove top for heating … the now you can get it.
Klara thinks that it is a positive thing that TILLREDA looks more like an electronic product than a kitchen appliance. “As the kitchen is changing, and it gradually moves into the living room where you use for example an iPad or a computer, it can blend in and be an electronic product. It doesn’t have to . It can have a new appearance and I think we’re going to see this more and more.”
Keeping it simple
With a product like this, to live up to its flexible expectations – to be used anywhere by anyone, it’s important that it has as simple functions as possible. “You shouldn’t need instructions to install it, you should just plug it in and then use it. I think this is important,” says Klara.
This reflects Klara’s own design philosophy, and hopes for the product – and perhaps a key to its success. “I wanted to make a product that is – that speaks for itself and is easy to use. That is my inspiration.”
How much of TILLREDA is Klara?
Klara’s role in the development of TILLREDA was to shape the design of the stove. She set out to answer the following questions: What should it look like? What functions should it have? What materials should it be made of? How should it work? Do you really need to be able to carry it around? If so, should it have a handle?
The two-year development process involved a close collaboration with the supplier. They gave her input about what the components inside the stove should look like, and she pushed the design of the stove to make it all as small and lightweight as possible. So that in the end, it takes up as little place as possible.
The craft corner
Prototyping always looks like the fun part of industrial design. “It can be 3D printing a prototype or testing a paper model in scale. Here the factory did lots of prototypes as well.” They were able to create full-scale models so the team could test the different functions. As Klara says, “you can’t always find the best solutions in a sketch or a 3d-program. You have to really test it, that is really important to get the right material to look good.”
To get that futuristic electronic appliance look, TILLREDA is made of as few materials as possible. Each material is carefully chosen after the function it will have. The top is made of durable glass that can withstand being moved around a lot, the underside is moulded plastic and then the handle is made of metal, a robust material. “It’s important that you use metal there instead of plastic so that you can wrap the cable around the handle.”
Pushing IKEA, learning from IKEA
The design agency People People has developed some cult products that we immediately associate with start-up culture, progress and innovation. The Narrative camera and the Flic button to just name two. Klara says of working with IKEA, “it’s a large company but still progressive in a good way. I see the similarities with start-ups.”
“IKEA is very structured with everyone working towards the same goal,” she observed. And what is this goal? Designing products that adhere to the principles of Democratic Design – form, function, and sustainability whilst at a low-cost.
Klara said it was a good mix with the People People way of working which is, “to look at people’s behavior first. Not focus on the product itself but find a logical perspective. All the functions and the way the product is developed is depending on the research. There is always a reason for everything.” How could Klara and People People challenge a big company like IKEA? “We work with consumer electronics, IKEA hasn’t worked with that before and now they’re integrating it into their range.”
In this unique situation, to be a young designer collaborating with a big brand to create products for hundreds of thousands of people, what is it that you can take from the experience? “Working with IKEA you learn to put pressure on prices. You have to make demands to create . And being sustainable, which IKEA really stands for.”
With all the insights downloaded, the testing carried out, the prototyping and discussions with the supplier done – what are Klara’s predictions for the future of the kitchen? And on that note, we will let her have the last word:
“I think the kitchen is going to become more flexible. I hope it will become more playful, that it can change over time. Maybe we can change our kitchen after our lifestyle situation when you move in together or separate or get kids. And then also, that the kitchen is moving into the living room and then that the products are going to start to interact together. If they are easy to use, maybe, I hope they can help you cook better food and inspire you. Using smart products but also better products.”
Facts & figures
Education: Lund University, Industrial design programme BA + MA. Graduated in 2007-2012.
Employment: 3 years at People People and now at Idesign Sweden (working on the redesign of the x2000 train that travels from Stockholm to Gothenburg)
Motivation of the jury, Red Dot Award: The TILLREDA free-standing induction hob makes an elegant impression. It is at the same time both robust and manageable and thus allows cooking wherever a power connection is nearby: a cable rewind device on the side serves also as a carrying handle so that it can easily be transported. When not in use, it can be hung up to save space, thanks to a corresponding holder. The hob offers nine power levels, which can be selected effortlessly via a simply designed control panel. TILLREDA delights with a clear, up-to-date design and well-considered design solutions which give this mobile hob a high-level of usability.
Concept Kitchen 2025: If you’re interested in digging deeper into the future of the kitchen then you have to check out the collaboration with Klara’s old design school School of Industrial Design at the Ingvar Kamprad Design Centre at Lund University, the Industrial Design department at Eindhoven University of Technology, IDEO and IKEA. They investigated “how will we behave around food in 2025?” See it here.