International Day of the Girl – Through design, the world is your playing field

In the second in a series of interviews to celebrate International Day of the Girl on October 11, Electrolux VP Design, Home Care & SDA, Pernilla Johansson gives her top tips on building a career in design, and why it’s a journey to be embraced.

How did you start your career as a designer?

After graduating from mechanical engineering in high school, I needed a break before ‘real life’ started. I signed up for a one-year preliminary art education course and during this discovered Industrial Design and realized how the subject perfectly combined my passion for art with my interest in science.

I remember then telling a friend how ‘I wouldn’t apply’ for the Master’s program in Industrial Design as it was impossible to get in, but then he challenged me and I applied just to prove him wrong. They selected 100 portfolios out of 700 applicants and put us through an intense four-day program, during which I became convinced this was what I wanted to do with my life. Luckily I was one of the 50 students that was accepted that year and so I embarked on my 4.5-years Master’s education.

What are you most proud of working as a designer at Electrolux?

At Electrolux, design is an integral part of the corporate culture and there’s a high level of understanding of what the benefit of design brings. Yet what makes most of the 120 designers across Electrolux, including myself, most proud is the fact that we have a strong social responsibility and the re-focus on quality and sustainability over the last years has been met with great respect.

What do you love most about being a designer?

There’s so much to tell you here! What truly motivates and inspires me is change and the potential that change brings.  To me it’s about embracing the journey that comes with choosing a career as a designer. It’s about continuous improvement, always seeking new and better ways.

Cultural impact and shifting lifestyle trends have always fascinated me. Through my profession I’ve had the privilege of living over three different continents in five different countries and as such have been able to travel and experience people from most corners of the world. Being a designer offers no borders and there is no greater way to really understand the depth of what unites us, yet makes us all so uniquely different.

To me design is a creative journey and one needs to have faith in the process. I especially enjoy the quest from opportunity to intent, to being part of the thought process that defines a new ideal solution.

And it’s also all about team work. The design process is highly collaborative. The myth of the genius designer is old. Effective teams achieve so much more than any individual can achieve on their own.

What are your tips for girls considering a career in design?

I’m not sure my advice is any different for girls or boys, as I would passionately encourage anyone who wants to pursue a career in design.

It’s important to discover and anchor your own strength and then build further on that learning. Designers are very much integrators, translating insights to tangible manifestations that works seamlessly across the physical and virtual world. Stay curious, with an open mind and open heart and always consider the world your playing field.

Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV.

I have a small but highly visible tattoo on my wrist, marked with a story that opens up many conversations from the stranger on the airplane to the coworker in the corridor. I wanted a souvenir from a very impactful jungle track on an island outside of Sumatra but it’s also a reminder that there is so much more to life than the rat wheel of corporate world that I so passionately run. For me, it’s a symbol of depth and perspective, a jewel that I’ll carry with me through life.