Success in Milan for the double graduate Kristiina Lassus
Kristiina Lassus, who has been highly successful in the field of design in Milan, works long hours enthusiastically and with her eyes firmly fixed on the future. Even if the Italian economy has been badly hit, she believes that after the downturn, it will be boosted to new heights.
- It will take work, however. Understanding the entire process from design to production, and especially knowing the ropes of marketing, will help you stay afloat.
Design Manager Kristiina Lassus, who has worked for such companies as Artek in Finland and Alessi in Italy, practises what she preaches. Hard work and constantly learning more about production processes as a whole have paved her way to success.
- Design is beauty. But it is also functionality, practicality, production and marketing.
Fingers itching to design
Lassus completed her Master's degrees in design management as well as interior decoration and furniture design in the former University of Art and Design Helsinki in the 1990s.
- In Italy, experts in the field appreciate Finnish design skills, and Aalto University is thought of very highly, says Lassus. She knows what she is talking about. After all, she has put in long years of hard work in Milan, a city considered the Mecca of design.
About fifteen years ago, Lassus joined the Italian company Alessi but left her permanent job as Design Manager some eight years ago. Her fingers were itching to design and to create new products, functional beauty and style.
- I have continued my career as a freelance designer for Alessi. I also design rugs, which are hand-made in Nepal. The raw materials are natural, and the rugs are produced on order in small batches.
Cooperation and networks
In addition to designing, Kristiina Lassus also promotes Finnish designers in Milan in cooperation with Finpro.
- I have set up an export group aiming to export Finnish design expertise to the world market through Milan.
In Kristiina Lassus’ studio, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the central railway station in Milan, pieces by other Finnish designers are also on display. For example, in a fringe event associated with this year’s furniture fair, Lassus’ studio housed a joint exhibition of eight Finnish design companies and a major private event for invited guests.
A long career in Milan has allowed Lassus to build up an efficient cooperation network. Launching a new product is a team effort involving a number of players.
Reasons for Milan’s strong foothold in the design market include an industry that is prepared to invest in developing and manufacturing design products.
Production plants also experiment with and manufacture new products in small batches. The industry and the designer must work hand in hand. A well-designed object deserves to be manufactured well, and vice versa.
Understanding chains and mastering languages a must
- The advantage of Aalto University and its predecessor, the University of Art and Design Helsinki, is knowing how to look into the future, also in terms of internationalisation. Personally, I did my MA studies in design management in an international programme. Ten of us graduated together, and only one out of two were Finnish. Many of the course leaders were foreigners, too. As far as I know, all graduates from my degree programme have bagged great jobs in design management.
- My second diploma work was about the Finnish furniture industry from the perspectives of design and marketing. It is much easier for a designer to do well and be successful if you understand the importance of the whole chain. It is a good idea for the designer to be familiar with the needs and requirements of marketing and manufacturing.
Kristiina Lassus explains that she also studied product development management in the Centre for Continuing Education of Helsinki University of Technology.
- Understanding how an engineer thinks and what counts in production gives you an edge, she says.
- And if you intend to be successful in the international arena, you must have language skills. In Germany or Italy, for example, you should not take it for granted that everyone speaks English.
Born in Helsinki in 1966. Lives and works in Milan.
Took her Master’s degree in the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 1992 in the programme of design management and completed another MA in interior decoration and furniture design in 1995.
Has also studied entrepreneurship, languages, product development, productisation and marketing, etc.
Operated her own design agency D´Imago in Helsinki in 1993-2003, then set up her studio in Milan in 2003.
Has received many awards, including the Red Dot in 2008 and 2010, Green Good Design 2011 and Design Plus 2011, and a number of her rugs and Alessi products have been selected for the ADI index.
Text: Hia Sjöblom