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Anders Björk

With more than 30 years in the business and hundreds of design projects on his resume, Anders is a true and multi-facetted master of design and branding. We sat down to have a chat with Anders about his view on design, creativity and the importance of having a solid design process.

Anders, with your vast experience in the design and branding industry, what are some significant shifts or trends you've observed over the years up to date?

The simple answer, I would say, it's about the shift that turned the focus from the surface (the visual part) to the actual content. During my 30 years within the industry, a lot has happened. From a macro perspective, a transformation took place during these years in design; being considered a varnish only to being valued as an important business-driving "success factor". Today, design can be a crucial key for a customer and purchase experience.

I think that design, to a greater extent, should be integrated into the business process, both as a methodology and as an end product. When I started working in the late 80s and early 90s, design was just a spin-off on advertising assignments for the agencies, it could be about packaging, campaign and corporate identities, etc. And when the larger design assignments were to be launched, the request often went to the large American or European "design and branding agencies".

Today the relationship is almost reversed, we have many talented designers and agencies here in Sweden, and today the world comes to us. A fun and inspiring development. We also increasingly live in a visual society, where there´s expectation that things should go quickly, be easy to grasp and appealing, so design today has a crucial role to play.

How have you adapted your approach to stay relevant in this ever-changing field?

On the one hand, I think it's a personality trait – being curious about what's happening and wanting to be part of the development. I always strive to create some kind of benefit and get a little better at it every day. I usually say that "my best jobs are ahead of me", maybe a little naïve but it is something that actually drives me constantly forward. Then, of course, you have to have a deep passion for what you do, otherwise it will be difficult.

I also believe in the power of learning and being inspired by each other. I see it as a team work where you help each other and develop together. Being in a context where you work with colleagues and clients who are the best at what you do is fantastic. My experience is that when you work together, the boundaries blur quite quickly – in some situations you are "senior", in others "junior", group members also tend to be able to switch between different roles more quickly depending on the assignment and conditions.

Even the traditional hierarchy between consultant and client tends to disappear (no us and them), which makes the process much more efficient with a greater focus on achieving the best possible results as efficiently as possible.

Your superpower of never being full and with an ingenious ability to capture the essence of a brand or business idea, is a true signum of yours. How do you sustain this mindset and continue to evolve and improve as a designer and creative leader?

I think an important starting point is that you have interest and focus on the customer's business. To be interested in the customer's reality and, above all, to keep an eye on the customer's customer – the end consumer. To understand in what context a brand's stakeholders are in - from the CEO to the end consumer. What do they think? What do they feel? What are their challenges and dreams? Basically, I think it's simply about being interested in people.

As a designer and creative leader, you also have to be humble and understand the creative process - it is a searching business where there is usually not just one solution, but several different ones. Sometimes there are not all the answers that you might wish for in the "perfect brief", but then you have to work based on hypotheses you can work together with the client to find the best way forward.

I usually look at the process as a funnel where you initially work broadly to gradually narrow down and come to a clear recommendation. It's often a good idea to invite the client early in this process (one must not forget that the customer is an important part of the working group and often possesses valuable information). In this way, you also avoid spending unnecessary time on theatrical presentations and a strong joint ownership and responsibility for the project emerges.

Throughout your extensive career, you've worked on hundreds of design projects. Can you share one of your most memorable projects and what made it stand out from the rest?

It is difficult to choose an individual project. There are many different assignments that I am both proud and happy to have been a part of. Most often, it is the actual result of a project that the outside world sees and assesses, but there is also a whole process behind the end result that is at least as interesting, exciting and valuable. Discussions you had, obstacles overcome, new things learned, new friendships made and so on. Then when you look back at the end result, there is always something you would have done in a different and maybe a little better way.

The projects that I am a little extra passionate about are when I get the opportunity to contribute to the everyday lives of many people. For example, when I worked with Sweden's largest dairy business and I now see the products on breakfast and dinner tables around Sweden or when I got to be involved in developing the taco culture, fredagstacos is truly a common Swedish tradition now.

I am also proud of the work of building and repositioning Elon from being a local expert in appliances to becoming a modern player with a whole-of-home offering in the Scandinavian market and with a home show on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

But if I am forced to choose a specific project and moment, it will actually be a nostalgia trip - one of my first "bigger" in the mid-90s when I was involved in developing a completely new identity, name and brand world for Stockholm Quality Outlet.

What makes you remember these projects and that they stand out from the crowd is probably that they "last over time" and they still feel relevant today.

You must also have encountered various challenges while leading design teams and managing projects. What were the key strategies to lead successful design projects?

Having a clear and common goal and trust in each other is everything. If you have it in place, you have a very good chance to succeed with most projects. A good trust in the team makes everyone "dare" - dare to come up with wacky ideas, ask strange questions, suggest different thoughts and so on.

As a leader, it is also important to distinguish between things and people. Everyone in a team is handpicked and should know that they are part of the team because they are really good. If the team has that self-image, then everyone can be brutally honest - to criticize an idea is not to criticize the person.

I also usually say that quality is usually born out of quantity - make sure to exhaust all ideas quickly, bad and good, and in this phase self-censorship is forbidden. If we take care of each other, are honest and build trust together with a common clear goal, everything is possible to achieve.

With your vast array of skills, including creative strategy, brand development and design management, how do you decide which area to focus on for a specific project?

It is very much about understanding the nature of the assignment, listening to the customer, and identifying what can be read "between the lines". The best way is to spend a little extra time at the beginning of a project for conversations with the customer (preferably with different people within the organisation).

Sitting together for a couple of hours and discussing different issues is usually incredibly valuable. Not only it increases the common knowledge base but you also build and strengthen the relationships with each other. Asking the right question in these contexts can be redemptive and open up new ways of thinking and ideas. A good mindset is to set yourself a bit like a curious journalist looking for answers.

Your reputation for always being generous and selfless is truly inspiring. How has this mindset influenced the dynamics within the team and the overall creative process at For One?

I believe that we are all inspired by each other. It is important to be open minded and generous. We usually call it "the givers game", and basically it is about the best way to enrich yourself, the people around and the projects themselves is to be generous - then you usually get back what you give with a proper interest.

I also think it's a lot about finding the balance between the individual and the collective.

A cornerstone of ForOne's philosophy is collective knowledge and intelligence, but you also need to be given space for some alone time to think and create. Everything is connected, without the individual there is no collective and vice versa.

Last question, what are you looking forward to this fall, any exciting upcoming projects? And please share some thoughts about the continuous growth of ForOne.

I am very much looking forward to this autumn. ForOne has many exciting projects in the pipeline and we had the privilege of onboarding several really interesting and super competent people into the network, so during the autumn great things will happen for sure. We will continue our growth and our methodology will gain ground. I look forward to helping more clients to new heights.

The time of opportunity is now, they are all around us and let´s seize them together.


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