What can Nordic design teach us about influencing skills?

I recently attended Nordic Innovation Week and was especially impressed by an event around what Nordic design is, how it’s regarded and how it can be used in China. As I listened to the three speakers, there were some good takeaways from an influencing and communication perspective :

Here’s what I observed:


Speaker 1: Lars Falk, VP of Design, China, Volvo.

Lars was talking around the context of building a design centre in China.

What he did well?

1. He made a human connection in the opening

Lars started by building rapport.

He showed his enthusiasm for the topic.

Shared his personal journey as a timeline.

He quoted Confucius “ wisdom is what you don’t know”

He contrasted the tastes of the Chinese consumers in 2011 and 2013.

He compared design tastes of different counties visually using their flags.


2. He set up the main content with a connecting question

So what does China want?”

This gets the audience thinking along the right lines. He answers the question in a nutshell (great material and exterior design) and then moves onto the body of his content.


3. Good structure for the main content

Lars divided his content into three parts; Proportions, Dimensions and Interior Design.

He used impactful visuals to make his points in each section.


4. Attention grabbing close

Lars used a powerful but simple pie chart showing how 96% of a car in China should be on par with the best in the world. While the final 4% should be something special for China. This one chart really summed up nicely his topic. Then he closed it out with a quote from Einstein.


Speaker 2: Henrik Larsson, Head of Architecture of Inter IKEA Centre China.

Henrik’s talk was around implementing Scandinavian design in China through the eyes of IKEA’s real estate developments.


What he did well?

1. Set the context

Henrik briefly described IKEA’s approach to building around their stores to create a more complete retail presence and their current projects with shopping centres in Beijing, Wuhan and Wuxi.


2. He had a clear overarching structure

Why we do it

What it is

How to do it

This helps to keep the audience’s direction on track through the 30min talk.


3. Soundbite messages

Henrik used short and snappy messages throughout his talk.

We unify

We save

Design makes a difference


4. Used a clear visual style for slides

When running through the “What is it” section, Henrik used various characteristics to explain Scandinavian design (human, modern, functional) and had a clear visual for each point. The consistency ran through the characteristics. A large picture with key words dominated each slide. Each picture was a metaphorical representation of the big idea.


5. Closing in reality

After abstract (and highly interesting) discussions around Nordic design, Henrik came back to reality and showed some plans from current developments. We learned about the anchor layout, how multiple attraction points are developed and key traffic pullers in each development. It was a good way to show how the principles are applied.


Speaker 3: Olle Carlbark Director SCA Innovation Centre in China, SCA.

Olle’s talk was based around introducing SCA and a case study of launching a product in the baby diaper market In China.


What he did well?

1. Set the journey

Olle opened with a quick slide showing the agenda clearly. Four sections:

This is SCA


Relaunch Sealer

China insights


2. Keep self-directed information short

I was interested to learn about SCA but sometimes company profiles can drag on. Olle kept it short and used visuals to show the wide range of brands his company covered. His message “Europe’s largest forest owner” was a nice soundbite.


3. Case study

A case study on relaunching a product with some innovative safety features and package design that catered to local needs was capped off with a video TV commercial. Using a mixture of media is a good way to break up your delivery. All media used should be relevant and consistent in quality and message.


4. Close with clarity

Olle finished with a slide showing main innovation drivers in China. Three points.




All speeches were well structured, included personal touches and generally had very clear impactful visuals. It helped make the experience of learning about Nordic design and how it’s applied in China enjoyable and easy to digest.


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