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A Driving Force of Design with Polestar

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Having just launched Polestar 2, their first fully electric car, MiND had the opportunity during Milan Design Week to meet Par Heyden, in charge of delivering the Polestar brand experience.

Speaking about the Polestar exhibition in Milan – ‘Into the Light’ – Heyden explained the design driven nature of the brand, and that Milan was the ideal location for them, as opposed to a traditional car show. “We thought; let’s bring our positivity and optimism about the future here and create something which we would like to do. Racing is fun. We like driving and we think that driving should be something positive.”

The Polestar event at Milan Design Week 2019

The set up outside the exhibition was made to resemble a service station, complete with a seating area with couches and benches. It represents a social meeting point of the future, a symbol of mobility and a reminder of the dependence on fossil fuels. Since Polestar is an electrified car, which needs charging, the idea is that these stations will gradually become a point of social gathering.

The exhibition featured a track of racing cars and aimed to offer a sensory experience. Through the interactive circuit, visitors were able to control the speed of the car, the lights and the music.

“We’re very much a design driven company.”

The Polestar event at Milan Design Week 2019

Can you walk us through your background?

I started off as a designer, working at Volvo for many years, designing concept cars. There are so many weird projects that I worked on at the start! Then I left for a while, designing all kinds of things for different brands. Then I bumped into Thomas, our CEO, and he brought me back to Volvo again. We set up the new design direction for Volvo together, and a few years later Thomas asked if I could run the Polestar brand, from the creative view. Right now I’m the head of the team that designs all the touchpoints with the brand – things like the showrooms, our headquarters, events and so on. I think that’s a unique set-up in the car industry, having a sort of second design team working very closely with the product designers. We have a team that controls everything, like an in-house advertising, architectural design agency.

“The set-up makes us very consistent.”

The newly designed Polestar headquarters in Gothenburg.

I think the set-up is more unique than we think, it’s just natural. We do so much in-house. It’s fun to have a CEO like Thomas – we bring design issues up to CEO level more or less every week. We can sit and sketch and have creative discussions with him, which is really cool.

How would you describe the brand role to our readers?

We would like to offer a positive and trustworthy picture of a future car brand. We believe that so many other car brands represent the old world but still they dream about this new electric age. Let’s not ruin the advertising with trying to ‘green-wash’ everything. We’re starting fresh with this and of course we’re not the biggest company, but it’s a start. Maybe it’s something to believe in, that we can actually do something different. Of course there are other electric car makers out there but they still look and feel very much like the automotive industry. We’re more product design oriented in our aesthetics and in everything that we do.

The Polestar event at Milan Design Week 2019

Could you describe how the brand has evolved through the years?

We grew as part of Volvo and they now own 50% of Polestar. The first cars were evolved from ideas born in the Volvo world, which we then transformed into ours, because they couldn’t build the cars that we were developing. The first car is a carbon fibre sports car, which doesn’t fit in their world, neither the form, language or the way that it’s built. We’re design driven but we also have a certain aesthetic that we really believe in. Our minimalism and the product focus is something that we want to bring into everything we do. Being part of a bigger car industry world makes it hard to stick to that. But we’re very small and we have a CEO that’s very design-centric, so it works.

How is the car buying behaviour changing?

I think that consumers have evolved more than the automotive industry has. I think the industry has a hard time keeping up and we’re jumping ahead, trying to catch up with people. We like to see our customers as informed, they know that electricity is the way forward. It may vary depending on the market. I think people in Europe are very conscious about electricity and the industry, and in China there are many electric start-ups all over the place. We think it’s revolutionary.

Where are you currently based and are you planning to expand?

We’re based in Gothenburg, Sweden. Right now we’re launching through a number of markets, starting from zero and creating retail spaces. At the end of next year we will have 50 or 60 of our own retail spaces in city centers all over the world. The first one is going to be launched in Oslo in September or October, and then in China, in the US and throughout Europe. So we’re really expanding.

What does the future hold for Polestar?

We’re starting off as a very small, very niche brand. But if everything goes in the electric direction, we hope to become  trustworthy for the future. Of course the future is electric but there’s also a shift when it comes to the way we communicate, the way we behave as car companies. I think there’s a big change needed.

“We’re doing something different.”

We’re not trying to be a lifestyle brand, we produce our cars and we do as well as we possibly can. We don’t want to dilute that with other messages about lifestyle. It takes a lot of detail to get the minimalism right because otherwise it just falls flat.

Polestar CEO, Thomas Ingenlath

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

We have a parallel session at the moment in China, where we’re launching the Polestar 2. So Thomas is going to be there on stage presenting the car. The Chinese market is huge, it’s really important to us. After this, we have a roadshow in Europe, to bring the cars out to the people. The next big event will be Google IO, because our cars have the android system embedded in them. They’re the first cars to have this, so our interface in the car is unique.

MiND would like to thank Par Heyden for the insights into Polestar’s design vision and wishes them all the best with their future collaborations all over the globe!

By: Isabelle James & Akanksha Salunke