pioneering designs | an interview with Fiskars chief design officer Petteri Masalin

This year, Fiskars turns 375. The renowned company has crafted designs and tools for everyday life — from the garden to the home — since 1649. It’s a feat that not many companies and brands can reach, speaking to Fiskars’ ability to continuously adapt — whether it be in technology or design — to create the best products for the globe. Part of that craftmanship is thanks in part to the work by Chief Design Officer, Petteri Masalin. Understanding the brand’s commitment to quality, Masalin’s goal is to “create products that are a joy to use again and again” throughout people’s lives. That is the heart of what Masalin and Fiskars create.

In conversation with Schön!, Petteri Masalin discusses his work as Chief Design Officer, upcoming Fiskars events, and more.

You joined Fiskars in 2010 and you hold the position as the Chief Design Officer. How have you seen the brand and its designs grow and change in the past 14 years?

Fiskars has developed and grown a lot during the past 14 years, and it doesn’t apply only to designs but also to business and the brand.

Fiskars is a globally known brand with users all over the world, and it has set new requirements for us in the design team, too. Knowing consumers’ needs and hopes has always been important to us, but now we also need to understand different cultures and habits more thoroughly. We work closely with professionals from all over the world to learn and understand how we can develop our designs and create the best products in the world.

The pace of the change has also fastened. There have been some big changes and events during the past years, and it’s harder to forecast what the future will look like. That of course affects the designer’s work, too. Some things remain the same: functionality has always been and will always be the core of the brand. It’s a promise of well-designed products and excellent quality. The products are a joy to use and will last years, even a lifetime.

What is the collaboration process like between you and your design team at Fiskars?

It’s all based on the collaboration. We work as one team without hierarchies or strict roles. We also work very closely with a diverse range of experts, including gardeners, creators, and professional chefs, to gain insights into how our products perform in real-world scenarios. The design process is deeply rooted in understanding our users’ needs and experiences.

Creativity doesn’t look at time or place, and new ideas can come in very surprising places. After a new idea, we start to develop it: it takes numerous prototypes and rigorous tests to ensure the products meet our high standards for durability and usability. The products face several tests in our test laboratories that are equipped with cutting-edge technology to push the boundaries of what’s possible. We have a test laboratory, for example, at our Billnäs factory, which allows us to develop the products and processes together with the factory known for its excellence in crafting axes and gardening products.

All our designs need to stand the test of time. Our products are designed for longevity, and we hope they will become trusted tools that last for years, even a lifetime or generations. We believe in the beauty of simplicity, knowing when to stop adding unnecessary details to ensure our products remain elegant and functional.

Fiskars is celebrating its 375th anniversary this year, one of the oldest in the Western world. How do you incorporate the rich history and product lineage while still keeping it modern in newer designs and pieces?

The rich history and deep roots in the Nordics provide us with constant inspiration. Not only from the archives but also from nature: Fiskars DNA is rooted in Nordic design, its minimalism, and connectedness with nature. This also means an emphasis on quality of life and sustainability – the purpose of Fiskars is to offer premium design that’s a joy to use again and again.

We are proud of our heritage and respect the work of previous design teams, but we are also constantly looking to the future. We listen carefully to what kind of needs our customers might have in the future, look for new materials, and develop new technologies.

Fiskars will be hosting the Fiskars Festival Orchestra and will be celebrating at the Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale. What can people expect from these celebrations?

The third Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale will open to the public in Fiskars Village, the birthplace of the Fiskars company, on June 16, 2024, and will remain open until the start of September. The globally known biennale will bring interesting exhibitions and events to the Village. The main exhibition, “Surprise Guest”, draws inspiration from the unique Finnish villa culture, transforming the location into an atmospheric summer villa with various experiential spaces from a dining room to a bedroom, and from a summer kitchen to the veranda. Additionally, each room hosts an artist selected by curator Sini Rinne-Kanto, with each artwork adding layers and depth to the experience.

I’m very happy that the Fiskars is the main sponsor for the event because it also offers new perspectives and ideas for us. The Fiskars Summer Festival! will bring chamber music series and concerts with the Fiskars Festival Orchestra to Fiskars Village. The popular chamber music concerts will take place in a variety of locations around Fiskars and on stage can be seen renowned conductors and musicians from all over the world. Fiskars Village’s summer is full of interesting events during this summer, and I warmly recommend visiting those. Bright summer days in the Village will bring lifelong memories.

To celebrate the anniversary, you’ll also be releasing special anniversary editions — particularly with axes and scissors. What was the design process for these products?

Instead of using gimmicks for the anniversary year, we wanted to celebrate with special editions of our most loved products. The Norden chopping axe N7 draws inspiration from traditional Nordic axe-making techniques, tailored for modern use. Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, it features advanced blade geometry and an ultra-sharp edge, ensuring optimal performance for tasks such as limbing, chopping, and kindling. The axe’s durability is enhanced by innovative FiberComp™ over-strike protection, while its hickory wood handle provides both a natural aesthetic and comfortable grip. What sets the Anniversary edition apart is the intricately engraved handle, depicting the shape of the Fiskars river—a tribute to our local roots and global connections. This engraving, designed in collaboration with artisans from Fiskars Village, adds a distinctive touch to commemorate our anniversary. The Fiskars Classic 375 Scissors, a Finnish design icon, reflect our legacy of innovation. Originally introduced in 1967 as the world’s first plastic-handled scissors, they revolutionized the industry with their lightweight, ergonomic design and exceptional performance. These scissors, beloved worldwide and even part of the permanent collection at MoMA, now come in special anniversary packaging. Each pair features a stainless-steel blade with the Fiskars anniversary stamp, symbolizing our commitment to quality and longevity. Handcrafted and tested in Billnäs, Finland, these high-quality scissors are designed to be treasured and passed down through generations. Through meticulous craftsmanship and thoughtful design, our anniversary editions embody the spirit of Fiskars—celebrating our rich heritage while embracing innovation for the future.

For those who use Fiskars, what do you hope they think or feel after using the products?

I hope that after using our products, individuals feel empowered, whether it’s in the garden, kitchen, or relaxing with crafting. We want them to experience the joy of effortlessly completing tasks, knowing they have relied on tools that are not only functional but also beautifully designed and built to last.

Moreover, we aim for our users to develop a sense of connection to our brand and its heritage. Whether they’re holding one of our iconic orange-handled scissors or wielding a precision-engineered axe, we want them to feel a part of the Fiskars legacy—a legacy of quality, innovation, and enduring craftsmanship.

Ultimately, we hope that using Fiskars products enriches people’s lives, making everyday tasks more enjoyable and rewarding. For me, it’s rewarding to know that our tools have played a small but meaningful role in enhancing the experiences of those who use them.

Lastly, what are you looking to design next for Fiskars?

That’s still a secret! But one thing is sure: the functionality and the quality will be top-notch.

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