Working as an eyewear designer

Elegantti-kehyksen mittapiirustusInstrumentarium Oy started manufacturing spectacle frames in the 1970s. Initially, external designers such as Eero Rislakki and Marjatta Svennevik were invited. The frame factory was located in Helsinki, and the frames were made of acetate sheet for spectacle frames, from which they were milled and bent to shape. Later, the frame factory moved to its own building in Espoo.

In the spring of 1978, an advertisement was posted on the notice board of the University of Art and Design, advertising for a part-time designer to work at the frame factory. As I was about to graduate from the University of Art and Design, Department of Industrial Design, I applied for the job and was selected. The task was to design export collections for men and women, with the intention of selling the designs under the name of Marjatta Svennevik, who had become known as the wife of designer Timo Sarpaneva.

While working at the frame factory, I wanted to focus on the ergonomics and technical features of the frames, including the requirements of lens technology, and worked closely with leading opticians in the field. Although the importance of ergonomics was not fully understood at the factory, the work was successful to the extent that after six months the contract was changed to an indefinite one and the idea of selling my designs under another designer's name was abandoned. The frames I designed were marketed under the names “Elegant” and “Seita” and the first products were launched in 1980.

To follow developments in the industry, I was able to attend the international Optica trade fairs in Stuttgart in 1979, Cologne in 1980 and Paris in 1981, although the trade fairs were usually award trips and only for opticians who had done well. After the trade fair trips, I was asked to write a trip report about how many designs I had designed as a result of the trade fair trips. They did not understand the nature of the design work, they thought that the designer would copy other manufacturers' designs at trade fairs and use them directly in his own work.