Aina Nilsson-Ström, Honorary Doctor at Umeå University

Aina Nilsson-Ström, designer and consultant, has been appointed honorary doctor 2016 by the Faculty of Science and Technology at Umeå University. 

Aina Nilsson-Ström Honorary Doctor 2016 at Umeå UniversityAina Nilsson-Ström has a brilliant track record within the automotive industry, and has worked as industrial designer at Saab Scania, chief designer at General Motors, and Vice President Product Design at AB Volvo. Today, she is active as a consultant in the design field, running her own consultancy.

In her professional role, Aina Nilsson-Ström has always strived to connect industry, education and research in order to through collaborations further the development of knowledge in the field of industrial design. She held strong positions during an important period of time when industrial design became a crucial competitive factor for Swedish business, and has parallel to this contributed to the formation of the industrial design education at UID, by linking industry and education. As design director for Volvo Trucks, Nilsson-Ström had unique insight into design as an increasingly important factor in product development, and many of those insights she shared with UID leadership, thus influencing the direction that the then new education in design was taking at Umeå University.

Central for the industrial design education at UID was its pedagogical foundation on an educational platform that built strongly on industrial collaboration. Aina Nilsson-Ström gave important contributions during the establishment of this formula that should become one of the major reasons for the success of Umeå Institute of Design and its students in the years to dome. Aina Nilsson-Ström has, along the years, greatly contributed both in an advisory role, through industrial project collaborations, as a member of the admission committee, as tutor in projects and degree projects, and through continuous informal discussions with both UID staff and students.

In addition to belonging to the most experienced group of industrial designers of her generation, Aina Nilsson-Ström was instrumental in setting up the research program "Safe and Effective Transport" between the Volvo Group and Umeå Institute of Design. This applied research program ran for 15 years, focusing on exploring new methods of design work and design knowledge, in a wide variety of case studies and projects, with Nilsson-Ström also part of it in the project steering committee. Aina Nilsson-Ström clearly emphasized the importance of developing new design knowledge through both professional practice and applied research, linking these to education in student and degree projects within the research program.

Aina Nilsson-Ström's importance for and contribution to UID is grounded in her strong conviction that industrial design as a field needs to draw on the areas of professional practice, education and research in order to develop knowledge of strategic importance to both industrial design and to society in general. Aina Nilsson-Ström has provided invaluable support to Umeå Institute of Design from the founding of the school at Umeå University in 1989, and is still doing so to this day.

Aina Nilsson-Ström was born in Jönköping in 1953. She graduated in industrial design from HDK, the School of Crafts and Design, in 1976 and began her design career in 1980 at Saab Scania AB. She worked there for 10 years as a senior designer until she was promoted to Chief Designer under the brand's new ownership under General Motors.

She then moved to the Volvo Group in 1995, as Design Director for the brands Volvo, Renault and Mack Trucks. Her professionalism and leadership skills led her to the role of Vice President Product Design, Trucks, Buses, Construction Equipment, and Penta for the the entire Volvo Group from June 2005 to June 2015. Today Aina Nilsson has retired from Volvo, but continues to actively contribute as advisor in many companies and organisations, and she is the owner of Aina Nilsson Ström AB, a strategic design consultancy based in Gothenburg. As recently as this spring, she has collaborated as expert advisor and external supervisor in the educations at Umeå Institute of Design.