Pentagon Design – Pioneers of design thinking in Finland

"Design thinking needs to be the unifying theme that ties the strategic to the practical."

In the field of Finnish design, Pentagon Design is an original. They have been at it from 1996, carrying out the principles of design thinking long before it was the household concept it is today. In addition to having designed many products for several companies awarded with the Design from Finland mark, they’re also the FRIENDesigner of Association for Finnish Work this year.

“One might say that the market has gradually matured to the point where entire business concepts can be driven with a design-first mindset. There have always been forward-thinking companies that identify the value of design as a guiding principle, but now it has become a very popular approach among companies,” says Arni Aromaa, Creative Director and CEO of Pentagon Design.

Renewed Vepsäläinen retail concept. Vepsäläinen is a Finnish high end interior and furniture store.

With their long history, they have a wide perspective to design, from strategic thinking to individual tactical actions. “Our roots are in traditional product design – product range development, packaging and such. From there we’ve gradually expanded to brand development, strategy work, service design, retail design and other fields of design. This means our approach covers all aspects of design – something that’s definitely a defining feature for us,” states Aromaa.

Accumulated experience is evident in processes that are honed to perfection and ideas that often come quickly. On the other hand, having been at it for so long, the people of Pentagon Design need to stay focused on the end goal: “This work is about finding new ways of thinking and doing, that’s never going to change. We strive to constantly reinvent ourselves, so we can’t just fall back on tried and tested ways of working,” describes Aromaa.

Aromaa considers being a Finnish company an asset. The humble attitude towards paying dues and succeeding through hard work is ingrained in the DNA of Pentagon Design. “There’s also some echoes of Scandinavian design visible in our design approach, but that’s not our singular defining feature”, says Aromaa. Pentagon Design also works extensively with foreign clients. “I see this as a very logical step for Finnish design – our know-how is very much in demand now. Finnish work should not be seen merely as projects carried out in Finland, for Finnish companies,” Aromaa states.

New Kekkilä Creative Garden project. 

Award-winning design needs a broad perspective

What’s that special something that makes Pentagon Design stand apart and attract the numerous awards they’ve accepted over the years? “I believe much of our success can be attributed to a strategic, business-oriented mindset and a comprehensive approach. But we don’t stop there – no matter the case, design thinking needs to be a unifying theme that ties the strategic to the practical. The underlying thought processes need to be evident in the end product,” says Aromaa. “We can carry out projects that run the gamut: From a vague notion of an idea to a full-fledged experience, with spaces, products and services all echoing one unified theme. This approach is still quite rare, and it’s difficult to carry out convincingly – it’s taken us quite some years, but we’ve become experts at it.”

Brand-new visual identity for Fazer Geisha. Fazer is one of the most iconic Finnish candy manufacturers and Geisha is one of their most popular brands.

The future for Pentagon Design is about perfecting their craft even further. Their projects are increasingly broad in scope, and often include everything from idea to execution. For instance, they recently carried out a project where they reimagined an age-old Finnish delicacy, liquorice. By distancing themselves from the old ways of seeing the products, Pentagon Design ended up creating a new concept with products and packaging designed from the ground up. The project has been immensely successful. “Design can act as a vessel for repositioning old products, but the results have to be convincing and make a strong impact. It’s only possible if the design work is thorough and each instance where the end user comes in contact with the concept in different touchpoints is carefully considered.”

For Finnish design, Aromaa sees a bright future. “I’m seeing great things springing up all around. Finnish design is going from strength to strength, and that’s why we’re very happy to have been recognized with the FRIENDesigner 2017 title,” says Aromaa.

A view from Design from Finland’s Habitare 2017 hall, designed and executed by Pentagon Design.

Design from Finland’s and Pentagon Design’s most notable collaboration was the Design from Finland Habitare expo hall of 2017. Arni Aromaa has also been  one of jury members of the esteemed Finnish Design Deed award. The winner of the Design Deed of the year 2017, FRENN, was also revealed in Habitare.