Vincent Laine was born in Turku, Finland but moved to Sweden at the age of nine. In light of the recent launch of the Small Leather Goods Collection, we had the opportunity to interview Vincent, talking about his work as a designer, visionaire, and photographer.
Please share a bit of your background as a designer and how you began working at Leica.
I was born in Finland and moved to Sweden when I was 9. I was raised around creative people and having them as my role models I think influenced my life decisions towards where I am today.
However, I got to Leica after publishing a camera concept which represented the idea of what a future camera could be. This idea came to life after finding myself in situations where I really wanted to take a picture but I never had the camera with me due to the size and the weight, so the concept was basically about reduction and it ended up being just a sensor and a lens with a small hand grip – called X3.
I published this some time during 2013 and I made this concept under the brand of Leica. Later on, I had a call with the Director of Product Management. It was a bit funny, since I was clearly unable to use the brand of Leica due to copyright issues. But moreover, the concept was well made and interesting. So he asked me if I had any plans to visit Germany any time soon. I clearly didn’t, but I made plans obviously and went a month after.
I presented my student portfolio and I felt like there was a good connection from the start. So I returned a couple of months later and did my thesis there.
You proposed to your boss at the time if you could continue working for Leica.
I kind of started working on other projects and got more deeply involved with the daily stuff that they did. I started helping out within their product management team. Like five months in, I asked my boss at the time “what if I would just stay here?“.
Just before Christmas that year, I got the news that I was going to be the first in-house designer. Looking back now it is still and probably always will be a very special moment for me.
You’ve been there for two years and a half, a bit more including your thesis. How did you adapt to Leica’s work rhythm and design culture?
Very good question. I came back in April 2014 and officially got my start. I think it was a mixture of perfect timing and dynamics of the project teams. The first project that landed on my table was the Leica Q. It was my first project coming out of university. I thought I was going to be doing smaller tasks in the beginning. I thought I wasn’t experienced enough. I didn’t expect I was going to have more responsibilities. But looking back, I am very grateful for the fact that they trusted me and gave me the opportunity. But at the end of the day, it’s all a team effort, even though I was responsible for the design. Everyone in the team supports each other and ultimately our titles are not in the way of good ideas – no matter who they come from.
Leica’s culture, principles and design style: I think it’s something you can learn, but also to a certain extent something that you have to feel. You can look at products and see what they’re made of, read their features and elements, etc. But to a certain degree, when you’re doing a new product, you have to feel and not only understand the product. It’s a subjective thing how people perceive brands and brand values, but it comes out clearly in the design language. For Leica, there’s a very strong link between functional design and heritage. I believe the Leica Q was a fairly good combination of those elements.
From there on, what other projects were you part of before arriving to this Small Leather Goods Collection? The approach to each design is surely different.
My first contact with leather goods was working with the Leica Q’s accessory line. I understood how leather works, considering it’s a natural material compared to metal for instance. You simply can’t depend on the modeling of the material, since it changes throughout the process. Leather is very important since it has always been known as the ‘de-facto’ protector of the cameras.
What was the objective behind this collection?
What we’ve been doing so far, is the traditional camera leather goods, including bags, straps, etc. If you look at our customers and photographers in general, they have quite an array of gadgets and other things. So we created a collection to help them bring all their stuff in an organized way, presenting it in a way that still feels coherent. We know for a fact that our customers travel a lot. But their careers are also very much depending on their personal brands and being organized is never a bad first impression.
What’s your personal connection to photography?
I definitely have a keen sense of photography, not just because I work at Leica, but because I constantly think about composition, framing, color schemes, etc. I do frequent photo trips because ultimately it makes me a better camera designer as well. It’s an extension of what I do. To be completely honest, I thought I didn’t have ‘photography‘ in me. It might sound crazy, but only when I began working in camera design, it all made sense to me. I didn’t fall in love with photography before I fell in love with design. So they now complement each other. And today I could not live without both parts.
I frequently use the hashtag #MyLeicaJourney and it started as a tag for an Instagram takeover for Leica Camera USA. But now when looking back it is something way bigger than just a hashtag. Because I truly believe that photography brings us together, it is a medium of communication that allow us to speak without words and #MyLeicaJourney just respresents that everybody can speak the language of pictures. Because if I can, everybody can. That’s why I will never delete my old and very quite embarrassing pictures because it is all a part of the journey, even the bad stuff.
Photography unites us. Whether it is millions of people on social platforms or just a handful of people checking out a gallery. Photography can speak and solve situations words cant and this is how I see photography as a medium but also the very fundamental reason why I love working with photographic tools.
Share your experience with the Leica Sofort, a new, yet-old generation of photography.
Of course we all worked on the project. I didn’t do the industrial design, but I worked on color combinations, bag and straps. I worked mainly on the accessories on this one. In general, I think there is something magical about having a picture of a scene while you are still in it. But maybe that’s just me. The Sofort is a creative little camera, that’s for sure.
What would you love to create moving forward?
I think future products and concepts and ideas just excite me. On a professional and personal level. I can’t say anything specific right now, but I definitely enjoy communicating and being part of the future. For instance, thinking about Instagram, it’s more about thinking the way the entire industry is moving, thinking about the way people use and think of photography. It’s nice to think when you’re doing something, you like it so much that it feels almost as if it were a hobby, but it’s also your job. It’s a great professional experience. Just thinking about concepts and being creative, thinking outside of the box. Obviously, working only with cameras can be monotonous, which is why I love creating products else like the leather accessories.
Last question, what’s your favorite Leica camera?
I bring a Leica Q everywhere I go pretty much.