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Glowway: guiding your way through darkness

Apart from the Helsinki Music Centre, Glowway tiles have been installed in metro and train stations, hospitals, shopping malls and residential buildings.Glowway

The Finnish company creates trailblazing photoluminescent pathway markings and signs that combine functionality with high-quality design.

It all started with a simple order in the early 2000s, when Jorma Parkkari was commissioned to create floor number signs for a hotel. Parkkari, who at the time worked as an artist, had the idea of making the signs photoluminescent, meaning that they glowed in the dark. These signs gave the impetus for further development in photoluminescence, and ultimately Parkkari came across an innovation that he patented in 2007.

This invention was the foundation on which the company Glowway was established, and in 2012 the company got its first major break when it was commissioned to provide several metro stations in Helsinki with photoluminescent accessibility products. Now, many metro stations in the capital are equipped with Glowway’s products, including all the stations of the upcoming west metro extension.

Since then Glowway has grown year after year, with its turnover reaching over 500 000 euros last year. The company is quickly establishing itself as an innovator in its domain, creating high-grade, aesthetically pleasing photoluminescent tiles.

Glow like no other

Glowway’s glass products easily stand out from other photoluminescent solutions, which are typically tapes or stickers. “Such solutions are short-lived and have to be replaced frequently, so architects aren’t fond of them,” Parkkari says. Moreover, part of the company’s philosophy is to design elegant products that blend in with their surroundings. “Architects can already in the design phase specify where they should be used, so they become an integral part of the interior design.”

In May, the company launched a new stair nosing product, developed in collaboration with the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired. Thanks to its glow effect, the stair nosing makes steps easily visible in the dark, in addition to having an anti-slip rubber element. It exemplifies Glowway’s approach to product development: when installed, it becomes a built-in part of the step.

The stair nosing will also be a key product in Glowway’s efforts to expand its business abroad. The company has already had some projects outside Finland – for instance the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle has Glowway’s photoluminescent tiles that guide to emergency exits – but on its near-term agenda is to zero in on other opportunities abroad.

“Ultimately Finland is quite a small market for a company like us, but abroad there are countless possibilities, such as various railway projects and other constructions,” Parkkari says.

Illuminating the way abroad

The company’s pursuit of international opportunities is about to get a significant boost: Glowway is currently in the middle of a funding round with a major Finnish company planning to buy a part of the company. “This will give us broader shoulders, so to speak. This company will mostly take charge of the domestic market, so it will free more resources to pursue new markets,” Parkkari says.

Running a rising company must keep one busy – does Parkkari still have time for art? “I used to until very recently. Some larger art works can take months to finish, and I just don’t have that kind of time anymore.”

“Besides, I’m in charge of product development at Glowway, and I’m constantly facing interesting problems that require creative solutions, so there’s no real need to turn to art for inspiration anymore.”

By: Teemu Henriksson