Design means to shape. Shape a product or a service so that it fits the needs of it users perfectly. In Denmark, two larger companies are working consciously and successfully to design for the people – but their ways of getting there are quite different.
House doctor. The name says it all: to the rescue of your home! And since the company started in 2001, the number of homes it has saved has grown continuously. Christine Lindgaard Bæk, design manager at House doctor, explains: ‘Looking at the enlargement of our business, it would seem that we are working with the right strategy. But our design strategy is quite simple. We go with our gut feeling and a simple yes or no answer to the question: would you buy it yourself?’
‘For us there is huge acknowledgement of the increasing demand for our products. The fact that we are able to target such a large number of people across boundaries and countries cements our ability to design in the pure meaning of the word: understanding a need and creating a product that lives up to expectations,’ she continues.
One of the expectations that House doctor knows people have is that the company´s products follow trends in time. Lindgaard Bæk says: ‘I believe that respecting this fact is also part of our key to success. With our target group, we share an interest in “changing over time”. When you are 30 years old, you probably have different interests and needs than when you were 20. Your home and my home should be able to reflect that without going bankrupt.’
The establishment of House doctor actually arose from an already existing interest in interior decoration and trends of home living. Three siblings founded House doctor and owns it today, two of them, originally drove a shop selling elements for interior decoration. They decided that they could probably design more beautiful products themselves. Lindgaard Bæk says: ‘In that sense, you might say that House doctor is not only designing for the people; it is actually designed by the people.’
Design owned by the people
Whether renowned architect Børge Mogensen felt like one of the people or not should be left unanswered, but it is a fact that when he started designing furniture for the Danish collective of consumers, FDB, one of his focal points, since industrialisation had made it possible to mass-produce, was to create furniture for a lot of people. This is a tradition that the organisation, now called Coop, upholds to this day. Ole Kiel, category group manager of nonfood at Coop Denmark, explains: ‘As we are owned by the people, who are also our customers, we are very focused on serving their interests. One of these is their desire for interior design but at an affordable price.’
This has shown to be true. Coop has had great success in relaunching different collections of furniture. Kiel has an idea why: ‘Børge Mogensen, Poul M Volther and Jørgen Bækmark all designed a series of furniture pieces for FDB. What we have come to discover is that during the period when no one designed furniture for us, some of the old designs achieved iconic status. You might say that history has given us a strong brand to build upon.’
Maintaining this brand and being owned by its consumers, Coop makes sure that every piece of furniture is environmentally safe and produced under good employee conditions. Coop is represented in a number of countries in and outside Europe. France and Japan, in particular, show interest in the newer pieces of furniture coming from Coop. Kiel explains: ‘Quite a few countries acknowledge Danish design as a brand in itself. This gives us a good opportunity to connect with customers across borders and give access to high-quality Danish design at a reasonable price.’