Bang & Olufsen is one of Denmark’s biggest brands, and is renowned for combining design and technology. Founded in 1925 by Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen, the Danish audio and television company has a proud design tradition led by a solid design philosophy.
We had a talk with Marie Kristine Schmidt, Head of Brand, Design and Marketing at Bang & Olufsen, about their traditions, design philosophy and what kind of responsibility she feels when it comes to keeping the brand alive.
DANISH™: What is the design philosophy of Bang & Olufsen?
Marie Kristine Schmidt (MKS): For Bang & Olufsen, design covers the product and the experience as a whole, including the industrial design, interfaces, craftsmanship, quality, sound, etc. Bang & Olufsen’s goal is to create products that have a strong reason for being, as expressed in design as well as function. Our customers are Bang & Olufsen’s focal point and our conceptual work originates from our customers.
We speak a design language and live a design philosophy, which, among other things, includes our craftsmanship, our 360-degree design and our focus on detail in the whole execution. The materials must be perfectly processed. The customer should intuitively and by simple means be able to operate the product via us providing intelligent and magical solutions, which present an exceptional user experience, both visually and technologically. Thus, it is a dialogue between technology and design that must come together. We do not speak a lot about compromises, but more about a synthesis between design and technology.
DANISH™: What makes Bang & Olufsen’s design special?
MKS: I believe that we have some of the world’s most creative and talented engineers at Bang & Olufsen. And the magic arises from the collaboration between our design teams and engineers. Bang & Olufsen is fundamentally a design-driven company. That is our DNA, and that is why we are good at designing and realizing our design visions.
We have a dynamic and integrated design process. In addition, we have a good understanding of materials. We know a lot about possibilities, but at the same time we try to push the boundaries, always keeping ourselves on our toes. Bang & Olufsen’s ability to convert technology into beautiful and meaningful industrial designs, which are timeless, is one of the things that make us quite unique.
DANISH™: Why did Bang & Olufsen create the sub-brand B&O PLAY?
MKS: The desire was to create a sub-brand with its own stand-alone products, so that new customers could get to know the Bang & Olufsen brand and in the long run become full Bang & Olufsen customers.
B&O PLAY is based on the same core competencies as Bang & Olufsen, but while Bang & Olufsen offers larger products, which can be fully integrated in overall home solutions, e.g. in so-called intelligent digital homes, B&O Play offers smaller, stand-alone products that for the most part are portable so you can carry them with you on the move.
DANISH™: What kind of responsibility do you feel in regards to keeping the Bang & Olufsen brand alive?
MKS: I feel a great responsibility. I feel humility towards carrying out this task. Bang & Olufsen’s history, design language and craftsmanship are the foundation of what we do, and continuity is important. But it is also important to understand that the world has turned and to appreciate what parameters bring value to our customers now and into the future. We are safeguarding a 90-year old brand, which has to represent some core values from the beginnings of the company, but at the same time we need to move forward and stay relevant.
When taking into consideration the speed at which technology evolves, it is clear that the task the team and I face now is significantly different from the task that previous teams faced. But we have a great team and a meaningful story – that is a good starting point.
DANISH™: If you had to describe Bang & Olufsen’s design in three words, what would they be?
MKS: Like no one else.