Interviewed in Zagreb, July 5th 2006
Bang & Olufsen, the renowned Danish company specializing in high-end home electronics, has based its production philosophy on the features of Scandinavian culture such as top-level production and ambitious design ever since its foundation in the 1920s. Some Bang & Olufsen products have become design classics, making the company recognizable by its mix of prestigious appearance, technological innovation and sophisticated user interface for electronic equipment. The company’s main areas of research are not basic technical components, but how they can be combined into formally and conceptually ambitious systems. Jakob Odgaard, the managing director of Bang & Olufsen, talks about the history and current position of the company.
ORIS: Bang & Olufsen started in the mid 1920s as a small enterprise based on innovation in technology, mostly radio technology at that time, and the high-quality craftsmanship that became traditional in Danish culture. Can you say something more about this formative period of the company?
b&o: Right from the start, the philosophy of our company’s founders, Mr Peter Bang and Mr Svend Olufsen was to provide convenient living with modern technology. One of the first products they developed was called the “Eliminator”. In those days, a gramophone playing music at high society parties had to use power from the electricity mains. But in those days in Copenhagen, the electricity went on and off which was quite inconvenient if you were dancing with your loved one and suddenly the music stopped. It was embarrassing for the people dancing but most of all for the host, so they made this device that basically just accumulated power so the gramophone could keep playing, even when the lights went out, which also was quite interesting. This relatively simple product was the basis for our set of values for all 80 years to this day, for our wish to provide easy and convenient living with technology. We have always stood by this basic philosophy, and we always will do. Actually, our core business is to provide easy access to complicated technology, so you don’t feel it when you operate it. Radio and TV production then took over, but we have always given great attention to detail in the craftsmanship and the way we did the woodwork in those days. One of our oldest slogans was “For people who prefer quality to price”, for people who prefer to set quality very high.