”Inspiration comes from the strangest places. To Bang & Olufsen designer Anders Hermansen, it’s sometimes as simple as a walk in the park."
“I don’t believe in design studios,” says Anders Hermansen, an independent designer who has worked for Bang & Olufsen since the beginning of the nineties. “It is not that I can’t sit myself down, and draw nice things,” he says. “I certainly can! But the products that come out of that process are too designed, and there are just so many of them out there already.”
Instead of going to the office to start drawing, Anders Hermansen often takes a walk in the park. Living in Klampenborg, north of Copenhagen, close to the sea and a famous deer park, this is where he finds inspiration, not in a design studio. In fact, he does not even have one. “To create something unique, something with attitude, I need to put my brain on hold. Things distract me, so I need to get away, and spend a lot of time in nature,” he says sitting in his home on a chilly autumn day. Anders Hermansen likes to leave a project alone for a while, letting it take root in his mind before he starts drawing. “My work has to become an extension of myself,” he says. “It is all about getting as close as possible to yourself, peeling off some layers and reaching for your dreams.” With his slightly dishevelled appearance, 46-year-old Anders Hermansen is the image of the cool designer, and his working method is nothing if not creative: “Some people go to the office, and do what they have to do. I can’t work like that. I need to get in touch with the best in me to design with excellence. If I don’t manage to do that, I can’t do the job for a company like Bang & Olufsen, which is all about excellence,” he explains.
Come on over
Anders Hermansen was only 28 years old when he was awarded a major design prize back in 1988. He had graduated as a furniture designer from the Danish School of Design, and had already made a name for himself designing wire furniture. “This period was a personal discovery for me,” he recalls. “I bent wires and was thrilled to discover my own skills and the opportunities that opened up to me.”
The working relationship with Bang & Olufsen began in the beginning of the nineties. At that time, Anders Hermansen did have a drawing office (in a modernised farm on the coast!), but no money to buy a proper sound system for his office. So, he called Bang & Olufsen, and asked whether they could perhaps offer him a cheap stereo or radio. Anders Hermansen remembers the former head of design, Ejgil Thomsen’s dry reply: “Well Anders, listen,” he said. “We can’t just send you a stereo. What we can do is send you an air ticket, so that you can come over and meet with us.” At Bang & Olufsen, Anders Hermansen was already a well-known name, and as a result of the meeting he has worked for the company ever since.
A small challenge
One of his first designs for Bang & Olufsen was the critically acclaimed and big-selling Earphones. Anders Hermansen went to Struer with the initial drawing in Indian ink. His design measured only 35 x 59 x 14 mm, which did not leave much room for the technology.
Bang & Olufsen design coordinator Ejnar Johannesen recalls that initially they had to do a lot of benchmarking to meet the many demands on acoustics and technology for this tiny piece of design: “We had never produced a product like this before. It posed a real challenge to the developers. We didn’t have drivers that small, so we went out and bought a lot of earphones, took them to pieces, and studied the acoustic design. We came through because people here invested so much time and effort in the development process.”
The trick was to make the earphones fit as tightly as possible because the sound quality also depends on the tightness. “We wanted the user to hear the sounds that normally get lost in this type of device, and we wanted to reduce the street noise and other kinds of background noise that distort the experience,” adds Ejnar Johannesen, who uses the Earphones all the time. “They sit firmly, and fit the ear perfectly as they can be adapted to the individual person that uses them. Other earphones quickly become uncomfortable to wear, but with these ones, you tend to forget that you are wearing them, and the sound is magnificent,” he says, pointing at the stylish Earphones that actually look like a piece of jewellery.
Design for life
The drawing in Indian ink was changed slightly a few times - in co-operation with Anders Hermansen of course. At Bang & Olufsen, all designers are empowered to veto anything they do not like in order to protect the uniqueness of each design concept. The outcome of this uncompromising approach has been some of the all-time masterpieces of the Scandinavian design tradition, and with talent like Anders Hermansen on board, our concept developers and specialists look forward to developing the icons of the future. At the moment, Anders Hermansen and Bang & Olufsen are in the middle of developing something that is a lot bigger than the Earphones, and so new that he cannot possibly speak openly about it yet. But he can reveal that this particular design appeared to him in a little movie in his mind on a lovely, sunny day while he was lounging in the grass in the deer park close to where he lives. “I was dozing off, about to fall asleep,” he recalls, “and there it was, and I knew exactly how to proceed.”