The Acton Bjorn & Sigvard Bernadotte Partnership
The Acton Bjorn & Sigvard Bernadotte industrial design consultancy was founded in 1950 in Copenhagen by the Swedish silversmith and industrial and furniture designer Sigvard Bernadotte and the Danish architect Acton Björn and was the first of its kind in Denmark. Along with Acton Bjorn he designed for Odhner and Rosti AS and a number of other Scandinavian companies like Facit, Nils Johan, AB Husqvarna Borstfabrik, NK, Pressalit and Bang & Olufsen (Beolit 500) as well as Dunlopillo. Their company also had offices in New York and Stockholm.
Bernadotte had visited the United States in 1950 and was impressed by American industrial design practice, later writing a book entitled ‘Industrial Design: Modern Industrial Formgiving’ (1953). Jacob Jensen was one of the company’s first employees, joining in 1952 and heading the studio from 1954. By the end of the decade the company had eighteen employees, several of them from overseas and was able to take on many commissions. Perhaps the most important of these were from Bang & Olufsen, a relationship which began in 1953 and included Bjorn’s design of the Beolit 500 portable radio of 1964. The partnership helped a number of other Scandinavian companies explore new materials, technologies and aesthetic possibilities although their client list was international. Such an outlook was first embraced in the simple, functional forms of the Margrethe series of melamine bowls from 1950. Bernadotte became the president of ICSID in 1961 and founded his own design studio in Stockholm in 1964 after the working partnership came to an end.
Bernadotte’s new Stockholm office then began designing for SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Volvo Penta , ASEA, Alfa Laval and Marabou; as well as the design of a video telephone for Ericsson in 1971 . With a new emphasis on ergonomics , function and design appearance, one of the most prestigious contracts to be awarded to him in 1972 was the design of a new underground light rail vehicle for the Stockholm subway.
A year later, due to the global recession of the time Bernadotte’s office was closed due to a lack of orders. Sigvard Bernadotte, however, never ceased to work as a designer and in 1997 he was still working at the ‘tender’ age of 90. He passed away in his 95th year.