Danish design pioneer Jacob Jensen dies aged 89


Jacob Jensen, an industrial designer whose sleek minimalism was instrumental in the style known as Danish modern, had died at the age of 89.

He was most associated notably with stereo systems he created for the electronics company Bang & Olufsen.

Beginning in 1964, Jensen worked regularly for Bang & Olufsen, a long-established Danish manufacturer known for its high-end electronics for home use.


With their smooth surfaces his best-known designs — turntables, amplifiers, speakers, tuners — helped transform home entertainment systems.

Using materials like brushed stainless steel and white and black plastic, he re-imagined the standard ideas for knobs and dials and replacing them with sliding, clear-plastic panels or thin push buttons

Recognising the look of Bang & Olufsen products, the Museum of Modern Art in New York devoted an entire exhibition to the company’s stereo equipment and the work of Jensen in 1978. Several remain in the museum’s collection.

“The Bang & Olufsen pieces are, by and large, among the most beautiful mass-produced objects ever made available in the United States,” the critic Paul Goldberger wrote, assessing the exhibition in The New York Times.

“This body of work is enough to earn him major rank among the 20th-century’s industrial designers.”

In addition Jensen and his company designed hundreds of other products, including hearing aids, office chairs, phones, wristwatches and kitchen hardware.

Mr. Jensen’s first two marriages ended in divorce. Besides his son Timothy, he is survived by his wife, Nanna, and four other children. His autobiography, “Different but Not Strange,” was published in Denmark in 1997.

On the firm’s website,  Jensen wrote of his working method: “In my view, constructing a fountain pen, writing a poem, producing a play or designing a locomotive, all demand the same components, the same ingredients: perspective, creativity, new ideas, understanding and first and foremost, the ability to rework, almost infinitely, over and over. That ‘over and over’ is for me the cruellest torture.

“The only way I can work is to make 30-40 models before I find the right one. The question is, when do you find the right one? My method is, when I have reached a point where I think, O.K., that’s it, there it is, I put the model on a table in the living room, illuminate it, and otherwise spend the evening as usual, and go to bed.

“The next morning I go in and look at it, knowing with 100% certainty that I have 6-7 seconds to see and decide whether it’s right or wrong.

“If I look at it longer, I automatically compensate. ‘Oh, it’s not too high,’ and ‘It’s not so bad.’ There are only those 6-7 seconds; then I make some notes as to what’s wrong. Finished. After breakfast, I make the changes. That’s the only way I know.”

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