Jacob Jensen, the Copenhagen-born designer who spent almost 30 years creating landmark designs for Bang & Olufsen, died last Friday. He’s credited with creating the Danish electronics company’s signature design language, full of simple shapes like circles and cubes that combine to create sleek, recognizable forms.
Jensen, an upholsterer and then furniture designer for his father’s shop, went to the Danish Design School to study furniture design. There, he was attracted to a new program being offered by Jørn Utzon, the architect of the Sydney Opera House. It was for a burgeoning field known as “industrial design.”
Jensen began working for B&O in the 1960s as a designer and advisor, and in 1978, MoMA featured his work as part of the exhibit Design for Sound. As the museum put it then:
Unlike much recent Japanese design for sound, which has tended toward a macho aesthetic of crowded dials and knobs, Bang & Olufsen’s products are distinguished by an understated elegance. Surfaces are smooth, controls operated by the touch of a finger or, in some cases, entirely hidden from view when not in use. There is an emphasis on rich materials, including such finely grained woods as rosewood, teak and oak.
Jensen left B&O company in 1991, but his ideas live on in products across the industry. When Apple was trying to fit 1,000 songs to fit in your pocket, the company actually looked, not to Braun, but to a B&O phone for inspiration.