How many brands today can claim they’re striving for better rather than newer? Vitsoe, a British furniture manufacturer founded by Niels Vitsoe in 1959 in Germany has been obsessed with nothing but being better for the past 57 years.
As strange as it may sound, the brand was first and foremost created for Dieter Rams, a German furniture designer known for his pioneering solutions that helped transform his then employer, Braun, into a global consumer electronics brand. But ultimately, Vitsoe was born out of a collaborative spirit among a group of open-minded and imaginative professionals and friends. This was an era when design collaborations weren’t the movement they are today, but simply a pragmatic way of doing things. Vitsoe’s original founders, Niels Vitsoe and Otto Zapf, along with Braun’s founders (and Rams’ employers), Erwin and Artur Braun, unilaterally agreed that Dieter Rams’ secondary employment with Vitsoe would only benefit both brands. Dieter Rams went on to work for these two companies side-by-side, and as he likes to point out, “… only for these two companies.”
In addition to his seamless and irresistible product designs, Rams has been celebrated for his ten principles of good design. Our favourite at Arts & Labour is no. 10, “Good design is as little design as possible”, and no. 6, “Good design is honest.”
Despite being prolific for Braun, Dieter Rams designed only three key products for Vitsoe. The most popular, the 606 Universal Shelving System, is a modular system that’s fully adaptable to every single surrounding. The design is not only movable and adjustable, but also tasteful. Some consumers even claim it’s “highly addictive.” Now part of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) collection, Dieter Rams has made numerous improvements and adjustments to the system since its early days, but always with integrity to its original design.
We are clearly lovers of good design at Arts & Labour; but why, you may wonder, are we devoting so much thought to Vitsoe? Like other established brands that want to remain in demand, Vitsoe too may need to start addressing the desires of more recent generations, namely Millennials and Post-Millennials. Unlike Baby Boomers and Generation X, who have been captivated by Vitsoe’s good design, Millennials seem to be neither familiar with nor interested in the brand’s affluent history or its design principles. In fact, Millennials appear to be attracted to values that signify cultural disruption and activism rather than design relevance exclusively.
In our opinion, Vitsoe may want start expanding its company’s vision beyond good design and start celebrating the role of good art. Wouldn’t it be delicious if this prompted a new set of principles that focus on the benefits collaboration between good art and design can bring to brands, artists and society at large?
May we humbly suggest a new principle? No.11, “When good design and good art collaborate, it has the power to change minds.” The ever-innovative Dieter Rams would no doubt approve.
For more on the genius of Dieter Rams, see this recent article by Fast Company.