Jacob Jensen was a pioneering Danish industrial designer belonging to the golden era of the 1950s, also known as Danish Modern. Thanks to Jacob Jensen, Bang & Olufsen became know for shaping the future of audio-design through its avantgarde and iconic aesthetics. His award-winning work has been featured in MoMA in New York City.
Jacob Jensen was born in 1926 in Copenhagen. Jensen left school at thirteen and trained as an upholsterer. In 1947 he began working in his father's shop where he designed chairs before attending the School of Arts and Crafts (Danmarks Designskole) where he enrolled in the furniture design department. Soon after, he became the first graduate in the new discipline of industrial design under under Jørn Utzon's tutelage.
From 1952 to 1958, Jensen worked at Copenhagen studio Bernadotte & Bjørn (the first industrial design drawing office in Denmark) as an industrial designer. During his time there he designed various works including the Margrethe Bowl for company Rosti. Eager to learn more, he moved to the New York City working with Raymond Loewy and spent some time in Chicago with industrial design firm Latham, Tyler & Jensen. In 1958 he founded the Jacob Jensen Design Studio.
From architecture to product design
In 1964 Jensen started working as chief product designer for Bang & Olufsen. By 1970s the company had received numerous awards for its product designs and devised a new slogan, “We think differently,” which was meant to embody the characteristics that made Bang & Olufsen different from other companies at the time. Through his time at Bang & Olufsen, Jensen developed over 200 products for the company. Jensen established a minimalistic, horizontal, and severe design style that became characteristic of his product designs.
His style involved using brushed aluminium, white and black plastic, smooth surfaces, futuristic controls, and simple shapes for products including amplifiers, speakers, tuners, turntables and other products.He redesigned standard knobs and dials, replacing them with clear-plastic panels, wafer-thin push buttons, and other innovative elements. Jensen is recognized as Bang & Olufsen’s minimal design idiom, and worked with the company until 1991.
“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 cruelest torture."
He is considered one of the key figures of the "Second Modernism" in German product design, in which the rational principles as defined at the Bauhaus, among others, in the 1920s were transferred to the new product world and developed further. Exemplary of this is the collaboration with the electrical appliance manufacturer Braun. This, together with the work of Otl Aicher, shaped Braun's overall appearance, one of the early consistent examples of a uniform visual corporate identity (today called corporate design), which was congenially implemented at Braun by advertising director Wolfgang Schmittel until the 1980s.