Design Vision: From Outside

by Luke Wroblewski February 16, 2006

Can design vision from outside an organization have a meaningful impact on the product development process and corporate bottom line? Bang & Olufsen believes it does.

"'Personally, I have no influence on design.' says B&O CEO Torben Sorensen. Sorensen runs the company's operations, but he hands over control of product development and design to one super-dominant personality -a freelance designer, no less.

The truly amazing thing is, David Lewis doesn't even work for Sorensen. The native Londoner heads his own studio in Copenhagen, yet he has controlled design for nearly every B&O product made since the 1980s, from remote controls to the highest-end audio systems. Lewis says it's important to keep some distance from the company so he can present challenging, almost absurd design ideas without regard for internal marketing or engineering issues. ‘My role,’ he intones, ‘is to light a fire under people here, to give them impossible challenges.’

In the eyes of B&O's brain trust, [it] boils down to a shocking, and shockingly simple, strategy: Design always wins.” -The Case for Fanaticism