Clamouring for US money Bang & Olufsen unveiled yesterday its first newly redesigned look-like-Apple-with-just-as-much-minimalism store concept within North America at the new Madison Avenue showroom in New York. According to Bang & Olufsen the new store design is significant as it presents “a breakthrough retail concept that evokes a truly sensory experience and demonstrates Bang & Olufsen’s commitment to providing extraordinary consumer experiences”. Attended by company CEO Tue Mantoni and new president of Bang & Olufsen America Inc. Kathy Thornton-Bias, the 130m² showroom, located at 600 Madison Avenue marks the very first US showroom to implement the new store design layout. Its sister showrooms in New York will follow suit in the coming fiscal year, as well as a handful of additional locations across the USA.
“The new store concept features a luxurious and welcoming atmosphere and the interior has been designed to captivate curiosity as you move through the store” stated Thornton-Bias. “This store concept will provide the perfect platform to interact and engage in the Bang & Olufsen universe of magical experiences”.
At the heart of the new retail concept is a dedicated speaker wall which showcases all of Bang & Olufsen’s best-selling speakers. Consumers can listen to any kind of music, including their own playlists streamed from smartphones and check out the sound of everything from the smallest to the largest within the range.
A B&O Play area invites shoppers to listen to the company’s range of designs created for more mobile lifestyles, comparing everything from the latest headphones to portable sound systems.
A more private area lets shoppers settle in and immerse themselves in viewing and listening combinations. Here, shoppers can view films on the latest flat-screen technology with surround sound, or discover the convenience of linking rooms and multiple entertainment sources through BeoLink system integration.
The scaleable retail concept has been designed for spaces from 50m² up to 200m² or more and will continue to be implemented in selected Bang & Olufsen showrooms in major cities around the world, according to the company.
Torsten Valuer graduated from the Royal Academy of Architecture, Department of Industrial Design, Copenhagen, 1993. During and after his graduation, Torsten spent time travelling in his beloved north-eastern Asia. When not travelling, he worked in Denmark for pyrotechnist Lars Hoffmann Barfod, making handcrafted fireworks for Tivoli, Copenhagen’s world famous amusement park, until he joined David Lewis Designers in 1996.
Torsten’s first design at David Lewis Designers was BeoCom 2 for Bang & Olufsen in 1997. He has continued designing audio systems, telephones and multimedia products for Bang & Olufsen ever since – along with products for other clients such as Asus, Elica and Scholtes.
Torsten Valeur’s design approach is to pursue original and new ideas – making his design accessible to the user while ensuring an optimal purpose for the product. His aim is to find solutions that are surprising at first glance and then accepted as natural and easy to use.
In 2007, Torsten became a partner of David Lewis Designers. During the middle of March 2014 Torsten visited New Zealand in order to speak at the Norse Code event about unlocking the principals of Scandinavian design in business.
Here he answered ten questions about the design of speakers…
“All the things we creates as architects, whether it is city creations, public buildings or private homes, has the goal of making people feel comfortable, welcome and at home. Nothing is more obvious than the decoration of your own home. Here you are at home and all the decorations show your unique personality. It is your private space and you decide how it should be, what you feel at ease with and how you want to express your own unique personality.
When I design objects for your home, like for instance a speaker, it is very important for me that it does not only show my personality as a sculpture maker, but is so flexible in appearance that it can fulfill your special desire. I call this for stand out and blend in. The speaker must have a strong presence, but it should also be able to blend into the surroundings when not in focus. It is your unique room that is in focus and the speaker design has to politely respect that without being indifferent. Depending on how you want to position the speaker it can be very visual or almost invisible, catering to your actual need.”
In which room in the home do speakers look best in?
I would say that it looks best in the room or rooms where you would happily enjoy music. Then the speakers can be part of that rooms identity expressing what you (also) do in that room.
In which part of the room do speakers look good in? E.g. by the window? By the bed?
That really depends on which speaker we are talking about. Every speaker has its own characteristics and strong points though they are all very good in more than one position. If you take Beolab 14 they do look fabulous when they are standing on a low shelve furniture, like television furniture, with its table stand. What you should do is take the uniqueness of your room into consideration and try to play with that when you place the speakers. If you have a wide full size window with a fabulous view, you could place Beolab 14 hanging down from the roof and really enjoy how small and lightweight they look.
How can you help make a feature out of your speakers?
You should identify the characteristic of your room and decide whether you want to express it or contradict it with the speakers. Then you should take your speaker like Beolab 14 and explore all the visual appearance it can offer depending on how you place it and what colors you put on the front. It is highly flexible due to the form it has, the small iconic but very simple shape and a surface that can adopt the surrounding colors and light. If you put them in a very offensive place you are sure that they will be noticed by visitors, and still you will be surprised how easily they disappear when you focus on other things.
What do you need to consider when thinking about the colour of your speaker. For example would you suggest matching them to your paintwork? Or should you contrast against it? Or keep your technology very neutral/minimal looking?
This is really up to what you want to with the speakers and your room. The good thing is that Beolab 14 makes it possible to do all the suggestions without spoiling the visual appearance. Because the size and shape of the speaker fabric front is so reduces you can choose a very strong colour as an accent to your otherwise minimal decor and it would look good. You can also place the speakers on the wall on each side of the television and put a colour on the front that matches the wall colour, the speakers would almost melt in. If you have a room full of decorations, art objects and collection items you can treat the speakers as one extra item with the black fabric front.
Do big or small speakers look best?
Small speakers more easier blend into your living room decor and is by nature less visual aggressive. But it must have a strong character full of quality feel otherwise it will just be a little piece of annoying technology. Big speakers can be like a piece of music, a piano, a cello when it is designed well. Then it truly is beautiful and you will forgive the size and the more intrusive behavior.
When and where should free standing speakers be used?
If you have a room with a wonderful floor and nice space around the furniture, free standing speakers will look great. Then you can place the speaker as a sculptor and enjoy it from different angles. Or if you have a little corner between furniture it looks neat with a free standing slim speaker.
When and where should fixed speakers be used?
If you want to save your floor space and do not have furniture with room for speakers, fixed speakers are very practical. If you have a wall mounted television with free floor space, speakers fixed on the wall on each side is a very good idea. In a corridor where space is limited and people are passing by, fixed speakers is good. In a kitchen you will also probably use fixed speakers.
There is the pure practicalities like where do I need the speakers to be, is there furniture’s nearby and how can I manage the wires. This will determine if you will use free standing or fixed speakers.
What are the benefits to make structural changes to your home/room to fit around your technology? i.e. making holes in your wall to fit in wall speakers?
There a basically two benefits. The first benefit is the neatness of your speaker solution. You can hide all the things you don’t want to look at and make everything look neat. It is like cleaning up the mess. It is a complete finished solution where all aspects is solved. That is also why we want to pay extra for real build in appliances in our kitchens. The second benefit is more abstract and relates to the feel of magic. The house full of hidden functions that magically suddenly appears when needed is the kind of dream house that has been presented in so many films as the house of the star (or super criminal extravagant person).
Do you start with a design idea and fit the tech around it or vice versa?
I often start it one given thing, that can be a speaker driver and some electronic components and a wish of a certain volume, all given to me by the acoustic people at Bang & Olufsen. With these elements I start to do my design experiments, investigating what I can do with these elements, in the search of the new and not yet done. That is like an inside out process where I design round the tech. In that process I get a stronger and stronger understanding of the “problem” I am facing and somewhere in that process I shift to an outside in driven design process. This is also the time where inspiration comes in. Inspiration is only a little part of it, mostly it is hard work, exploring the possibilities of each idea, working with the proportions and testing if it “can survive the times”. I strive after creating timeless design, understood in the way that the deign must have a long life span so the user can have a long relationship with the product.
Then the surviving idea is ready and has manifested itself into a model, we then go into a deep co-work, the engineers and specialists at Bang & Olufsen and I. Our goal is now to optimise the design and solve all aspect so the products reaching the shops are fulfilling the original intentions.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere. It can be by watching movies, looking at peoples and their homes, biking home from the office or in the nature. Sometimes strangely enough one single word or sentence form a person can trigger my inspiration.
Most important is that I need to have a relaxing moment to be able to read my inspirations. You constantly get a lot of images into your brain but to understand them and get them out again is another thing. That is why I need to be deeply into the actual design process before I can read my inspiration and I need to relax to make the unconscious start working (Source)
The value of Bang & Olufsen A/S has fallen after the company reported a wider-than-anticipated third-quarter loss saying that it is considering raising capital to accelerate growth.
It represented the steepest intra-day decline in six years. The shares traded around 15 % lower at 55.50 kroner at 12h50 on 10 April 2014, cutting the company’s market value to 2.2 billion kroner ($410 US million) although at one point they actually traded 20% lower.
Bang & Olufsen’s 28 million-kroner loss before interest and taxes for the three months through February was more than double what analysts expected. Sales of the B&O Play line of one-piece music systems and headphones declined 25 % to 122 million kroner, set back by “too low” a level of product introductions, Chief Executive Officer Tue Mantoni said in a statement.
B&O Play is “where everybody expected them to grow, but in this quarter and the quarters before it’s really been tough for them in that segment” Jesper Christensen, an analyst at Alm. Brand A/S, stated. “So it’s a very tough time to go out and raise capital for growth when your growth story is so uncertain.”
In an attempt to foster growth, two years ago Bang & Olufsen launched a (mainly online) sub-brand: B&OPlay, with slightly lower-priced products aimed at ‘trendy young things’. However, B&OPlay fared as one of the weakest performers in the latest quarter with sales sliding by 25%. One reason could be that they’re mostly sold alongside ‘traditional’ top-of-the-line products in Bang & Olufsen stores, which does neither the top-end products nor the cheaper stuff any great favours.
Bang & Olufsen is studying ways to raise funds as it plans to increase spending on distribution and marketing as well as strengthen its product portfolio through research and development commented. The shares had been halted ahead of the announcement.
Revenue increased 3 % to 675 million kroner, compared with the 736 million analysts expected.