Interview: Jakob Kjær Nielsen, Global Design Director for Jacob Jensen Design

A deep dive interview with Jakob Kjær Nielsen, Global Design Director for Jacob Jensen Design, a design firm Nordlux have proudly collaborated with to produced award winning products such as our Aludra range.

“The interesting thing about working with light is the transformation between night and day. The duality that is required. Lighting is not just an accessory for your home; it is not just functionality nor just good looks. It serves a double purpose, but not at the same time. Finding a design that works in both light and darkness is a great challenge.”

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Jakob Kjær Nielsen, Global Design Director for Jacob Jensen Design

Jacob Jensen Design is a Nordic design firm which creates product experiences that inspire people and defines companies, so that we can get to know the people behind the brand please could you introduce yourself?

JJD: We are a dynamic team of designers, combining youthful creativity with seasoned expertise, united by our dedication to create meaningful products and immersive experiences all with our distinctive Nordic approach. Our team is a true melting pot, hailing from various parts of the globe. This cultural diversity not only fosters a vibrant and inclusive work environment but also allows us to incorporate global influences into our designs.

At the core of our organisation is a teamplay mindset. Instead of relying solely on traditional hierarchies, we prioritise collaboration and task-specific expertise. This flexible approach allows us to leverage the strengths of each team member, and ensure every project is approached in the best possible way.

Our primary mission is to help businesses define their identities through our services. With a focus on both creativity and business goals, creating designs that are not only visually appealing but also strategically aligned. We believe in providing transformative design solutions that resonate with our clients and their target audiences.

Jacob Jensen Design is a truly global design firm with studios in Denmark, Shanghai and Bangkok. What has been the growth journey for the firm and what do your international design studios enable you to deliver to clients which could have not been possible from Denmark alone?

JJD: We recognised the importance of a presence in overseas regions to gain cultural insights and create a global reach. By being in different parts of the world, we gain valuable exposure to diverse cultures and can incorporate these insights into our design processes. In particular, our presence in Asia offers unique advantages. Being geographically close to production centers allows us to reduce lead times and streamline the product development process, ensuring efficiency and timely delivery of our offerings.

Global Design Team

We were able to start our international journey through university partnerships. We actively engage in educational initiatives to nurture the next generation of designers, and also find the best local talent. Currently we collaborate with King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, located in Bangkok, Thailand. Through this partnership, we have developed an educational program aimed at training design students. We provide them with hands-on experience by involving them in simulated projects based on real-world design challenges. This immersive learning approach allows the students to apply design methods, gain practical skills, and deepen their understanding of the industry.

Aludra Wall light designed by Jacob Jensen Design for Nordlux

By fostering this educational collaboration, we not only contribute to the growth and development of aspiring designers but also enrich our own team. The fresh perspectives and innovative ideas brought by these students infuse our work with renewed creativity and energy. This symbiotic relationship benefits both parties, creating a platform for knowledge exchange and fostering a culture of continuous learning within our organization.

Your statement that design is about ‘challenging tiny details and rethinking the big picture’ is extremely provocative and we’d love to know more about project examples where you feel that you have done this successfully?

JJD: A great example is a Router we created for Phicomm. Routers are often seen as purely technical products, but they serve a broader purpose. Most routers are designed for a tech environment and end up hidden in a remote spot behind other technical devices where the signal will be hindered.  We wondered, if their primary function is to broadcast as strong a Wi-Fi signal as possible, why aren’t routers designed to look good out in the open where the signal is distributed optimal?

Router, Phicomm

We challenged this conventional practice and looked at the design as an opportunity to create a device that would integrate seamlessly into the living space in the centre of the home, where it can reach all areas with the strongest signal. Our solution was to design the Phicomm router to fit contemporary interiors. It conceals intrusive antennas and features a light-up UI that is hidden under a glossy black top plate until it is needed. This approach allows the router to blend in with the surroundings, creating a subtle and harmonious experience. Therefore, by simply making a beautiful decorative object, we enhanced the product functionally. 

Your firm’s portfolio does not stop at product design but also encompasses branding and digital experience design, how does your focus on people centric design inform these disciplines?

A people-centric design approach, no matter type, places the needs and preferences of users at the forefront of decision-making. By deeply understanding the target audience and involving users throughout the design process, we can create products, branding, and digital experiences that resonate with people, leading to increased user satisfaction, brand loyalty, and business success.

Aludra Wall light designed by Jacob Jensen Design for Nordlux

We have seven guidelines that we design by. Whether it being product design, branding or digital X we define everything as Great Products.

Your design beliefs include a commitment to designing products which have an impact instantly but also made for the future, could you explain more about this design approach (with examples)?

JJD: When creating products, our designers always strive for longevity, meaning that we are not trend-based but value-based. Values that aspire and improve the daily lives of people. Values that tell a story and are relevant. We strongly believe that these key attributes will never perish and therefore also add relevance to the product design in the future despite the technological evolution.  

A few examples of products created based on these values that have endured the test of time are the Margrethe Bowl designed på Jacob Jensen in 1954, the founder of Jacob Jensen Design, while he worked at Sigvard Bernadotte and Acton Bjørn’s design studio in Copenhagen. The Margrethe Bowl is still today being produced and sold.

Margrethe Bowl designed på Jacob Jensen in 1954

Another great example is the Beogram 4000, a turntable designed for Bang and Olufsen in 1972, which B&O has just recreated in a limited edition to celebrate their icons. 

Margrethe skålen/ Beogram 4000

What does the future hold for Jacob Jensen Design?

JJD: Our vision is to continue expanding our services and become the turnkey supplier of Great Products. We aim to design the comprehensive product experience that encompasses everything from product development and branding to user experience and beyond. By offering a holistic approach, we ensure that every aspect surrounding the product is carefully crafted to deliver excellence.

Looking ahead, I foresee a future where AI will revolutionize the way we work. We have already embraced AI as a powerful tool, but it’s true potential is yet to be fully realized. Just as CAD transformed traditional pen-and-paper design processes and 3D printers revolutionized modelmaking, AI will redefine the way we approach our work. Those who embrace it will experience a new level of agility, allowing them to streamline processes and allocate more time to focusing on enhancing the user experience.

Aludra Wall light designed by Jacob Jensen Design for Nordlux

We recognize the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead. By leveraging the potential of AI, we can unlock innovative solutions, optimize workflows, and ultimately create even better experiences for our clients and end-users. Embracing this new way of working will empower us to meet the evolving needs of the industry and adapt to the dynamic landscape of design.

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About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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