It basically started as a crazy idea of designing a kitchen that would match your bin.
Vipp refer to themselves as ‘toolmakers’, seeing their responsibility as providing solutions, and becoming almost an extension of the human experience as core to their role. They have a vision of seeing each Vipp product as a long-term investment, and that it does exactly what it needs to do, therefore it only ever needs to be designed once. The Danes are known for their egalitarian approach to life, and the innate shared and individual experiences therein, and Vipp is the perfect conduit to bring that craft, quality, experience, and endurance together.
Based in Brygge, Copenhagen, the company is a third-generation, family owned company, now run by Holger Nielsen’s daughter, Jette Egelund, her children, and some 45 employees. We have the pleasure of Chief Designer Morten Bo Jensen’s insights into the world of Vipp.
How does Vipp remain inspired?
It’s an ongoing process to investigate new potentials for the Vipp brand and the Vipp team. We have a gross list of ideas that we evaluate on a weekly basis, but sometimes ideas jump up out of the blue. It’s one of the advantages of a smaller family run business.
What is your style of working? What does a typical day at the Vipp offices look like?
We work on many projects simultaneously, and I aim to develop them daily. Right now, we are in the process of opening Branded Spaces (stores within other stores) all around the world, so there is a bit of travelling too. Next stop, Manila.
Vipp famously takes the role of being ‘tool-makers’. How has this been a response to the design industry offerings?
You can probably claim that we carved a niche for this ‘tool’ approach by being true to the legacy of Holger Nielsen’s original bin design from 1939, which was essentially a tool for a hairdressing salon. The design industry today however, is quite diverse, hence why our aim of staying true to your values is a good way to differentiate yourself as a brand.
What do you think is the reason for the success of Danish design globally? What design values are shared amongst the Vipp team?
A culturally anchored appreciation of simplicity, functionality, and craftsmanship is definitely a driving factor. On the Vipp team, we all share a passion for conceiving products with long durability, not least for the eye.
The Vipp Shelter has become an iconic design in pre-fab architecture. How did the idea for the Shelter come to fruition?
Basically, it was a design response to our CEO Kasper Egeland’s need of an urban escape while he was living in New York with his family some years ago. By developing this urban escape, we allowed ourselves to extend our design-DNA into a more large-scale approach, to create an appropriate frame for our significantly expanded product line. All interior is by Vipp and every little detail inside and outside is taken care of.
Does Vipp see future collaborations with other designers? If so, who would you like to work with?
Right now, we work quite a bit with architect David Thulstrup (Studio David Thulstrup) on various projects that comprise our Vipp Hotel concept. This concept allows our customers to ‘date’ our products prior to purchasing, for instance, our kitchens—it is a great way to stage the Vipp products in a variety of different settings.
How do you maintain quality across all products?
I think we have managed to do so by remaining close to the materials and manufacturing processes that we have obtained almost 80 years of experience with. We also emphasise the principle of remaining humble when jumping into any new product categories and new materials.
With the overstimulation through technology, what is the role that designers should play to respond to this?
In my opinion designers and architects should remain critical of technology. At Vipp, we focus on mechanical features and tactile materiality as these are so deeply rooted in our DNA. Having said that I do think that it is important that brands and designers in general help to push technology forward through an explorative approach.
What is the strategy behind designing and making only one product of any given category?
It stems from our desire to do our very best to reconcile all resources into the process of finding the fundamental essence of a ‘product’, which we believe can last for many years to come. Holger Nielsen managed to capture this essence with his original bin design and our ambition is to see if we can achieve exactly the same with all of our other products—time will tell.
In a global market, with clients and suppliers worldwide, how will Vipp respond to demand?
By staying true to who we are and making sure that design enthusiasts, architects, and designers across the globe know of our existence, about what we do, and what we stand for. Instead of spending money and energy on traditional fairs and advertising we prefer to invent concepts like the Vipp Shelter and the Vipp Hotel as a megaphone for a global outreach.
The Vipp Kitchen has been a huge success. How did it come about and will we see the kitchen design evolve in the future?
It basically started as a crazy idea of designing a kitchen that would match your bin—usually you would probably think of it as the other way around. Once we saw the prototypes we were quite keen on bringing it to the market. Any Vipp product evolves and improves over the years as we find things to improve—it is one of the benefits of deliberately trying to disregard the design trends of today in favour of design that builds on longer-lasting qualities.
How could designers and architects learn from the success of Vipp, its approach and offerings?
Hopefully designers and architects look at Vipp for inspiration, but at the end of the day it is always important that you find your own way. We’ve focused on creating tools and using a lot of time and energy on making sure that the world knows about them. You can invent the best product on the planet, but it really doesn’t matter if nobody knows about it.
As Chief Designer, what do you feel are the fundamentals of good design?
That people appreciate what you are offering and buy the products with a continuous sale. Jasper Morrison once said that the sign of a great design is when it remains in production after 30 years or more. I couldn’t agree more—that’s why we strive to find the essence of things.
What is on the cards for upcoming projects for Vipp?
Well, a lot of things that I’m prevented from elaborating on too much for the time being. One thing is for sure, we never sit still, and as a team we are ambitious. The past few years we’ve been launching furniture pieces which is something we aim at consolidating further with more offerings.
This interview was originally published in Minimalissimo Nº3