An Odd story about design

Food mixers, Danish State Railways and aircraft from the Second World War - Odd Thorvik, head of the development department at Glamox, finds inspiration for good design in unexpected places.

It could hardly have been the English word “odd” that his parents had in mind when Odd Thorvik was baptized in 1956. Odd is a common Norwegian first name meaning “sharp edge” or “spear”. However, according to the name’s owner, the English translation is not completely inappropriate.

“I am a bit weird. Designers often are. Besides, I’m a big nerd, he laughs, and talks about the apartment that bears the characteristics of a collector who is easily enthralled by aesthetic objects. The problem is that there are only 70 square meters to play with.

“In the summer I was walking past an antique shop that had a Danish model train on display in the window. I’ve always liked the graphic profile of Danish State Railways from 1973 to 1997. I ended up buying the train and a big box of rails that came with it ”, laughs Thorvik who also managed to find room for two to three thousand LPs / CDs and books in the apartment. History, biographies and other non-fiction are the favorite literature, but you can also tell a design nerd through his choice of reading matter.

“I’ve collected Bang & Olufsen brochures from years back”, says Thorvik, who is an advocate of the minimalist and functional design language that has characterised Scandinavian design in recent decades. He has also brought this with him into the job as head of the development department at Glamox.

“My design maxim is about creating shapes that are easy to understand, easy to like and that will last. I don’t believe in embellishments that just make things complicated. We are industrial designers, not artists. Everything we deliver must fulfill a function”, he says. And there are few who know as much about the functionality of Glamox luminaires as Thorvik. In his job, he covers the entire breadth of the product range, from explosion-proof offshore luminaires to architectural office lamps. In his 40 years in the business he has also witnessed rapid technological development. According to Thorvik, he was involved in purchasing some of the first calculators in the company when he worked as a product developer. Today, 3D modelling software and 3D printers are essential tools for developers. Not least, Thorvik has experienced the transition from fluorescent lamps to LEDs.
“In addition to the obvious advantages of energy efficiency, life, colour control and lighting control, LED also offers many advantages in terms of the design. The small light emitting diodes allow for more compact luminaires and greater design freedom, something all designers value enormously”, he says.

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"My design maxim is about creating shapes that are easy to understand, easy to like and that will last."

   Odd Thorvik, Head of development, Glamox



Dieter Rams

The down-to-earth relationship with design does not prevent Thorvik from seeking inspiration and ideas well outside the box.
“Those of us who work with design are able to see good design in everything from food mixers to cars”, says Thorvik. Dieter Rams, who was head of design at Braun from 1961 to 1995, is one of Thorvik’s designer role models. Thorvik believes that Rams’ 10 principles of good design are as relevant today as they were in the 1960s. The same goes for items he was involved in designing, such as the first minimalist radios and home appliances.

‘Pitch’, ‘roll’ and ‘yaw’

Another thing that triggers Thorvik’s designer brain is aircraft. Specifically, fighter aircraft from the period 1935-1944.
“I have a separate cabinet in the apartment with a total of 49 model aircraft. It began as a need to take up a hobby and ended up with me ordering a box of models from the USA. World War II aircraft are the prettiest things I know, especially the Spitfire”, says Thorvik.

And precisely the interest in aircraft and how they move has inspired Thorvik in his work on a brand new product family consisting of desk lamps, floor lamps, wall lamps and a pendant light. The family, which has been named Motus, bears the Luxo brand. The new desk lamps feature elements of the arm-based technology that was developed by Luxo founder Jac Jacobsen in the late 1930s. In the Motus lamps, however, the springs are placed inside the arms for a more minimalistic appearance. In addition, there are further developments in the lamp’s movement. This is where aircraft come in.

“An aircraft has three dimensions of movement, known as pitch, roll and yaw”, Thorvik explains, demonstrating with his hands how the plane moves in three axes, rolling from side to side, up and down and sideways.

“The heads of today’s arm-based lamps, both ours and those of our competitors, can handle a maximum of only two of these movements. For example, the original L-1 lamp has only pitch and roll, but not the lateral yaw movement. It felt wrong to me. I wanted to allow the head to be positioned completely freely so that there would be no need for a parallel arm”, says Thorvik, who used this idea to develop the desk lamps in the Motus family.

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Another of Thorvik’s obsessions is modularisation. It’s about building product families in such a way that you can reuse components, rather like old-fashioned Lego bricks. The Motus family is a good example of this. Here, a limited number of different parts are combined into 18 separate products.

“In this way there are fewer parts, resulting in better quality and cheaper production. At the same time, we build a recognizable product profile”, he says.

– Design is teamwork

Glamox has developed the Motus products in collaboration with the design agency Permafrost.

“Permafrost has done a fantastic job and helped us to give the lamps an identity and a friendly look”, says Thorvik and continues by praising the employees in the development department.

“The mechanism is based on the knowledge in Luxo that has been producing self-balancing lamps since 1937 (Luxo was acquired by Glamox in 2009, (editor’s note)). Those who have developed the lamp are the best in the world at this technology”, says Thorvik who believes that occasionally it is possible to go too far in revering individuals in the design process.

“Design is also teamwork. Ideas are often played out in a group and mature through a process before being implemented. Different people contribute in different ways. Some are structured, others more impulsive. To succeed with an idea, you have to have different personality types in the team and in the company as a whole”, he says.