How many times have you looked at a technological gadget and, despite the fact that it does all it's supposed to, thought how ugly or cumbersome it appears? Or how it would look completely out of place in your carefully decorated home? It's rare to come across an audiovisual machine that not only works efficiently, but is guaranteed to enhance a room. And women, being more visually aware than their male counterparts, usually notice this more.
However, even someone who never gets excited by gadgets, no matter how clever or futuristic they may be, is bound to be impressed by the Beo Sound 5. This ultra-sleek minimalist-looking sound system is a pleasure to behold for even those who are a touch technophobic. Why? Because with its satisfying-to-use navigation wheel mounted on a stylish digital screen, a five-year-old could figure out how to work it. What's more, with its balanced design and neat appearance, it is aesthetically pleasing. To put it another way, being modest enough not to clash with the setting, yet modern enough not to look outdated, it would fit easily into any modern sitting room.
This effort to fuse technology with art was a concerted effort on the part of the designers at Bang & Olufsen, the Danish audiovisual specialist. Jakob Odgaard, the managing director of B&O - as its aficionados call it - says it's a philosophy the company incorporates into all of its work. "We put a lot of effort into aesthetics and product design," he explains. "We often work with sculptural shapes, for example. It's important to us that a product not only works efficiently but looks good too. It should do your house proud..."
Agreeing that women are more visually swayed than men, he adds that this is apparent not only in the company's design-oriented approach but also in the Danes as a race. "As Danes, we have a culture with more female than male values. For example, we pay 65 per cent of our income in taxes in order to cater for those who do not earn as much. It's a bit like a grandmother nurturing a whole family." Although clearly dedicated to his job, Odgaard considers home life to be as important as the time he spends at work. Therefore, he says, a relaxing environment is high on his agenda. "It's a play of chess... attempting to balance the two. I like to live in a comfortable environment because we are all affected by what's around us. It's important for me to be able to kick my shoes off after work... and turn on some music in the evening. I find it is the best way to relax."
As the managing director of the company, he naturally has all of the Bang & Olufsen products in his house. "I couldn't live without them," he enthuses, thinking for a moment and then adding: "Listening to music is an overlooked pastime. These days we all turn on our televisions the moment we come home... but the closest thing you can get to a good experience is when you close your eyes and really listen to a piece of music, even for a few minutes. I bet you won't be able to tell me what you saw on the TV 10 days ago, but you could tell me exactly when you last listened to a piece of good music."
The attempt to achieve balance is something he actively strives for both in his house and his life. "For me synergies are all important. For example, my Danish office over looks a fjord and green fields with herds of sheep and yet another part of my job is to visit metropolises like Singapore, Munich or London. It's important for me personally, but also at Bang & Olufsen, we believe in the synergy between, for example, technology and aesthetics and design and function."
The company, which was established in 1925, caters for a niche market, aiming to produce classical products that last. It's a strategy that so far appears to have worked. "We don't need the mass market," says Odgaard. "We do not expect the Beo Sound 5 to change the face of audio technology. We want people to look at our products and say that's a nice product. I would like to live with that for life."