David Lewis is design royalty. Before you scoff, know that the 68-year-old designer was knighted to the Order of Dannebrog by Denmark's Queen Margrethe II for his contributions to Danish design in his role as chief designer for high-end home electronics maker Bang & Olufsen, a position he has held since 1980. Lewis' designs are mimicked throughout the world and have influenced innumerable designers from every walk of life, but he's not the kind of man who revels in his glory. "That doesn't concern me," Lewis answers when asked whether designers get the respect they deserve. His definition of "respect" comes from the ability designers have to make their products impactful on the daily lives of consumers-making people die-hard believers in the product: "That, I think, is the only kind of recognition a designer actually needs."
Lewis originally planned to design furniture when enrolling at London's Central School of Art in 1957. But, he recalls, "the class was full," so he settled into industrial design as a "second choice" and hasn't looked back. He doesn't live by a strict set of design principles because he sees himself as more of a story-teller: "I see industrial design as a translation of technology that adds ease-of-use and ease-of-understanding. To me, it's essential to get to the core of the apparatus, and tell a story about what the product is and what it does. Every product must have a unique reason to exist."
Among some of Lewis' latest creations are the BeoVision8 LCD video display and Beo5 remote control. The BeoVision8 features a unique "orchestra pit" design that projects human speech up from the lower portion of the screen while simultaneously projecting the lower tones through a downward-facing bass speaker. "We moved the sound forward and up like a proper stage," Lewis says. While he will take influences from the BeoVision8 design forward into new product designs, Lewis says he doesn't like to dwell in the past: "When I am working on a design, I do my best. When I'm finished, I'm done with it, and already onto the next assignment."
Although people are sometimes dismissive of automotive design as lagging behind things like audio and video products, Lewis says he draws inspiration from automotive design: "You often see new mechanisms ormaterials appear in cars before anywhere else," he explains. He is also driven by the modernist Bauhaus style. In addition to his work for Bang & Olufsen, Lewis' firm has also designed exhaust vent hoods for Elica (www.elica.co.uk), dental equipment for L. Goof, and coin counters for CT Coin (www.ctcoin.com). Perhaps one day he'll consider expanding his portfolio to include vehicle design.