Henrik Lindberg, Owner, Lindberg Eyewear
Interview by Laura Piety
A Rverie Conversation with Henrik Lindberg, owner of innovative Danish eyewear brand LINDBERG.
Can you give us an overview of what you do?
I graduated as an architect from the School of Architecture in Denmark in 1984, and I had my start working in that field.
Around the same time, my father, who is an optometrist, had been working on an idea for our first glasses— AIR Titanium—with the famous Danish architect Hans Dissing. My father was very creative when it came to choosing materials to craft eyewear, and one day he consulted me about some manufacturing problems. After analyzing the situation, we realized that the production of our eyewear would require investments of both time and money, as well as more manpower. That’s how I ended up coming onboard full-time.
My exact job at LINDBERG is … walking around. I like to say I am ”the helicopter”—I come in when the final details need to be looked into and decisions made. I was the first employee at the company, so I know every detail from the ground up. But I was never the type of person who likes sitting in an office.
I spend 24 hours every day with design. To me, design it not only about creating a a certain style of eyewear. Design is also about how you run a company - for instance. Everything has to work together, somehow. A well-designed product isn't enough, the design of distribution networks or human resource development needs to work as well. For me, everything is design in a way.
At the moment, we are putting a lot of focus on the design ideas involved in retail interiors - another milestone in our development.
When you started at LINDBERG, you essentially joined the family business. What was it like working alongside your father?
We started working together a few years after my father started the business in 1984/85. I was particularly proud when we made our first breakthrough by appearing on a Danish TV program about design hosted by the designer Per Arnoldi.
My father is a very creative person and I have inherited my taste for unconventional and uncompromising solutions from him. Needless to say, we had our heated arguments during the first years.
How has your training in architecture, and growing up in Denmark, influenced your design aesthetic for LINDBERG?
The whole LINDBERG mindset about design, technical excellence, and superb craftsmanship is rooted in the long-standing Danish tradition of functional design, focused on the remarkable characteristics of high-quality materials and the no-frills minimalism—devoid of merely decorative embellishments and visual noise—that results.
My background as an architect has probably also influenced on the way we do things and try to think differently. We believe that good design, beautiful shapes, and well considered quality materials make a key difference to our quality of life. Design is a way of thinking - about shapes, materials, craftsmanship, and comfort, as well as business ethics and technical innovation.
It’s an idea about trying to do everything better—again and again.
That’s why the company obsesses about every detail, every process, and every action in designing and manufacturing LINDBERG eyewear—and why LINDBERG is determined to keep doing things better.
This preoccupation about good design also extends way beyond “just” the actual eyewear. It encompasses the interior design solutions, packaging, displays, advertising, and everything else that makes even the tiniest contribution to the ways that people experience LINDBERG, its products, and business practices.
What is your creative process and how do you merge high design with beautiful aesthetics? What are your core design principles?
“If we do it, we do it 100%”.
We employ a distinctive mix of advanced technology, specially customized manufacturing equipment, and meticulous hand finishing, in ways that are a bit out of the ordinary—mainly because there often isn’t any mainstream, off-the-shelf equipment capable of meeting the extraordinary standards LINDBERG insists upon.
As a result, our manufacturing setup houses an eclectic blend of advanced technology and unusual machinery that our in-house experts have concocted, modified, and re-purposed—as well as handcrafted expertise and the skills of specialist jewelers where appropriate.
In LINDBERG eyewear, there is an obsessively considered reason for every line, angle, fixture, and detail. In LINDBERG frames, everything that causes problems with ordinary glasses is done away with. There are no rivets or welds to break, and patented screwless hinges mean there are no screws to work loose.
Every LINDBERG design is a determined statement about aesthetics, technical innovation and impeccable craftsmanship. They're eminently fashionable and determinedly bold, but without all the downsides of flash in the pan fads and design blind alleys.
This is because our eyewear designs reflect one consistent design ethos that never varies. We are constantly working on tweaking and improving designs that have already stood the test of time, with many now widely recognized as contemporary classics of industrial design.
What have been your most innovative frames?
That’s a difficult question for me to answer. Every time we have introduced a new product line it lies in our DNA to balance on the razor-sharp edge of what’s possible. Not only in the design of the frame, but also when it comes to how to actually manufacture it.
However, if I MUST choose, I think that the AIR Titanium is an icon of its era. It has been featured in numerous design exhibitions, including Museum of Modern Art in New York. I still have a quiet admiration for the simple construction—a bent and twisted titanium wire—completely devoid of screws and soldering. Nevertheless, it is incredibly flexible, strong, and resilient. In my opinion, it is a beautiful representative of Danish design at its best.
A large portion of the LINDBERG customer base is in Asia. What strategies have you employed to maintain a loyal, international customer base?
It’s correct we’re very active in Asia and have a big, growing customer base there. One of the key reasons for our customer loyalty lies in the fact that every LINDBERG frame is a personalized statement, matched to each wearer’s preferences and appearance, with the expert guidance of the optician.
This is a unique feature of the whole LINDBERG eyewear concept, enabling the wearer to choose different designs, colors, and materials for the temples, different surfaces and materials for the temple sleeves/tips, and nose pads in different shapes and sizes.
Our approach to eyewear means each frame is customized to the face, appearance, and personal taste of the wearer. This is a big difference from the traditional eyewear industry model, in which the wearer can only choose from what’s available in the optician’s shop at any given time.
What does your typical day look like?
A typical day these days seems to be “up in the air”. It’s very important to me to find inspiration in my day-to-day activities. I get the input I need when I’m traveling, reading magazines, and talking to my employees as well as our selected optician partners around the world. Today, more than ever, I spent quite some time traveling and attending all the big eyewear trade fairs around the world—from Paris, Milan, and New York to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo. However, I always have my handheld computer—my iPhone—with me ready to answer emails, etc. When I’m at the office I meet with people from all our departments, and make sure everyone gets to talk to me and share input.
A few years ago, LINDBERG branched into sunglasses, winning awards for the 8570 range. LINDBERG styles are increasingly fashion-forward as well. How do you balance being on trend while also creating timeless, classic products? Do you even care about trends?
LINDBERG frames are widely appreciated as fashion statements, putting across a message of restrained yet impeccable good taste. Their cut-down minimalism helps highlight distinctive faces and the personal presence of the wearer, while blending subtly with a wide range of fashion styles. One particular reason why many design devotees appreciate our frames lies in the uncluttered look. These frames are free of the visual noise that so often characterizes fashion eyewear.
They’re also free of the brand-name bling effects, making our frames the epitome of laidback, discreet good taste. In fact, we don't put our own name on the glasses at all. Instead it's the wearer who can choose to have his/her name discreetly engraved on the inner surface of one of the temples.
LINDBERG has won dozens of accolades. Which have had the most impact?
We’ve been lucky and probably good at what we do. We have won an unprecedented number of gilt-edged awards for design and technical achievement—four in 2013, and a total of 63 to date. The one with the most impact, I would say, would be way back in 1992 when we were competing against more than 3,000 other amazing design products, and AIR Titanium won the most prestigious Japanese design prize—the “Good Design Grand Prize” award (the unofficial world championship of industrial design). Winning ahead of Apple, BMW, and the Japanese Shinkanzen train made us all pretty proud!
Where would you like to see LINDBERG in 10 years time?
Keeping on making a difference in the world of eyewear and doing our best.
For more information visit http://lindberg.com
All images courtesy of LINDBERG