Danish designer Johannes Torpe on the power of design to create universes

“To create a universe around our products we actually have to take it out into the hands of the people who have to use it."

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In one of the most dramatic entrances on the Design Indaba stage, Danish designer Johannes Torpe descended from the theatre roof in a golden space suit. But this would not be the last surprise from Torpe who used his childhood desire for space travel as a way to take the audience into his design process and career journey. 

Torpe says his desire to go into space was about more than just the possibility of eating the food or travelling into different galaxies, but about the golden spacesuit.

“It felt like if I had that golden spacesuit I could do anything in the world. I could just put it on and I would be magnificent. The world would be open for me and I could just conquer the world," he said. 

And conquer the world he did. In his career, which spans 20 years, he has worked as a musician among many other professions - he produced a chart topping hit 10 years ago that he performed for the audience as part of his talk.

He also started his own nightclub called NASA where he designed all the products in the space right down to the music playing in the elevators, ashtrays and furniture.

He also worked as a lighting designer. From there he would go on to create universes around other spaces and experiences such as food and eating. 

He says: "A universe is many things and sometimes it only starts with a product...with the Nike showroom it was about taking the universe of Nike and embedding it into their spaces."

He was also the first creative director of Bang & Olofsen where he spent five years helping the company into a rew direction when it comes to design. One of these highlights included one of the stores where at night, the audience could control the façade of the building by using it to play their own music, that way the building became alive at night.

He says the idea of creating universes was central to his work: "To create a universe around our products we actually have to take it out into the hands of the people who have to use it."

Torpe says resistance is very important to him as a creative, the idea that something is impossible: "I need that. I need the strong appearance of the robotic voice when I get that voice (and I hear it quite often) I put on my golden space suit and I can do anything.”

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