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interview

Good Design for the Common Good

Vitsœ’s business model would break any marketing textbook. They make furniture that lasts a lifetime and encourage their customers to live better, with less, that lasts longer. Colour of Money went to their new headquarters to find out what makes them tick.

Immediately upon entering Vitsœ’s (pronounced Vit-sue) new global headquarters in Royal Leamington Spa, you get the distinct feeling that everything about making furniture has been rethought from the ground up. The building is lit and ventilated naturally. Windows bring the outside in and connect employees to the landscape, while passers-by can glimpse the activity within. Teams work together in a single large space to encourage conversation and to minimise the need for formal meetings, facilitating serendipitous human connections.

“This space is really a statement of intent,” explains Mark Adams, Vitsœ CEO and architect of the company’s renaissance since the late 90s. “Business needs to make a positive contribution to the common good. Our building, and our business, put human beings at the centre.”

Vitsœ’s claim to fame has been their continuously counter-cultural approach to design and manufacturing. In a world of planned obsolescence and changing fashion trends, Vitsœ is resolutely unfashionable by designing products that are timeless and that last. This is the heritage of their designer, the legendary Dieter Rams and his Ten Principles of good design. For Dieter, good design is innovative, useful, understandable, unobtrusive, long-lasting and environmentally-friendly. “Vitsœ has been addressing environmental concerns since the 1950s via the common-sense approach of designing adaptable products to last,” says Mark.

But as Voltaire quipped, common sense is not so common. As a result, Vitsœ is turning heads. Leading academics have identified their model as an exemplar ‘sufficiency business’ because they encourage their customers to buy only what they absolutely need, build all of their new products to be backwards-compatible, and never use marketing gimmicks like new colours to stimulate short-term sales.

“Our building, and our business, put human beings at the centre”

Mark Adams, Vitsœ CEO

Vitsœ has expressed its intention to become an employee-owned business for the long-term good of the company. It’s simply the next step for an organisation that seeks to meet the needs of its community, whether that is neighbours, suppliers or customers. “I see it as my responsibility to ensure that Vitsœ can flourish for generations ahead on a planet that will increasingly be forced to achieve a better quality of life using fewer resources,” says Mark.

Vitsœ’s partnership with Triodos is part of the bank’s strategy to use money in a way that encourages sustainable models of trade. Triodos offers loans starting from £100k to organisations and projects that are having a positive impact in business.

 

CV
Vitsœ

Since 1959, Vitsœ has designed and manufactured furniture that allows its customers to live better, with less, that lasts longer. Vitsœ stands for the inordinate power of good design in everything it does: designing thoughtfully, responsibly and intelligently.

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