A Jack of all Trades

Words Christina Nordvang Jensen

Photography Jens Stoltze | Tomorrow Management, Scanpix, Bang & Olufsen, Johannes Torpe Studios

Designer Johannes Torpe
Designer Johannes Torpe

Designer Johannes Torpe is a popular man, nationally as well as internationally. He grew up in an open hippie society and went on to become creative director at Bang & Olufsen. Then there is all that in between, of course. He is a Jack-of-all-trades and has come to the conclusion that this title is not so bad after all.

The Beomaster 1700. An entirely flat stereo covered in aluminium with wooden panels along the sides. A child’s finger darts playfully across the black surface. Elegant soft-touch buttons that are so tempting to push. They are surrounded by light every time the finger brushes the small indention.

Aged six, Johannes Torpe is at his cousin’s confirmation party, and while everyone else is having dinner, Torpe has slipped unnoticed into his cousin’s room. The half Irish half Danish boy is on a mission. His cousin’s confirmation present; the Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 1700. Off-limits for an overly curious kid.

“My finger traced the tactile surface and felt the aluminium and the minor electric tensions on it. My finger then continued up across the buttons that are tiny indentions in the surface. It hit radio 3 and loud music blasted from the speakers. It was amazing. My ears ached because of it, but it was worth it”, remembers Johannes Torpe while various notes and sounds flow from his mouth. The cousin came rushing up the stairs. Torpe knew he was in trouble. That was his first encounter with Bang & Olufsen.

Free to Play in all Fields

Bom cha, bom-bom cha, crash. The sound fills the room at Johannes Torpe’s office in central Copenhagen and reverberates off the walls. At the far end of the room is a Beomaster 1700 with the forbidden buttons. This is not the source of the sounds, however, as it is only made of paper and part of a timeline with cut-outs of Bang & Olufsen’s masterpieces throughout the ages lining the wall. The source is actually the bass drum that booms below Johannes Torpe’s foot while the sticks dart between the hi-hat, snare drum and cymbals.

Johannes Torpe is almost like a child again, playing away behind the drum set. Much in the same manner with which he constantly toys with the pen strokes on the pad for the many design projects he is working on.

“I’m just a playful kid, really”, Torpe offers as an explanation for the wide creative range that his hands and mind have covered for quite a few years now.
 Johannes Torpe likes a little bit of everything, and is supported by his half-brother, Rune Reilly Kølsch, with whom he operates the design studio Johannes Torpe Studio and three record labels on which they release their own music as well as that of various other artists.

A design agent once called him a Jack-of-all-trades. Torpe was not too pleased with this title to begin with but his father put a new perspective on the words. “He told me: ‘Son, Jack-of-all-trades is much better than King of one. Being a King of one you can only truly master one thing well, but as a Jack-of-all-trades you can define what you want to be of all trades. It’s up to you’. And he was actually right”, says Torpe.

Now, aged 39, his ability to do it all, and then some, has helped him secure the job as creative director at Bang & Olufsen. The Beomaster 1700 is no longer off-limits, but, instead, his new playground.

Read more in Tomorrow’s Journal | Issue 4

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