Vitsoe & Design for Longevity

photo 3The second Steps Towards Sustainability walk took place last week with 6heads and 15 other sustainability practitioners enjoying the stunning cliff-top coastal walk from Dover to Deal in blazing sunshine.  A cool sea breeze was a godsend as we made the steep climb to the tops of the white cliffs out of Dover, but once that was behind us, the undulating cliff-top walk allowed plenty of opportunity for thought-provoking conversation with the other walkers.  Harold Forbes shared the thinking behind his climate change book How to be a Humankind Superhero, while Neil Reeder of Heart and Head Economics explained his approach to valuing the social impact of projects.

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Geof in full flow

At lunchtime we descended into St. Margaret’s Bay to enjoy some fresh seafood in The Coastguard, while Geof Howe from Vitsoe spoke about Design for Longevity. Dieter Rams, the key designer behind Vitsoe’s shelving system and furniture, proposed 10 Principles for Good Design in the 1970’s; if you google ‘Good Design’ this is one of the top results.  For him, Good Design is innovative, aesthetic, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, thorough, environmentally-friendly, makes a product useful and understandable and is as little design as possible.

All of these qualities are key to designing for longevity.  Honest, unobtrusive, minimalist design is not ‘in your face’ and is unlikely to be subject to the vagaries of the latest fashion trend.  Innovative, aesthetic design that makes a product useful and understandable will be loved and treasured.  This is design that will be repaired and cared for, not thrown away.  The final ingredients for longevity are that the product itself must be designed in a long-lasting, thorough and environmentally-friendly way that will stand the test of time.

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All of these qualities are clearly evident in Vitsoe’s 606 universal shelving system.  It is only available in recessive, neutral colours and is almost invisible when stacked full of books.  Its clean lines are beautiful and its carefully thought-through modular system is useful, understandable and effortless to replace and element if needed. The sturdy materials used don’t know the meaning of obsolescence – Vitsoe actively supports customers in taking their shelving with them when they move house.  When you buy a Vitsoe product, it’s for life.  The Vitsoe philosophy was brought to life most vividly for me when I visited their factory in Camden, North London; enjoying a cup of tea with Mark Adams in their kitchen, we spent ten minutes talking about their recently broken toaster.  Dismayed at the poor toaster design that meant repair was not an option, Mark had spent days searching for a new toaster model that would be repairable and was delighted to have a repairable toaster on order.  Design for longevity isn’t a slogan for Vitsoe – it’s a lived reality in every aspect of what they do.

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After lunch there was one more section of cliff-top walking, before a steep descent to the pebble beaches of Deal.  A gang of us launched ourselves into the sea for a refreshing dip, before the final leg of the walk past Walmer and Deal castles and back to the train home.

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Our next Steps Towards Sustainability event is going to be a Harvest Hike in early October.  The focus will be on more sustainable approaches to food and the walk will end with a wine tasting at an English vineyard at the height of the grape harvest.  If you have a particular interest in sustainable food or would like to contribute to the event, please get in touch with


One response to “Vitsoe & Design for Longevity

  1. Pingback: A Heavenly Holiday Walk: Kingsdown to St Margaret’s Bay Along The White Cliffs of Dover | Poetic Mapping: Walking into Art·

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