Decona: Bringing Danish design to NYC’s subways

In New York City, 5.5 million commuters are exposed to the design of Danish firm Decona every day. Now, the nationally renowned firm has won the Vitus Prize for their export success.

When the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) decided to ban the handing out of newspapers in New York City’s subway system, Metro US, a free daily distributed to commuters throughout the city, quickly moved to find an effective solution. The hand-to-hand circulation of papers in the subway had contributed to an uptick in littering and track fires, the MTA maintained. If Metro wanted to continue to reach its below ground readership, they would need to do it the old-fashioned way: via a newspaper rack.

Enter Michael Malberg, founder and CEO of Decona — the nationally renowned Danish design firm known for its passion for design, high quality products, dedication to social infrastructure improvements, and operating philosophy based on the idea that a city is nothing without humans.
Following a discussion with Metro US on how to increase the newspaper’s visibility and readership, Decona took charge of the enterprising project of reinventing the newspaper rack while balancing the significant safety and aesthetic requirements of the MTA and the need for distribution and visibility by Metro US. The result? A ‘streamlined, futuristic design’ that has steadily expanded Metro’s reach across US cities and become one of the most visible elements of Danish design in New York City.

“We have increased our circulation and signed a new agreement with the MBTA that will see us installing up to 125 new racks in the T system,” Metro US Associate Publisher Brian Cox explained to the newspaper in article marking the racks’ recent introduction into the Boston transport system. “These racks will serve two main purposes — more effectively distributing papers to readers and increasing Metro’s brand exposure in the market.”

In 2016, Decona was propelled to further prominence after it was accepted into the Vitus program — the Danish Trade Council’s elite program for small and medium -sized Danish companies who have a particularly high international potential growth. This year, the design firm won the Vitus Prize, a prize given for great export successes.

#DenmarkInNY caught up with Decona’s Michael Malberg to discuss his firm’s achievements and how he hopes to use the Vitus experience as a launch board for even broader global accomplishments.

What has participating in the Vitus Program meant for Decona?
During Vitus, we worked intensively with our go-to- market plan. We have strengthened the company’s identity, as well as communication strategy on several platforms. Furthermore, the Vitus program has given us a greater knowledge of the American market. During the process, we have strengthened our ability to articulate the values of Decona to our clients. Primarily, we work on a business-to- business or business-to-government level. Since everything in America is about relations, we expanded our network in cooperation with the Trade Council’s commercial advisor at the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. Our participation in the Vitus Program has led to Decona’s fast entry into the American market. We have
developed a model for our marketing strategy and a targeted strategy for the American market.

What does winning the Vitus Prize of 2017 mean to you?
It is a big deal to win the Vitus Prize as a small, Danish company. It is a great recognition of the work we do. We are proud of our company and very happy to help put Danish design on the world map. To win this prize means that our enthusiasm has increased. We want to do even better in living up to the prize and continue to take Danish design heritage and tradition beyond the Danish borders.

What is the vision of Decona for the city of New York?
We know that many American cities, especially New York, work with specific programs to beautify areas within the cities. All over the world, New York has a status as being one of the most important cities, so working with New York means having to think big. Our vision is to create products, which relate to the mass of the city; products that implement and embody the historical, contemporary and future city. It is our job to create products for existing and new urban spaces, to better the urban spaces and thereby life in the city by relating and being concerned about the architecture of the city and the people. Our design must be attractive to the users of these urban spaces and attract people outside.

What makes Decona unique?
With our interest in urban spaces, good craft and a strong passion for design, we stand out by designing and producing solutions based on our consumers and needs for both the private as well as the public sector. We are unique because we think about human behavior, and we analyze the city, the space and the consumers, which makes us able to adapt our design for a specific city space. For Decona, design is all about the possibility of doing better. We strive to create a very simple design that contributes to a clean and neat space within the city, where the different users of the city are in focus. After all, what is a city without the people?

What are your future plans concerning New York?
We want to be physically present in the shape of an office or a design studio. By being physically present, we can increase our level of service towards our clients. It is also an advantage in terms of the time difference. Furthermore, we want to be more visible in New York with our Danish design products.
The Trade Council’s elite export program, Vitus provides comprehensive market entry assistance facilitated in collaboration with Copenhagen Business School with the clear goal of creating an export success on the chosen market within 12 months for a curated group of Danish companies deemed to have a particularly high international growth potential.

Learn more here.

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The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.

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