Niels Otto

We asked some young people in Copenhagen to share their thoughts on life, creativity and sustainability.



Article | 04:11 min read

Portrait of

Niels Otto


Copenhagen, Denmark

Still photography by

Frederik Kjeldgaard

Interviewed by

Adam Morris Philp

“Everything on Earth should be shared instead of being taken by single individuals. I think sharing is a much stronger way of living than anything else.”

I’m Niels Otto and I’m 29 years old. I’d like to call myself an experience designer. I like to give people experiences involving interactivity and lights as my primary medium.

What was your childhood like?

My childhood was good. I was mostly without my father, and in my teenage years I had a pretty harsh stepdad who I never got along or connected with. So it has been me, my older brother, and we grew up in the suburbs with my mother.

What kind of experience do you want to give people and why?

I worked in marketing and communication, and just kept selling people random junk all the time. I never made anyone happy, so I really wanted to do something different and create my own stuff. I wanted to create experiences for people to do something other than buying material things. I wanted to give them experiences that they could share, enjoy and that could make them happy.

Why is it important to make people happy?

I think that’s the only way we can live together on this planet. We have to be happy being with each other, and we have to see the brightest aspects of Earth and the amazing inventions that humans create rather than talk about all negative aspects and misery.

We also need to try and get some experiences that expand our view on what’s possible in the world, and on how everything is combined and how things function.

What is it personally? Have you always been like this?

I didn’t think I had the capabilities beforehand. I thought I was just going to be a graphic designer doing simple tasks in a big company, but then I experienced the underground, like the techno scene in Copenhagen.

I saw these hardworking people doing all of these things out of pure lust, and they just gave it back to other people, to the community. That inspired me to try it myself and see how I could contribute these things both to the people who gave something to me and also to those who I have never met before.

Do you have a memory from your childhood that shaped you into who you are today?

I was always sort of an outsider of my family, always the one who did things differently or the only one who didn’t understand everything fully, or the one who understood things more than the people around me. I remember growing up and playing music all the time. I would just play for myself in my room. But then when I would go out and do a show, I could feel so much energy inside of myself.

Again, it’s about giving people an experience. I just wanted to commit myself fully when I was playing shows, either by playing cover songs or my own stuff. I would really just give it my all. This keep-going sort of attitude stuck with me from the stage and continued after. But I quickly realized that I was never going to be a musician, so I had to find my own path to these things.

I think that lights and digital visual imagery and stuff like that has just been where I found my interests. I guess, I learned from playing music that the whole experience, from listening to music to going to shows, is important because that’s the one way people can’t just get what they want. They have to commit to it and be in it.

What do you fear most?

I fear that the human race has gone too far, and I fear that everything we do to live luxurious lives will destroy everything else around us in the not too distant future. I fear that human ignorance has gone too far and it will keep getting worse. We have made artificial values in the way of money, which has brought the human race to this crazy path of wanting more and more.

More and more it seems that this is irreversible. All of our luxury is just piling up without getting anywhere, without making anyone happier.

What is sustainability for you?

Sustainability for me is an ecosystem or a world or life that is able to sustain itself without any artificial means or inventions of any kind.

The world I would like to see is a world where humans either completely distance themselves from nature and are living on their own without any interference to a sustainable world, or a world where humans go all the way and really learn to live with nature once again and really act as part of the ecosystem. I would love to see humans being a greater part of actual nature instead of ruining it. A world like that is hard to see anywhere right now.

I dream that humans will be able to control themselves and really respect the only planet we have, that we can sustain. I dream that we live in peace with how Earth is actually meant to be lived on, instead of this way of living.

What are your values?

My values are to not spend too much, to try and live humbly, and to give back as much as I can.

Why do you want to live humbly?

I don’t see myself getting happier by earning or spending more. I only get happier by gaining knowledge and making friends, and becoming closer with the friends I already have.

When do you feel most happy?

I feel the most happy when I have completed a big task or challenge by myself, or when I’m collaborating with others and we do something that none of us could do by ourselves. We could only do it as a group.

How would you describe our planet?

I would describe this planet as beautiful and extremely fascinating, and it’s something that could only happen by chance. It’s chaos, but not negative chaos. It’s beautiful chaos, positive chaos. Everything we know and everything we don’t know has happened because of chaos. That’s beautiful. People need nature to see what the whole point of life on Earth is. We need nature to live.

What can we do to make this a better planet?

That’s a pretty big question. I think we could make this a better planet by withdrawing ourselves from nature and by not using its resources at the pace we are now. It is clearly a big mistake by the human race to spend and spend without trying to give back.

Everything on Earth should be shared instead of being taken by individuals. I think sharing is a much stronger way of living than anything else.

If you had one year left to live, what would you like to achieve within your last year?

I would probably distance myself completely from other humans in the big cities and all the stress associated with it. I have a wish to live completely in nature and to feel what nature was actually meant for.

I think nature is meant for keeping itself alive and just running sustainably without any intelligent interference.