The Story Of Scandinavian Design: Combining Function and Aesthetics

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This article was written by Katrín Eyþórsdóttir, our talented and hard-working trainee from Iceland. As a designer with background in product design, Katrín is presenting her understanding of what has influenced the works of designers from Sweden, Norway and other North-European counties as well as the key attributes that these works possess.

For a long time, art has been heavily influenced by the social and political landscape. Searching through history, we find that while the social views of a certain period may no longer be relevant, the art and design of that time often are. Designers today constantly draw inspiration from history, consciously and unconsciously. Being aware of that history and knowing what has come before in your field can help you better convey the meaning in your work and forge deeper connections to your environment (artistic, social, political, etc.).

Looking back to the beginning of the 20th century and the styles and movements that ruled the art world at that time, we will look for influences and ideas that have evolved into what has been known since the mid-20th century as “Scandinavian design”. This article also offers some thoughts on how to incorporate its principles in your work today.

While the countries of Scandinavia have extreme differences, they do have some common cultural, geophysical and historical threads. Without implying that certain principles apply to all art and design in this area, this article gives an overview of the influences and state of art and design in the Nordic countries.

Historical Context

Modernism, a cultural movement that started at the end of the 19th century, was a break from the Realism that dominated the art world before. Realism’s source was the invention of the photograph and the artist’s desire to produce work that looked “real.” It was, hence, fairly conservative, and the art created in that movement was intended to be truthful and accurate. Modernism was an escape from this rigidity, and a multitude of cultural and aesthetic movements grew from it.

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Snakehead printed cotton2, William Morris, 1876.

Shortly after 1880, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement, inspired by the social theories of John Ruskin, began expressing their distaste for the Industrial Revolution’s machine-made designs. They denounced the uniform and monotonous products that the machine stood for, and they revitalized traditional methods of manufacturing; in the textile arts, for example. Defending and praising nature in art, human creativity and faithfulness to traditional materials, they upheld Romanticism and folk tradition in all manner of crafts.

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Left: A French advertisement for biscuits4 in the Art Nouveau style, Alfons Mucha, 1896.
Right: A Carlsberg Pilsner label5, Thorvald Bindesböll, 1904.

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Logos by Thorvald Bindesböll for Danish football clubs, from 18767 and 18898.

Art Nouveau, also known as “Jugendstil,” was the first widely popular art movement of the 20th century. It was conceived as a “new style for a new century.” With a focus on decorative and applied arts, the movement was a conscious resistance to the ruling art and design institutions of the era.

Dating roughly from 1880 to 1910, Art Nouveau marked the beginning of Modernism and took nature as its inspiration. The use of decorative elements in domestic settings could even be viewed as metaphors for the status of the individual in society, and they made it evident that people were eager to break away from forms and set rules. More obvious social commentary was starting to emerge9 in art.

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Left: Cover art11 for the Norwegian woman’s magazine Urd, Andreas Bloch and Olaf Krohn, 1900–1905.
Right: An Art Nouveau building12 in Borås, Sweden, by Swedish architect Lars Kellman, 1907.

Fluid shapes were used in all manner of work, be it architecture, furniture, textiles, painting or print. The style was widely celebrated as a break from the past, incorporating new and exotic materials from foreign countries, and with so-called “Japonisme” becoming popular13 in Western circles.

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Interior of Sankt Hans Apothek15 (Saint John’s Pharmacy), representative of the Skønvirke style, in Odense, Denmark, 1903.

In Denmark, Skønvirke magazine16 started publishing in 1914. Its content was inspired by old Danish handicrafts and national Romanticism, with international influences appearing in decorations. The word “Skønvirke” became synonymous with Art Nouveau and Jugend. The delicate nature-inspired forms, graceful lines and colors fit the Scandinavian aesthetic well.

These were highly volatile times in Europe, partly because of the First World War and the growing unease with the social order. In art, everything became revolutionary instead of evolutionary, a reaction to the upheaval of war. Prior social forms and arrangements were seen as hindering civil progress, and the artist became a social and political activist. The goal was provocation, upheaval and a break from old systems. Many art movements stemmed from these broad social changes.

Tractor Automobile Plow 190517
Machines were incorporated into existing methods as soon as they were invented. This image18 from 1905 shows an early version of the tractor for plowing fields.

The machine age was drastically changing living conditions, and the seeming futility and catastrophic loss of life from the First World War raised questions about the state of human morality. The world was changing, and this change was manifested in cinema, exhibitions, books and buildings for the public to soak up.

Scandinavia Early On

Scandinavia here means the countries of Northern Europe: Denmark, Sweden, Norway. Design from there is described by many as being fairly minimalist, with clean simple lines. Highly functional, the style is effective without needing heavy elements; only what is needed is used. Survival in the north required products to be functional, and this was the basis of all design from early on.

The subtle decorative qualities stemming from the early-20th century art movements and the simple lines deriving from the inter-war art movements gave this style its elegance. The concept of “beautiful things that make your life better” was highly regarded. Scandinavian design is often referred to as democratic design, because of its aim to appeal to the masses through products that are accessible and affordable.

This ideology comes from local institutions, such as the long-established Swedish Society of Industrial Design. The goal of this association was to promote design that the general public could access and enjoy. Such goals were greatly affected by social changes taking place in Europe at the time. Even though the designs were democratic and meant for the masses, they were not stripped of all beauty in order to make them as easy to use as possible; an inspiring thought. The importance of this balance was identified by Scandinavians early on and has been maintained ever since.

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Left: Poster20 from the Stockholm Exhibition, 1930.
Right: Catalogue21 from the Helsingborg Exhibition, 1955.

Several exhibitions of Scandinavian design were held throughout Europe and North America. One of the earliest was the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, where functionalism blossomed and artists and companies showcased their latest products. And concurrent with an official visit by the Danish Royal couple in 1960, the Arts of Denmark Exhibition was held at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Arts.

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Part of the Design in Scandinavia23 exhibition, which ran from 20 April to 16 May 1954.

The term “Scandinavian design” originates from a design show that traveled the US and Canada under that name from 1954 to 1957. Promoting the “Scandinavian way of living,” it exhibited various works by Nordic designers and established the meaning of the term that continues to today: beautiful, simple, clean designs, inspired by nature and the northern climate, accessible and available to all, with an emphasis on enjoying the domestic environment.

Exhibitions like these played a big role24 in spreading the word about Scandinavian design and in influencing the development of modernism in North America and Europe in many ways. The aesthetic had been evolving for decades by that time and was strongly influenced by art and design in Europe. It combined the trends that had emerged around the turn of the century, the clean forms that followed, as well as existing traditions in Scandinavia.

Social Consciousness In Art Movements

From about 1916 onwards, more political and social art groups became prominent in the European art world. The centuries-old establishments, academies and guilds had a long history of being steered by the ruling bourgeois. They were deeply interested in maintaining the social order, and the art that they created and commissioned reflected that. Holding on to old methods in painting and afraid of the turmoil represented by new movements, the establishment favored work that didn’t disrupt the status quo. The new movements viewed their work as being stagnant and as holding back the progress of the arts. These new movements celebrated the machine and embraced manufacturing technologies in the creation of art. Among these were the Constructivists in Russia, the Futurists in Italy, De Stijl in the Netherlands, Bauhaus in Germany and the Dadaists in Switzerland.

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Left: Suprematism26 (Supremus #58, Yellow and Black), Kazimir Malevich, 1916.
Right: Cover27 of the book Teyashim (Four Billy Goats), by Russian artist El Lissitzky, 1922.

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Composition 829, Wassily Kandinsky, 1923.

The Constructivist movement viewed art as part of the social structure and used it as tool to communicate political and social messages. Some of the movement’s most famous artists were Vladimir Tatlin13830, Alexander Rodchenko14131, El Lissitzky14032, Malevich14233, Wassily Kandinsky13934 (who later taught at Bauhaus) and the Stenberg brothers14335, Georgii and Vladimir, names still well known among graphic designers today. Participating heavily in public events and partially supported by the ruling political parties, they celebrated new technologies and machine art.

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Left: Composition With Red, Yellow and Blue37, Piet Mondrian, 1937–4.
Right: Red and Blue Chair38, Gerrit Rietveld, 1917.

De Stijl was a Dutch art movement in which Piet Mondrian and Gerrit Rietveld were among the principal members. De Stijl emphasized pure abstraction and the reduction of everything to the essentials of form and color. Everything was simplified to vertical and horizontal lines and primary colors. Unlike many contemporary movements, De Stijl was a collective project, not a political or social movement.

Bauhaus building in Dessau39
The Bauhaus building40 in Dessau, Germany, designed by Walter Gropius.

Bauhaus was a school in Germany that was famous for combining fine arts, crafts and technology; industrial and product design were highly regarded. The “Foundation Year” of many of today’s art and design schools has its origins here. It’s also where the field of modern furniture design started to take shape.

Highly influential, even today, the school’s three directors, Walter Gropius, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, spread their ideas when they left Germany before and during the Second World War. Ending up in various countries, they and many of the people who taught and studied at Bauhaus left behind a body of knowledge that many of today’s designers refer to in their work, often unknowingly.

The functionalism that Bauhaus espoused was prevalent in Scandinavian architecture. The Nordic countries adopted many styles for their buildings and came up with their own, but “funkis” (the term for functionalism there) become one of the more popular styles.

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Cover42 of Der Data Magazine, edited by Raoul Hausmann.

Dadaism was a fairly short-lived cultural movement that started in Switzerland shortly after World War I. But Dadaist methods and views were adopted by many and live on. Focused on ridiculing the meaninglessness of the modern world, their work encompassed literature, visual arts and theater.

With Dadaism, abstract art started to find its footing, as well as performance art and what later evolved into Pop Art. Similar to Cubists, Dadaists made use of collage, assemblage and existing products to create new pieces. Against war, against the bourgeoisie and resembling an anarchist movement, Dadaists were active around the world, holding public demonstrations and publishing journals. Dadaism gradually mixed with surrealism and other cultural and artistic movements.

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Dynamism of a Soccer Player44, Umberto Boccioni, 1913.

In Italy, Futurism was an artistically and socially active movement that used all media, from film to food, to get its messages across. Futurism was an ideology that wanted nothing to do with the past; its proponents objected to what they regarded as stale thinking on the part of their contemporaries. Not having a distinct style of their own, they adopted the techniques of Cubism, which was the avant-garde art movement headed by Pablo Picasso, among others.

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Factory in Horta de Ebbo46, Pablo Picasso, 1909.

Cubism radically changed approaches in European painting and sculpture, and its effects are still evident today.

Surrealism surged in popularity around 1920, and while many Scandinavian designers and artists were heavily influenced by the movement and incorporated it into their creations, Surrealism wasn’t greeted with wide open arms. Wilhelm Bjerke-Petersen, Rita Kernn-Larsen and Olav Stromme all dabbled in surrealism at one time or another.

The following is from a review of the exhibition47 “Anxiety and Desire: Surrealism in Scandinavia 1930–1950.” The author, Ausra Larbey, explains how social views within Nordic countries affected the popularity and acceptance of art movements:

Ironically, their revolutionary perspective found little understanding in workers’ environment. One saw Surrealism as expression of bourgeois individualism, dealing exclusively with intellectual problems of overclass. It was perceived as an immoral and egoistic form of art, self-absorbed and decadent. The rejection was so strong that artists moved away from abstract surrealism towards more naturalistic figurative style, and later in interviews denied they ever were Surrealists.

Many of the artists in these different movements knew each other and worked together, setting up exhibitions and publishing magazines. Many of these movements were highly political and advocated for social change through art. This influenced the Scandinavian art world and helped to shape the social changes that were taking place there.

Scandinavia

The styles and movements brewing in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century spread around the world. While they didn’t espouse the same message, they all contributed to the establishment of new forms and functions.

Modernism’s scope was far and wide and developed differently in each country. The ideology spread throughout Scandinavia, with designers and artists interacting with their contemporaries throughout Europe, aided by fast-developing media such as film. In Scandinavia, the ideas gradually evolved into design principles and philosophies that eventually had international effects.

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Aerial photo49 of the Söndra Ängby residential neighborhood in Stockholm, Sweden, 1938. All of the houses are the same, built according to functionalist principals, and they are today a national cultural heritage.

Scandinavian designers were influenced by everything going on around them. With their tradition of craftsmanship and efficient use of limited material resources (due to their relative geographic isolation), they combined the best of both worlds. In line with prevailing democratic social views, everything was made to be available to everyone. The notion of enjoying the work you do was highly regarded, and the idea that beautiful things could enrich people’s lives was kept alive.

As mentioned, the Swedish Society of Industrial Design was established in 1845 to uphold and raise the high standards in various crafts-related professions. The fact that industrialization took place in Scandinavia later than in neighboring countries helped to preserve the handicraft tradition there.

Early in the 20th century, with more and more people moving from the countryside to cities, the Society broadened its scope50 and committed to raising standards of design in everyday life. The quest to make objects of high aesthetic quality available to the masses began in earnest during the 1920s and ’30s. Beauty, humanism and democratic ideals were the order of the day.

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Truck display52 during the 1930 Stockholm Exhibit.

Mass machine production did not dominate Scandinavia as much in the years between the two World Wars as it did in the US. The scale of the industry was much smaller, and after World War II more Scandinavian countries established institutions and schools to preserve the craft traditions. Processes derived from the crafts were integrated into commercial production, creating what became known as the industrial arts53.

The thread running through Scandinavian design is functionalism. For hundreds of years, the need for products to just work was ingrained in the Scandinavian soul. It hadn’t been very long since this was a requirement for survival. The focus was on “need,” or function, not on decoration or beauty.

Moving into the machine age, surviving became easier, and functionalism evolved into also meeting the emotional needs of people. This gave Nordic functionalism a more natural and humanistic54 side. But there still existed more extreme approaches to functionalism, which stripped all decoration in favor of pure function.

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Interior of Stockholm Exhibition56, 1930.

The long winters and few hours of sunlight inspired Scandinavian designers to create bright, light, practical environments. They tried to make the domestic environment as comfortable as possible with the materials at hand. These trends were picked up by neighboring countries and eventually spread all over the world. The high-quality designs live on today and are recreated continually in various fields, confirming their timelessness.

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The staircase58 and furniture in Aarhus Radhus (Aarhus town hall) were designed by Arne Jacobsen and his partners between 1937 and 1942.

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Jacobsen’s iconic 7 chair60, made of form-bent wood and chromed steel legs.

Arne Jacobsen’s timeless designs in furniture and architecture are well known, and his contributions to the creative fields are secure in history. After winning several architectural competitions, Jacobsen became known for designs that brought futuristic visions into a present-day context. His simple yet effective chair designs enjoyed worldwide success.

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Lamp62, Poul Henningsen.

Poul Henningsen’s distinctive lamp designs were well thought out. He looked for solutions to spread the light of a bulb as widely as possible without the glare being visible. It’s a good example of Scandinavian design: the beauty of the elegant smooth lines doesn’t prevent the lamp from performing its function exactly as it was designed to do.

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Wishbone chair64, Hans Wegner, 1950.

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The book cover design66 for Modern Swedish Grammar, Immanuel Björkhage, 1966. Published in Stockholm by Kungl. Boktryckeriet P. A. Norstedt & Söner. An edition from 1923 is available online67 to page through.

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Marimekko’s bold prints69 made the company’s products an international success in the 1960s. Today, the company produces a wide range of items, but it is instantly recognizable by its graphics.

Scandinavian design has been perhaps most widely recognized in furniture, which spread the principles of its creators. Other fields, such as graphic design, followed these principles, particularly with regard to production and availability.

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My Friends, the Carpenter and the Painter71, Carl Larsson.

The Scandinavian style isn’t only form-bent wood furniture in various shades of white and nature-inspired patterns and shapes. Splashes of color have been a big part of Nordic interiors for a long time. Late-19th century Swedish artist and designer Carl Larsson is famous for his bright and colorful paintings. His watercolors of painted furniture and folk art have been highly influential72 in Scandinavia.

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Panthella Lamp (1971) and Panton Chair (1967), by Verner Panton. The record albums in the background display several styles. The poster on the left shows Panton’s Visiona 2 environment. (Image credit74)

One of Denmark’s most famous designers, Verner Panton, is known for his bold and abstract work in the ’60s, with a focus on new materials. Panton’s creations stood apart from those of his contemporaries, and his focus was more on what we today associate with Pop Art. Strong, dramatic colors and futuristic shapes dominated his work. His designs, along with those of Finnish designer Eero Aarnio and Finnish-American Eero Saarinen, have been used in a number of film productions and countless photo shoots to create a futuristic look.

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Left: Globe Chair76, Eero Aarnio, 1963–65.
Right: Tulip Chair77, Eero Saarinen, 1957.

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These logos79 from the 1960s and 1970s are just a few examples of how, as in other fields, clean forms and well-considered elements dominated graphic design in Scandinavia.

Today

Scandinavian design has evolved with the times, moving from mostly furniture and product design to an application of principles and processes to current problems and opportunities. Its change has been just as dramatic as the society it’s a part of.

As mentioned, Scandinavian countries established institutions early on to promote and protect the various design industries. Svensk Form80 in Sweden demonstrates the benefits of good design for social development. The Danish Design Center11781 highlights the value of design for Denmark-based businesses. The Iceland Design Centre82 organizes lectures and exhibitions and facilitates collaboration between local designers and artists. The Norwegian Design Council12683 promotes design as a strategic tool for innovation. And the Nordic countries are home to some of the most interesting conferences in art and design, such as Iceweb84 (the Icelandic Web conference), Copenhagen Fashion Week11585 and the Stockholm Furniture Fair86.

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The French store Scandinavia design88 sells Nordic design old and new, focusing on quality materials and a certain simplicity and love of everyday life. It helps to sustain the popularity of Scandinavian design.

The Scandinavian aesthetic, of mass-produced design that is accessible and available to all, with a touch of grace, reminds the user that the product’s creator is human.

In the digital world, where the interface for so many designs is keyboard, mouse and screen, the creator is sometimes forgotten. The human element is demoted in favor of expediency and functionality.

In an article about the utilitarian excellence89 of Scandinavian design, Lara Iziercich explains what makes the Scandinavian style so different.

Scandinavian marketing involves little more than promoting designs which are developed according and appropriate to the needs of the consumer. They aren’t intent on “selling” new design concepts to consumers. Scandinavian designers pride themselves on only creating functional, durable and cost- efficient products and goods. If people need something, they will buy it. If they don’t [need it], it doesn’t exist on the market to begin with.

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Swedish design firm Stockholm Design Lab91 focuses on corporate identity.

The principles of Scandinavian design — of prioritizing functionality without eliminating grace and beauty — might be a very good approach to Web design today. Granted, when Web design emerged as a profession, it focused mainly on functionality anyway, with some of it better executed than others. It wasn’t until graphic Web browsers started to dominate that graphics began to be heavily incorporated in Web design. How well Scandinavian functionality translates to the Web is debatable, and overgeneralizing is hardly fair. While most designers strive to keep their work functional, some have had more success than others.

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The website for online radio station Cue Radio93 was created by Moving Parts94, a Norwegian design company.

Steadily yet quickly, Web designers have become masters of many trades that were once the domains of discrete professions. The beautiful thing is that, although Web designers have taken on more and more roles, these older professions have not died out. They evolved alongside the Internet. Today, Web design encompasses many fields, all working towards the goal of creating functional products.

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The navigation on the website for Icelandic production company Icelandic Cowboys Entertainment96 is clear and easy to understand (warning, though: auto-playing sounds). The website was created by Icelandic advertising agency Skapalón97.

Scandinavian design has certain standards, and Web standards are currently being discussed and agreed on worldwide. Of course, some personal projects, niche websites and other Web designs do not focus purely on functionality, but rather exist to showcase a product or technique. All of these are as much a part of the Web design profession as everything else we’ve looked at. Intense debates and exchanges of opinion most often lead to further refinement and understanding of this young profession. And the field’s practitioners seek inspiration everywhere, constantly pushing the aesthetic, technological and functional boundaries of computers and the Internet.

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The designer for Choice Hotels Scandinavia99 got her inspiration100 from Eero Aarnio’s bubble chair101.

While natural, bright, uncluttered design is popular in online content today, saying that all clean, simple and functional Web design today has its roots in Scandinavian design would be an overstatement.

102
The home page of Iceland’s National Museum103 is in Icelandic and English. It is clearly laid out, and its way-finding mechanisms would be familiar to users of similar websites. The design is fresh and modern, incorporating images that evoke the history of the museum’s exhibits.

With technology changing fast and getting more and more complex, it is as important as ever to know your tools and their possibilities. Businesses depend on having an online presence that is well thought out and that gives the visitor a good experience. Interaction with products and services has become a focal point of both offline and online user experiences.

When each day brings new ways to redefine design, the long-established principles of Scandinavian design — usability and simplicity, while retaining an element of humanity and of grace and beauty — could be key to achieving a successful outcome.

In The End

Art and design mirror the society they are a part of. But with the globalization of ideas increasing and the world of communication shrinking, a design will not be influenced solely by the culture in which it originates.

Being from Scandinavia myself, I can’t help but feel a close connection to the design here. It has certainly influenced my work: I have found myself at times wanting to adhere to its traditions and at other times distancing myself from them. But with a background in product design and media arts, I am used to keeping my eye open to ideas. Designer Simon Collision puts it well104:

I believe that perception and meaning cut through disciplines, so something learned decades ago by an architect or furniture designer could help me understand elements of my work on the Web. I’d rather we investigate experiences and ideas than simply leverage everything from print design, as some suggest.

Regardless of how much this applies to your own design process, context almost always adds value to your work, whether you intend it to or not.

The democratic and humanistic principles spread by Scandinavian design and the sensitivity to materials and to researching and employing traditional methods are an important and influential part of design history. It’s worth diving into Scandinavian design, including its history, context and connotations, to discover all that it has to offer.

Understanding your materials and connecting with them emotionally will help you better conceptualize your work and in turn help your audience better connect with it. Scandinavian design history is a deep well of information and inspiration, whether for online content, furniture, sculpture or any of the many other aspects of life that designers and artists encounter daily.

Resources Referred to in This Article

References

Copyrights

This article is partly based on the following copyrighted Wikipedia articles, used under the Creative Commons Attributions-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA)134:

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Footnotes

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  70. 70 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Larsson_Carpenter_and_Painter.jpg
  71. 71 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carl_Larsson_Carpenter_and_Painter.jpg
  72. 72 http://www.shelterpop.com/2010/11/30/scandinavian-design/
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  75. 75 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/AarnioGlobeChairOgSaarinenTulipanstolen.jpg
  76. 76 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ngv_design,_eero_aarnio,_globe_chair_1963-65_01.JPG
  77. 77 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Saarinen_Tulpanstolen.jpg
  78. 78 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/LogoSet3.jpg
  79. 79 http://www.flickr.com/photos/ad_symphoniam/sets/72157622132873798/
  80. 80 http://www.svenskform.se/en/first
  81. 81 http://en.ddc.dk/
  82. 82 http://www.icelanddesign.is/
  83. 83 http://www.norskdesign.no/?lang=en_US
  84. 84 http://www.icewebconference.com/
  85. 85 http://www.copenhagenfashionweek.com/
  86. 86 http://www.stockholmfurniturefair.se/en
  87. 87 http://www.scandinavia-design.fr/
  88. 88 http://www.scandinavia-design.fr/
  89. 89 http://diemperdidi.info/nordicnotes/vol03/articles/arch.html
  90. 90 http://www.stockholmdesignlab.se/#/1148/home/
  91. 91 http://www.stockholmdesignlab.se/#/1148/home/
  92. 92 http://www.cueradio.fm/
  93. 93 http://www.cueradio.fm/
  94. 94 http://www.movingparts.no/
  95. 95 http://www.icelandiccowboys.is/
  96. 96 http://www.icelandiccowboys.is/
  97. 97 http://www.skapalon.is/
  98. 98 http://www.choicehotels.no/
  99. 99 http://www.choicehotels.no/
  100. 100 http://www.viget.com/inspire/can-a-website-design-be-inspired-by-a-chair-this-one-was/
  101. 101 http://www.eero-aarnio.com/23/Objects/Bubble_Chair.htm
  102. 102 http://www.natmus.is/
  103. 103 http://www.natmus.is/
  104. 104 http://www.colly.com/images/dotnet_oct2010.jpg
  105. 105 http://www.artsmia.org/modernism/e_ANE.html
  106. 106 http://www.denstoredanske.dk/Kunst_og_kultur/Kunsth%C3%A5ndv%C3%A6rk_og_design/Retninger_og_perioder/sk%C3%B8nvirke
  107. 107 http://www.dulux.ie/blog/articles/scandinavian_design.jsp
  108. 108 http://www.absolutearts.com/artsnews/2004/02/13/31805.html
  109. 109 http://www.svenskform.se/en/about-svensk-form
  110. 110 http://www.minnesota.institute.art.museum/modernism/e_SM.html
  111. 111 http://www.nordicwellbeing.com/web/design/more_design/funkisreturns.php
  112. 112 http://www.shelterpop.com/2010/11/30/scandinavian-design/
  113. 113 http://diemperdidi.info/nordicnotes/vol03/articles/arch.html
  114. 114 http://designmuseum.org/design/arne-jacobsen
  115. 115 http://www.copenhagenfashionweek.com/
  116. 116 http://www.dpcdsb.org/IONAS/Courses/Visual+Arts+Gr+12.htm
  117. 117 http://en.ddc.dk/
  118. 118 http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/exhibitions/1092/Design_in_Scandinavia/image/6502/Design_in_Scandinavia._|04201954_-_05161954|._Installation_view.
  119. 119 http://www.onecollection.com/FinnJuhl/FinnJuhlStory.pdf
  120. 120 http://www.italianfuturism.org/manifestos/foundingmanifesto/
  121. 121 http://retinart.net/graphic-design/good-designers-learn-from-history/
  122. 122 http://www.icelanddesign.is//
  123. 123 http://www.icewebconference.com/
  124. 124 http://www.marimekko.com/
  125. 125 http://www.archive.org/details/modernswedishgra00bjoruoft
  126. 126 http://www.norskdesign.no/?lang=en_US
  127. 127 http://www.nordicway.com/sweden_design.htm
  128. 128 http://my.opera.com/dstorey/blog/2007/11/16/scandinavian-web-design
  129. 129 http://www.stockholmfurniturefair.se/en
  130. 130 http://www.svenskform.se/en/first
  131. 131 http://www.viget.com/inspire/swedish-design-inspiration/
  132. 132 http://www.flickr.com/photos/swedish_heritage_board/
  133. 133 http://www.dcdr.dk/uk/Menu/Update/Webzine/Articles/Type+design+-+a+Part+of+Danish+design+tradition
  134. 134 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:CCBYSA
  135. 135 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavian_design
  136. 136 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism
  137. 137 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Stijl
  138. 138 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Tatlin
  139. 139 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassily_Kandinsky
  140. 140 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Lissitzky
  141. 141 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Rodchenko
  142. 142 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malevich
  143. 143 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stenberg_brothers
  144. 144 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauhaus
  145. 145 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernism
  146. 146 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dada
  147. 147 http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sk%C3%B8nvirke
  148. 148 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marimekko
  149. 149 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arne_Jacobsen
  150. 150 http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svensk_Form
  151. 151 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B6dra_%C3%84ngby
  152. 152 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_art#Development_of_the_academic_style
  153. 153 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurist_Manifesto
  154. 154 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_realism
  155. 155 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/01/07/12-modern-art-movements-to-inspire-your-logo-design/
  156. 156 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/17/lessons-from-swiss-style-graphic-design/
  157. 157 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/05/18/the-beauty-of-typography-writing-systems-and-calligraphy-of-the-world/
  158. 158 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/08/02/bauhaus-ninety-years-of-inspiration/

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Katrín Svana Eyþórsdóttir is a media artist and designer from Iceland. You can follow her on twitter.

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  1. 1

    Really nice article!

    0
  2. 2

    great stuff, thanks

    1
  3. 3

    Thanks for this! I studied fine art in college but I am a web developer now. I spent a summer in Sweden (Mullsjo Folkaskola) – – really great to see a strong art history references in Smashing.

    4
  4. 4

    A really insightful article. Absolutely fine read! One thing, though: As an architecture student, I can but wonder why Finland was so under-presented here. After all, they are the most famous of Nordic countries for their architecture and in many cases, design. Such names as Alvar Aalto and Iittala make me go all goosepumps…

    Too bad they haven’t been able to transfer that legacy into web design culture. For all I know at least.

    9
    • 5

      Andreas Kiljannen

      June 13, 2011 9:07 am

      Well, actually Finland is not a Scandinavian country…

      4
      • 6

        Well, not geographically, I suppose, but for a non-Nordic person they all are pretty much the same to me :)

        -3
      • 7

        True, but it’s hard not to include Finland, as ‘Scandinavian Design’ is almost synonymous with ‘Nordic Design’. :-)

        11
      • 8

        Finland & Iceland are sometimes included to scandinavian countries, they are officially are part of Nordic countries only (Not evolving from kingdoms). But the scandinavian (design) traditions are typical & equivalent there as well, so i don’t see a point not including them in this article.

        4
    • 9

      I thought exactly the same thing. Glad you mentioned it.

      2
    • 10

      I know what you mean, but which country has?

      How do you make a chair or a lamp the basic inspiration for a web page anyway?

      Still, if you look at official Danish sites, such as the offical site of the Danish Parliament (www.ft.dk), or maybe even the newly re-designed site and identity of the old newspaper ‘Berlingske Tidende’ (www.b.dk), it’s possible to see the heritage. At least for me.

      But in the end, making design tendencies on the web geographical makes no sense. Not any more!

      0
  5. 11

    lovely, well researched article. I appreciate the fact that smashing has these kinds of things posted every once in a while. I believe it helps remind the current community where we come from, and why we do the things we do.

    also, that lamp from Poul Henningsen is amazing! want want want!

    4
    • 12

      The lamp is $9000 – for the smallest version ;)

      0
      • 13

        Linus Lorentzen

        June 14, 2011 2:23 pm

        If you can not wait until you’ve saved up for the lamp so try to check out this one from Norman Copenhagen – it costs just $ 130. It comes in two sizes and two colors, white and cream. It is clear to see the inspiration.
        shop.normann-copenhagen.com/us/product/norm-69—large.aspx
        You must assemble the 69 pieces of plastic, it takes a couple of hours.

        0
  6. 14

    Awesome article.

    0
  7. 15

    Fascinating and informative article. I was Ikea yesterday and feel like I understand the design influences apparent in the store a bit more. (Ikea is just how Americans are exposed to Scandanavian design on a daily basis — not trying to trivialize your content.)

    1
  8. 16

    friggin’ par excelence!

    1
  9. 17

    Wow – what an incredible article! I wasn’t expecting something like this on Smashing (normally the articles are already of high quality on here, but this is the next level!)

    Scandinavian Design has always been something that I love, most designers typically love their Helvetica and their Macbook Pro, personally I love the whole Swedish and Dutch design influences and try to draw on them as much as possible.

    Thank you Smashing for this brilliant article, it was a fantastic refresher on something that interests me greatly.

    1
  10. 18

    Hi, brilliant article, it took me back to history of art when I studied graphic design in Johannesburg, South Africa. Loved it. Well done

    0
  11. 19

    Sorry, but the caption “Der Data Magazine” is wrong. Dadaism does have nothing to do with “data”.

    cu, w0lf.

    -2
  12. 20

    I don’t like Scandinavian design, and I’m swedish!
    To much of the good stuff I guess. Nice article though.

    -2
  13. 21

    Johan Pettersson

    June 14, 2011 12:34 am

    Wow what a nice article!!

    As coming from Sweden I can tell we count Finland as a scandinavian country.

    No biggie, I have a spell correction on “Aerial photo” were it says Söndra Ängby, it should be Södra Ängby – which means South Angby.

    Well thanks again Katrín for a awesome article!

    4
  14. 24

    Wonderful educational read. Thank you Katrín.

    0
  15. 25

    WoW
    Wonderful!

    Thank you!

    2
  16. 26

    The role of Finland here is indeed tricky. In the strictest sense Finland is _not_ part of Scandinavia (when the term was coined Finland was part of Sweden) but on the other hand it is such an essential part of what is understood to be “Scandinavian Design” today. (I’m somewhat surprised that Alvar Aalto wasn’t even mentioned in the article, I’d count him as a central figure here.)

    Anyway, using ‘nordic’ instead of ‘scandinavian’ is preferable, and it should really be called “Nordic Design”.

    6
    • 27

      True, I would also have included Alvar Aalto. Would also have to take in consideration, that Finland has been under the control of Sweden long time ago. And Iceland should be considered as much part of Scandinavia as is Finland.

      2
  17. 28

    Very nice article! A shame I didn’t read it yesterday because today I had an exam about all of this :p

    Still a very good read though! And a must-read for everyone who’s interested in web design or design of any kind.

    As for me personally: Being a student in Web design @Howest it has helped me to understand this material much better seeing it from someone else’s perspective!

    Keep up the good work! :)

    0
  18. 29

    Great article, we need more articles like this!

    0
  19. 30

    All I can say is …

    This was really an education in art that I’ve been waiting 50 years to receive. Thank you very much for putting time in to researching and writing on this topic.

    0
  20. 31

    What a fabulous article! Many thanks Katrin. I learned a lot and you’ve definitely got my thinking in some new ways.

    0
  21. 32

    Brilliant article.

    0
  22. 33

    Really interesting article!! Some of what I read here I already knew but I certainly learnt some others!! Thanks!!!

    0
  23. 34

    Cover of Der Data Magazine, edited by Raoul Hausmann.

    daDa not daTa!
    :)

    1
  24. 35

    A really good article, but you missed one of the pioneers of Danish design……George Jensen.

    I trained as a Silversmith (now i’m a web designer) and did my university thesis on Scandinavian Design. George Jensen was a pioneer, some of his designs were way ahead of anything else at the time.

    0
  25. 36

    I really appreciate the effort involved in making this post. Thank you both for the pictures and the information contained in it. I look forward to reading more posts from this talented young lady!

    0
  26. 37

    Katrin, you really bring a treasure across the waters when you contribute an article like this through SmashingMagazine.

    You’ve covered a lot of excellent ground here, in a rhythm which makes each part interesting.

    Maybe a future article could remedy on Finland by concentrating first from architecture there. For me that is quite fine, and has a lot to do with various very thoughtful social modes. Both those and architecture itself seem to have a lot to do with potentials for the web, at least in one person’s view.

    Thank you for these things, and for giving your flavours of them through the manners of writing. Each is appreciated.

    Regards,
    Clive

    1
  27. 38

    Bravo! Very nice article! My PhD research is about scandi news design.

    0
  28. 40

    I was deeply touched your articles and it drives me a rich source of inspiration for my design.

    0
  29. 41

    Great article, thanks so much for the art history refresher course!

    0
  30. 42

    Nice article, but please check your topographical skills. You mention Dutch designer Rietveld… And indeed Rietveld and Dutch Design are worth a mention. But, The Netherlands isn’t Scandinavia… as you should know.

    That said, I opt for an article fully dedicated to Dutch Design :)

    0
  31. 43

    Very nice article – thank you! Would love to see more of these types of articles.

    0
  32. 44

    Darlene Chrissley

    November 4, 2011 4:32 pm

    I really enjoyed your article. So well written and informative.

    0
  33. 45

    Interesting!

    0
  34. 46

    Another great read! The roots of great, modern design at its best.

    0
  35. 47

    What an insightful article. I always wonder where did minimalist design originate from. Now I know more. Thanks a lot!

    0
  36. 48

    such a great article! researching scandinavian design and this is exactly the information I needed.

    0
  37. 49

    Excellent design history lesson, I have to agree with the previous comments re: Finland, you even included Eero Arnio’s chair but did not include Finland as part of the movement, which is the topic presented. Not geography.
    Alvar Aalto is one of the best known and admired architects in the world still today.

    0
  38. 50

    Thank you for this lovely education and all of the links for exploration. I am a designer and will refer back to this often.
    Thank you!

    1

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