Design is often mislabeled as just being about eye-pleasing aesthetics and making something “pretty.” While good design does those things, there is also so much more history and social context about why certain design styles came to fruition. The geographic, social, and economic locality of a region directly influences the design that comes from there. One region in particular, has exercised great influence over the design world and that is the countries of Scandinavia. What about these countries has created a long-lasting and influential design movement?
Scandinavia includes the countries of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Design that comes from these regions is known for being minimal, with clean lines and lots of white space. And like most modern art movements, function was thrust to the forefront as being just as important, if not more, than aesthetics. The belief was that if something was functional then it would become beautiful, and not the other way around. Design was meant to be functional and mainstream, to enhance the life of everyone and not just be for the artistic elite. The designs are also slightly futuristic, stripped of any ornamentation, and the shapes left behind are often surreal and sleek.
In 1954 there was a traveling design show that showcased the Scandinavian lifestyle. The open, simple, and accessible design and layouts had a direct influence on the burgeoning modernist movement in America. This was also the starting point of Scandinavian Modern as influencing a worldwide design movement. The outstanding craftsmanship and quality of materials also made long-lasting impressions on the United States.
When people think about what about Scandinavia as a locale influenced Scandinavian modern, two things come to mind: the region’s relative isolation and the limited amount of materials they had to work with. Due to both of these factors, Scandinavian modern embraced minimalism and intelligent use of materials. The limited amount of sunlight and endless winters also influenced designers to create environments that had as much light as possible. The democratic nature of the countries was also apparent, in the belief that design should be used to enrich everyone’s lives. The core believe of Scandinavian Modern is to raise the quality of design in everyday life.
Scandinavian Modern can be seen primarily in architecture and furniture, but also influences graphic design such as patterns and book covers. Splashes of stunning color are also signatures of Scandinavian modern, a fitting accent to the strong lines and geometric shapes. To the Nordic countries, good design is an essential part of a functioning society. This goes a long way to explain how such a relatively small region has exercised such massive influence on the design world. The grace and subtle human touches to Scandinavian modern has also started to reach digital design, such as website and digital interfaces. Not surprisingly, the strong and idealistic beliefs of Scandinavian modern, translate well to another medium. The goal remains the same despite being digital: to enhance the life of the user.
WORDS: Kwi. Kwi is a writer for Hughes Estate Sales who’s an expert on vintage furniture and design