This chapter aims to understand how Scandinavian
countries stand historically aligned through their design values and
philosophies and how they have developed over time.
how these principles lay the foundation in advocating world-renowned design
Examine the relationship between politics and design
and the cultural impact the relationship holds.
Study historical influences and iconic designers who
have shaped Scandinavian design standards throughout the decades.MJ1
The term ‘Scandinavian’
usually applies to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. These
countries united in the years subsequent to World War II as a ‘cold war construct in a region searching for a
voice within an inharmonious war devastated Europe.’ (K Murphy, 2014) The
Nordic identify provided comfort and solidarity to a fragile post war region.
The countries’ small populations, vast impenetrable landscapes and geographical
isolation emphasised the need for cooperation within and across the countries.
Scandinavia stands historically aligned through cultural and ethical values;
these principles are perhaps the foundation in advocating world-renowned
Within the world of
Scandinavian design the use of the colour red is significant, as it stands
boldly against the frequently used white
pine, ash, and beech wood. The Swedish use
the expression den röda tråden.
Translated as the red
thread, they use it to describe ‘the heart of the matter or common denominator
of something.’ (E.Terragni 2017) The red thread is a principle that links these
countries together with their past heritage and aesthetic appreciation in
society; this red thread runs deeply through each country’s design
They key characteristics of Scandinavian
design focuses on function without compromising aesthetic qualities. Surrounded
by a prodigious landscape, Scandinavians
designers make the most of sourcing naturally available materials. The
Scandinavian style is minimal; there is no ostentation involved in the design
execution, but tasteful clean forms consisting of true quality. These values have created traditional designs
highly regarded around the world such as Swedish Dala wooden horses, Norwegian
Reindeer hides and Eero Saarinen’s Tulip Chairs MJ2 from Finland.
Quality of life is highly
regarded in northern countries; this involves the right to good design.
Luxurious items made from expensive materials do not define their values of
good design. They place value in everyday objects such as cutlery, ceramics,
lighting, furniture made from suitable materials that will last through
generations. These objects shape how society goes about their day to day life
and how they interact with one another there, it’s an appreciation for
functional necessities to accommodate a practical modest way of living.
Design in Scandinavia is
more than form and aesthetic consideration for products; politicians and urban
planners use it as a tool to support and enable social change. For example, the
textures of the tiled street paths are coarser at the edges than in the centre
so that using the opposing textures the blind can understand where to stop and
cross. It is examples like this, investing to integrate design to benefit our
daily interactions that makes Scandinavia unique.
Scandinavian countries have
developed people-centric societies; meaning that citizens are considered their
most important asset. This has been developed over history due to “harsh
weather conditions, limited resources and external threats from large European
powers” (Soren Petersen, 2012.)
The “Nordic Model” of welfare politics is the economic
policies usually applied to the
countries Sweden, Norway and Denmark, Finland and Iceland in Scandinavia. This
model highlights basic criteria that each country values, such as providing
individuals with a high quality life day to day. Principles of care (omsorg),
justice (rattvisa), and social equality (jamlikhet) are shared though
Scandinavian democracy. This framework urges equality of economic and social
life across rural and urban sceneries. It looks to even out the extreme
disparities through ‘access to employment and job protection for all workers.’
(K Murphy, 2014) The federal government subsidizes all social, economic, health
care and educational issues. This removes the burden from the individual to
maintain a good quality of life by investing money and trusting in the state.
Today welfare state values are ingrained in contemporary Scandinavia that is
more accurately defined as ‘a social system in which welfare assumptions are an
organic part of everyday life.” (J. Robertson, 200)
Scandinavians are moulded by
their deep connection with nature; they nurture their landscape and treat it in
a sustainable way. There are various Norwegian words referring to human
relationships with nature such as ‘fjellvant – walking habitually in the
mountains, or frilufsliv – living in harmony with nature.’ (A. Roos, 2016)
Northerners travel from urban areas and retreat into weekend forest cabins
surrounded by vast lakes, providing a sense of escapism and perspective on
their 8-4pm occupation. There is an understanding in the power nature and the
uncultivated danger of it, ‘ you feel that you are quite small compared to
these forces of nature and, at the same time you feel an inner greatness
because you are always connected to them,” says polar explorer, Erling Kagge.
(A. Roos, 2016) Norway, Sweden Denmark, Finland and Iceland all have to prepare
themselves against harsh dark winter elements and endure lightless days through
winter against tough terrain. Its safe to say Nordic countries struggle against
extreme conditions, these environments have created certain attitudes in being
practical, frugal and resourceful with natures provisions. Scandinavia’s
relationship with its resources has always been important; it forms part of the
region’s identity as they cultivated and harvested produce in balance with
nature. It meant products inherently were made to last due to the use of
quality material. Houses had to withstand harsh conditions and furniture was
passed down from generation offering a longevity scheme to prevent waste.
The theme of contact with
nature and a once frugal, predominantly rural society inspired many of the most
influential Scandinavian designers – Alvar Aalto, Kaare Klint and Borge
Morgensen. Alvar Aalto was inspired by the simplicity of objects commonly found
in rural farmhouses. Scandinavia has always been resourceful and
environmentally aware, iconic designers never discarded old designs but
improved upon existing products such as tables and chairs applying new
Post-World War II presented
Scandinavia with an opportunity for a new design approach to shape the past
into something new. They kept the value of reflection on their own cultural
heritage, but they looked to create a fresh start using modernism. Scandinavian
principles have always been utilitarian even surrounded by a wealth of natural
Scandinavian designs evolved
separately from other countries’ take on modernism. Their style of modernism
embraced warmth and considered the simplicity of human touch to machine-made
practicality that characterises Modernism.
This stood out as they used their local craft skills and local materials
for which the Scandinavian countries are known. They progressed with
traditional methods that preserved the skill and originality of the region’s
craftsmanship, while other countries focused on only embracing new production
processes. Designers experimented with traditional processes, leading to
exciting advancements in manufacturing methods such as plywood bending and the
use of unusual wood varieties. This inspired architects and designers to create
brilliant designs that would be affordable to regular consumers, using new
lower cost production techniques. Alvar Alto was very influential during this
time. He created iconic furniture in laminated plywood, it was ground-breaking
as it was such a simple material, yet provided strength and longevity. Nordic
home building and prefabricated housing were monumental in the industrial
revolution, M3 allowing quality homes to be built for the housing
crisis post World War II.
Nordic values of combining old traditions and new
developments have characterised Scandinavian homes; this creates the atmosphere
of warm, understood
qualityM4 . The word
hygge (pronounced hue-gah) comes from Danish origin meaning “a quality
of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of
contentment or well-being.” It encompasses people’s attitudes to their homes
and tactility between objects and furnishings. However, Britain’s perception of
‘Hygge ‘is narrowed to a Danish lifestyle sold through high-street consumerism,
it is actually more endemic within Scandinavian culture. Other Scandinavian
countries have different names for the same set of principles, the Swedes
calling it mys, the Norwegians,
kose, and the Finns l?mpö?. ‘Hygge’ has a direct
influence on the traditional design values of Scandinavians to provide
emotional comfort that help enhance daily living.MJ5
as a paragraph. This chapter aims to . .
need to distinguish this from the main Industrial Revolution.
very clear. Understated quality?
concluding paragraph will be useful.