Scandinavian Design | Simple, Functional And Democratic

Scandinavian Design | Simple, Functional And Democratic image

Scandinavian product design is historically associated with simple, uncomplicated, functional and democratic approach. These characteristics form the basis of recent research on modernism. Scandinavian design has provided a paradigm to understand the making of the modern world, through product design.

Overview Of Scandinavian Design

 There is no specific definition of the Scandinavian design, but it’s rather an amorphous approach that combines functionality, modesty, equality, beauty and simplicity. This design concept demonstrates a lot of social responsibility and ethical problem –solving as well as empathetic properties. Scandinavian designers have always tried to respond to universal needs through a humanistic ethos and puritan values.  Very evident in the Scandinavian concept of design is the resourcefulness and efficacy of material use in design. Scandinavia being an area with relatively scarce resources, the designers found best solutions in simple designs. Notably recognizable among the traits of Scandinavian design is a high affinity towards the natural world resulting to highly representational designs with organic forms, and subsequently giving rise to a new theme in design – Organic Modernism.

History Of Scandinavian Design And The Birth Of Organic Modernism

Up to the sixteenth century, Scandinavian design was largely based on external Renaissance influences brought back home by young nobles travelling through the rest of Europe. Furniture design styles are a perfect example of such influences particularly in Denmark. The Eighteenth Century marked the beginning of a native Scandinavian neo-classicism which dominated furniture style in later years within Scandinavian society. Later in the Nineteenth Century, Scandinavian furniture design evolved to National Romanticism due to the desire to express indigenous cultural national identities.

Later on towards the end of the Nineteenth Century, a new cultural movement called Modernism started. This saw the shift from the traditional Realism that dominated art world previously. Realism was anchored on the desire to create design that looked real, truthful and usually conservative and was widely practiced in Scandinavian design approach throughout the centuries. Scandinavian designers felt the need to break from this rigidity by exploring more creativity while allowing more aesthetics considerations.

Design took a fairly minimalist turn, with clean simple lines. The concept was highly functional and effective without the need of heavy elements, utilizing only the needed material. This subtle decorative quality gave rise to the organic modernism design approach which seeks to create beautiful products that make life easier.

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Notable Scandinavian Designers And Their Contributions

Every Scandinavian country boasts of designers who made great contributions to design throughout history. Below are some notable designers from their respective countries.


Carl Larsson(1853-1919) – His most notable work is the “Ett Hem” , a book he published in 1899 documenting 24 reproductions of his water color art works. These paintings portrayed the ideal Swedish home with small light rooms, economically furnished to fit the needs of the modern family life. His designs marked the start of the Swedish design style.


In Denmark, Kaare Klint’s work inspired the design revolution. He excelled in furniture design and Architecture as well as mentoring young designers. Through his work in anthropometrics assisted the scientific analysis of the relationship between human body and furniture. The new scientific approach to furniture design became a bridge between neo-classicism and formalistic studies of proportion. The 1933 Deck Chair is an example of Kaare Klint’s contributions to Scandinavian design.


Alvar Aalto (1898 -1976) is one of Finland’s greatest modernist architect and designer. He was the pioneer of Modernist Functionalism in Finland and Scandinavia. His rise to international prominence came by his contributions in architecture which enabled him to promote his design work overseas. He also excelled in furniture, lighting, textiles and glass design in his career.  Aalto contributed immensely to the modification of neo-classicism to a form of functionalism. His design of the Turun Sanomat building in Turku (1927) marked this major paradigm shift.

Major Recognized Scandinavian Brands Today

Menu – Their furniture and décor design is the perfect example of the classical Scandinavian simplicity and elegance with a blend of masculine and feminine touch. One of their famous products is the Reade Table Lamp

Broste Copenhagen- They release collections including, tableware, lanterns, and textiles to décor. The Silk and Wool Throw is one of their popular products in the market right now.

IKEA – Most renowned of all Scandinavian brands, IKEA manufactures a wide range of products from décor, furniture, kitchen-ware to textiles etc.








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