Swedish Design, two words that immediately invoke ideas of good design. So why is it good design and why are the Swedes so great at it?
The strength of a design is usually based on three things: how well it functions, how nice it looks, and how much it costs. Eagerly embracing the ideas of beauty in simplicity, clever functionality, and quality in craftsmanship, Swedish Designers make things that simply put work very well and are beautiful at the same time.
Their talent for design isn’t just pleasant happenstance, but developed out of a rich cultural history. Masters of their craft, Artisans were able to hold on to quality that is typical of Swedish design. They did this right through the industrial era purely because of their disapproval for the techniques of mass manufacturing. While other countries gave up their craft traditions in favour of mass production, Sweden continued using their handcraft methods. Much later, when Swedish designers did begin to produce on a mass scale, they found ways of manufacturing that retained the elements of folk art that were so integral to their cultural identity.
Also at the heart of this history is Swedish democratic society, which held the belief that good design should be affordable and not just reserved for the wealthy. They aimed to enhance the quality of living and also effect social change through their designs. Because of this, good design has become a part of every day life for the Swedes.
Another characteristic that sets the Swedish style apart is that its designers have always been heavily influenced by their natural surroundings. They use this connection with nature to inform their designs; letting the shapes be organic rather than linear, and by using wood as a primary material. Whether or not this adds to the ‘goodness’ of Swedish design may be a little subjective, but it has undoubtedly stood the test of time. Swedish design was introduced to the world in the 1950s when Sweden joined forces with Denmark, Norway, and Finland to promote ‘Scandinavian Design’, a style synonymous with clean design, sensibility and functionality. Scandinavian Designers held exhibitions throughout The United States and Canada showcasing ceramics, furniture, glassware, metal work, and textiles, while promoting the ’Scandinavian way of living’. From that point onward Scandinavian design was here to stay.
Although for over half a century Swedish design has flourished, within the past ten years a resurgence has taken place. While incorporating traditional ideals, Swedish design is now moving towards addressing emotional values in their work. Designers want to tell a story and design as a commentary on current times. So now we have beautiful and affordable objects that are designed and function well, and tell a story. This leaves you wondering where Swedish design will take us next...