Scandinavian design is a popular design movement, with its influence on almost all sectors including attires, architecture, interior décor and product packaging. The movement can be traced back to the early 20th century in the Nordic regions of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Finland.
However, it was only during the 1950s that this trend became popular around the world. Featuring the perfect blend of style, minimalism and functionality, Scandinavian design is an effective solution for today’s simple living. If you want to include this design element in your interior, fashion or branding elements, but have no concrete idea about it, this blog is for you.
What is Scandinavian Design and what are its Key Elements?
Typically marked by focus on chic, simple lines, minimalism, and utility, Scandinavian design came into the limelight in the 1950s, approximately the same time as modern fashion started dominating America and Europe. One thing that makes it so visually pleasing is its lack of confusion.
Typically, you won’t find any excessive or unnecessary features in any Scandinavian-style décor; rather, everything is organized and well-coordinated. While it has many elements in common with the mid-century modern design trend, Scandinavian style focuses on bright, simple designs, whereas MCM tends to showcase darker colors with less attention to light.
Simply speaking, there is nothing special or extravagant about Scandinavian design. It avoids including anything that’s unnecessary, hence just showcasing the crucial elements of any product, space or decor. As already stated, the key elements of Scandinavian design are simplicity, cleanliness, functionality, and quality craftsmanship.
When working with materials, it typically favors natural ones like ash and beech wood, wood, linen, glass, and leather. While some Scandinavian designs may use brighter colors or traditional patterns, most of them have a muted, minimalist aesthetics.
Here are some of the main characteristics of Scandinavian design:
- Minimalist aesthetic
- Understated design that follows function
- Light, neutral colors
- Muted, dark hues that remind of Nordic landscapes
- Decorative, statement color accents
- Multifunctional and flexible designs
- Natural patterns
The Rich History of Scandinavian Design
In order to understand the origin of Scandinavian design, we need to go back to the later days of the 19th century. With the advent of the industrial revolution, there was a radical change in all aspects of life, ranging from personal to political to industrial. As Modernism started taking hold of the Western World, the traditional ways were being gradually cast aside for the new.
Although a majority of the people was in support of the new trend, some were skeptical and saw Modernism as a threat to artistic traditions that were valued for so long. Of these opponents, the most vocal was William Morris. He was a key proponent of the arts and crafts movement, one that favored conventional craftsmanship over bulk machine productions and voiced a return to minimalist designs inspired by the romantic, medieval, and folk traditions.
While Morris’ philosophy became popular, Art Nouveau headed the design revolution in the initial years of the 20th century. Much like the Arts and Crafts revolution, Art Nouveau drew inspiration from nature and covered decorative arts as well as architecture.
However, by the ’20s, Art Nouveau gave way to another trend, Art Deco, a visually driven, modernist design approach that vividly encompassed the new machinery and industrialization of the age. Art Deco was popular for a few years before the economic downturn caused by the Wall Street collapse, quickly followed by World War II.
The war had a crushing effect on the social, artistic, and cultural aspects of the society. Prior to the battle, the larger and grander the furnishing of your house, the higher your social status was. After World War II, flaunting your wealth and possessions through pretentious splendor was looked down upon, with minimalism and functionality becoming the norm of the day.
According to the new social order, the poor had every right to access beautiful decorations as the wealthy, and rich to experience the same kind of functionality in their home as the poor. Simultaneously, the Northern European nations were coming close together, both politically and socially. They also bonded over design style – something that was simple, attractive and functional.
Thanks to the intense cold and harsh climatic conditions, the people of the Scandinavian countries had always valued utility above beauty. In the 1940s, the concept of a united, all-inclusive Scandinavian style was already seeded. By the 1950s, this idea had taken the shape of a concrete movement, which in the following years would become one of the most popular design trends in Europe.
Elizabeth Gordon was one of the chief proponents of the Scandinavian design movement and the person who introduced this concept to the rest of the world. She presented Scandinavian design as contrary to the pretentious, fascist designs that existed before it. Considering the fact that Europe was still recovering from the aftermath of the war, it’s obvious why a style that focused on simplicity and functionality became so popular.
With the support of the kings of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, Gordon took to the road and traveled between several American and Canadian regions between 1954 and 1957 to promote the “Design in Scandinavia” exhibition. Both Gordon and her design exhibition were a big hit, and towards the end of the 1950s, almost everybody had at least some kind of Scandinavian style incorporated in their home or life. In spite of experiencing a minor setback in popularity post the 1960s, it recuperated in the 1990s and currently ranks as one of the most popular and sustainable design styles in the world.
Scandinavian Colors – What are they?
Most Scandinavian designs make use of neutral and monochromatic shades like warm, vibrant whites with tan and black. Sometimes, they may also include pops of bright colors as accents. Gray-blues, blush pinks, sage, champagne, ivory, rose gold, cream and mauve are some of the most popular Scandinavian shades. Warm tan tones are also in trend, thanks to the style’s close association with nature and anything identified with it.
Final thoughts on Scandinavian Design
So, as we could see, Scandinavian Design is an inclusive term that covers several different elements. It’s minimalist as well as striking, stylish as well as functional, traditional as well as modern – it’s a design style that can be re-imagined and revised to suit almost all tastes and preferences.
The style that came to prominence during a challenging time (when the conventional social barriers were being crushed down) has now become a popular design type amongst people of all class and society. Consult an experienced graphic design agency like DesignBro if you want to make the most of Scandinavian design in your branding collateral.
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