Design

What is Scandinavian Design?

Scandinavian design is about so much more than furniture; from electronics to fashion, urban planning to interior design, Nordic minimalism has found its way into every aspect of our lives. But what does Scandinavian design mean?

We’re taking a deep dive into Scandinavian design, Nordic minimalism, where it all began, and how to bring it into your home:

What is Scandi design?

Scandinavian design is characterized by a minimal clean approach that seeks to combine functionality with beauty. Its focus is on simple lines and light airy spaces, devoid of clutter. These principles extend to all areas of design, from architecture to electronics, but it’s most commonly used to describe interior design, including furniture, textiles, ceramics, and lighting.

There is nothing superfluous about Scandinavian design, or Nordic minimalism as its sometimes called, as it strips back the unnecessary, showcasing the essential elements of any product.

Scandinavian colors are mostly neutral and monochromatic – bright whites with black and tan – with pops of color added through the use of an accentual hue. Plush pinks, gray-blues, and colors rooted in nature – like sage – are the most popular in Scandinavian design.

Above: Scandinavian natural color palettes by Jotun Lady

Organic and natural materials often take pride of place in Scandinavian design, reflecting the Scandinavian and Nordic countries relationship to nature. Wood, lightened to fit with a neutral color palette, and wool feature heavily in Scandinavian design, as do house plants.

This clean but warm theme, alongside the calming nature of a large, light-filled space without any clutter, is partly why Scandinavian design is so popular. This sort of Nordic minimalism allows people to invite peace into their home without creating a space that is uninviting or cold. It is full of life without being chaotic.

 
 

 

Scandinavian Design History

The Scandinavian design movement emerged in the early 20th century and flourished throughout the five Nordic countries in the 1950s.

Originating from the Danish Selskabet for Dekorativ Kunst, who launched its Skønvirke, literally “Graceful Work”, magazine in 1914, the title went on to become the name of a new Danish style of arts and crafts to rival contemporary trends like Art Nouveau – often reserved for the social elite, whereas Skønvirke promoted local crafts and accessible design.

 

Left: Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair; Right: Alvar Aalto Savoy Vase

From the 1930s, designers such as Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, and Maija Isola began producing and created a “golden age of Scandinavian design.” Their work was inspired by the concepts of Constructivism, Functionalism, and in some cases Surrealism.

It didn’t reach international recognition and its stellar levels of popularity until the 1950s, when the Lunning Prize was awarded to outstanding Scandinavian designers between 1951 and 1970. Scandinavian design history and its concept has been the subject of scholarly debate, exhibitions, and marketing agendas since the 1950s. Many emphasize the democratic design ideals that were a central theme of the movement and are reflected in the rhetoric surrounding contemporary Scandinavian and international design.

 
 

Why design is important?

A guiding principle of Scandinavian design is to establish harmony with one’s environment and to create things made to last. It seeks to compliment the art of living well, by promoting a simple home environment that is filled with quality items and enhances an unencumbered lifestyle devoid of excess consumerism. In this way it’s both important for an individual, as a home environment that encourages a life well lived is an increasingly important counter to the pressures of modern life, and for the planet, as it challenges rampant consumerism and deepens our connection to nature.

Above: Dinesen Collection; Photo by Jonas Bjerre Poulsen

 
 

Architecture, urban planning, and socially innovative design

Alongside the touchstones of simplicity, functionality, and comfort, Scandinavian architecture utilizes light, creates use for natural materials, and integrates with nature. It is this final quality that has seen Scandinavian architecture and urban planning become an innovator for environmentally conscious and socially innovative design. Through intelligent design and an understanding of nature, Scandinavia has managed to bring nature into its cities. Find out more about the history of Scandinavian architecture.

 

 

Graphic design

Bold and graphic, Scandinavian graphic design remains clean while using simple, stripped back imagery to make its point in posters, typography, and marketing, as well as art. Clean lines, restrained color palettes, and uncluttered visuals are all prominent in Scandinavian graphic design. Often, a few lines are used to create a suggestion of an idea, and the visual language relies on the use of dead space. It is clever design that allows the viewer to fill in the blanks, instantly recognizable while bare. Functionality is key here, as Scandinavian graphic design aims to give as much information through as few markings as possible.

 

Left: ‘This is This’ by Lars Fuhre; Right: ‘Monday’ by Anna Johansson from The Poster Club


 

 
 

Fashion, beauty, and lifestyle

High quality, natural fibers, and well-made pieces designed to last are the lifeblood of Scandnavian fashion design, perhaps explaining why Scandinavia has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement in fashion – Scandinavian fashion has always been slow.

Although minimalism and monochrome are still rife within the world of fashion design, this is an area that also has space for a more playful, irreverent approach. From maximalist, floral designs to bright jewel-toned colors, pattern clashing to traditional knitwear, many Scandinavian fashion brands will focus on beautiful, well-made basics while adding a splash of fun – just as Scandinavian interiors add a pop of color to an otherwise simple room.

Scandinavian beauty has seen phenomenal growth in the past decade, as traditional methods that utilize local flora has come into favor. Scandinavian design packaging has been emulated worldwide, while the principles of Scandinavian beauty – choosing natural, organic, and local ingredients – is being interpreted in each new territory.

 

 

Furniture, lighting, and Scandinavian home decoration

Scandinavian design is minimal, so the few pieces in the room have got to make it count, which is why so much emphasis is put on items like the humble chair. Craftsmanship and timeless design are likely to be found in any item in a Scandinavian room.

Lighting is a huge part of Scandinavian design, as the Nordic countries get so little of it naturally during the winter. As well as maximizing natural light at every opportunity – with white walls or large windows – lamps and lighting solutions are critical.

In every room there should be multiple light sources, ranging from the warm, low light of a candle to the bright overhead glow of a ceiling light. Scandinavian design seeks to spread light as effectively as possible without creating a harsh atmosphere. Poul Henningsen’s distinctive lamp designs are an excellent example. The designer looked for a solution to spread the bulb’s light as widely as possible without the glare being visible. This resulted in the elegant floral shape of his lamp, with each petal shape softening and spreading the brightness of the bulb.

Home goods create a perfect balance between minimalism and feeling relaxed. They put forth a calm-and-cozy vibe, allowing your space to look like a Kinfolk spread but remain completely liveable.

 
 

Hygge

How do you design for hygge? You can’t, really, it’s an emotional response to a feeling of comfort or happiness. You can, however, create an environment that promotes a life well-lived. Fill your home with things that give you joy and welcome your loved ones in: low-level lighting and candles, a beautiful dining set, thick woolen blankets, even a board game should do it!

 

 

Sustainability

Given Scandinavian design’s propensity for utilitarianism, it should come as no surprise that sustainability is now integral to most modern Scandinavian design. Nordic design principles of craftsmanship, quality, and enabling a better day-to-day are a natural bedfellow for sustainability, which naturally seeks to return to slow, local manufacturing of high-quality products designed to last.

 
 

Price vs Quality

The price point of Scandinavian design can seem a little high, but for the most part it’s simply about quality. Don’t be fooled into spending more just because something has hygge written on it, but accept that buying high-quality pieces will cost more upfront (but less over time – you won’t need to replace any time soon!)

 

 
 

Danish design

Simplicity, functionality, and elegance – these are the calling cards of Danish design. Known for its sleek lines and sophistication, Denmark is also the country you’re most likely to find a touch of luxury. Chairs are most commonly associated with Danish design, but the industry has found roots in fashion, beauty, electronics, ceramics, and homeware, alongside furniture and products design. Denmark is also now the only country to host a fashion week in the Scandinavian countries.

 

Famous Danish designers

Børge Mogensen
(1914–72)

Furniture

One of the most important among a generation of furniture designers who made the concept of “Danish Modern” known throughout the world. Together with colleagues such as Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner, Mogensen created international respect for Danish furniture design, and his simple and functional designs have for more than half a century enjoyed worldwide demand.

Finn Juhl
(1912–89)

Architecture, Interior & Industrial Design

One of the leading figures in the creation of “Danish design” in the 1940s and the designer responsible for introducing Danish Modern to America. He’s mostly remembered for his furniture design, but also designed the Georg Jensen shop in Toronto, Canada.

Hans Wegner
(1914–2007)

Furniture

A world-renowned iconic Danish furniture designer who contributed to the international popularity of mid-century Danish design. In his lifetime he designed over 500 different chairs, over 100 of which were put into mass production and many of which have become recognizable design icons.

Arne Jacobsen
(1902–71)

Architecture & Design

Notable for his contribution to architectural Functionalism and enjoyed worldwide success for his simple but effective chair designs. Famously designed the Egg and Swan chairs, as well as the SAS Royal Hotel.

Poul Kjærholm
(1929–80)

Furniture

Notable designs include the Tulip chair, with many of his works in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and other museum collections in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany. Also had an outstanding career as an educator.

Poul Henningsen
(1894–1967)

Architecture, Design & Author

Often referred to as simply PH in Denmark, Henningsen is most commonly associated with his design of the PH-lamp series of incandescent lamps.

Verner Panton
(1926–98)

Furniture & Interior Design

Considered one of Denmark’s most influential 20th-century designers. Panton created innovative and futuristic designs in a variety of materials, especially plastics, and in bright colors. The style was typical of the 1960s but found new popularity at the end of the 20th century.

Don’t be fooled into thinking Danish design history was a boys club:

Gertrud Vasegaard
(1913-2007)

Ceramics

Mostly remembered for her tea set which was included in the Danish Culture Canon. A prominent ceramists and designer for Royal Copenhagen.

Grete Jalk
(1920-2006)

Furniture

Notable works include the plywood GJ Chair and GJ Table. Jalk enhanced Denmark’s reputation for modern furniture design with her clear, comfortable lines and origami-style folded designs.

Marie Gudme Leth
(1895-1997)

Textiles

A pioneer of industrial screen printing. Her work first concentrated on prints of flowers and animals before turning to more geometrical designs.

Nanna Ditzel
(1923-2005)

Furniture

A furniture designer who worked across cabinet-making, jewelry, tableware, and textiles. Notably created jewelry designs for Georg Jensen and furniture for Frederica.

Grethe Meyer
(1918-2008)

Architecture & Design

Produced many products for the home, alongside her dinnerware designs for Royal Copenhagen. Meyer inspired many female architects and designers, pushing open the door to gender equality in the design industry. Most productive in the late 1940s-70s, she focused not only on her pieces but on the consumers, noting that she wanted to produce high-quality items that people could afford.

Karen Clemmensen
(1917-2001)

Architecture

Co-founder of an architecture firm, set up with her husband Ebbe, that designed both traditional and modern Functionalist buildings. Often inspired by Japanese and American trends, their work includes Kildeskovshallen in Gentofte and LO-skolen in Helsingør.

 

 

Current Danish Designers

Cecilie Manz

Industrial & Furniture Design

Cecilie Manz designs furniture, glass, lamps, and related products, mainly for the home.
In addition to her work with industrial products, her experimental prototypes and more sculptural one-offs make up an important part of her work and approach.

Øivind Alexander Slaatto

Lighting, Electronic & Furniture Design

Creates simple, obvious yet poetic solutions that are often also inspired by nature. Has worked on Louis Poulsen and Bang & Olufsen products.

Benandsebastian

Art & Design

Ben Clement, UK, and Sebastian de la Cour, Denmark, make up the artist duo benandsebastian. Their elaborately crafted sculptural and installation artworks have been shown throughout Europe, in the US, and in Japan. A notable body of work was their “Phantom Limb” exhibition at the Designmuseum Danmark.

Anne Dorthe Vester and Maria Bruun

Art & Design

Danish architect Anne Dorthe Vester and designer Maria Bruun work in collaboration, creating objects at the intersection of architecture, design, and art. Their work focuses on abstractions, like idioms, functional hybrids, and on the aesthetics of materials and form in relation to surrounding spaces.

Christina Schou Christensen

Ceramics

An experimental ceramicist whose works include “Shaping Fluid,” in which Christensen builds forms from glazes instead of clay. She manipulates famously rigid material to create pieces that look viscous, fluid, in movement, and soft.

Rosa Tolnov Clausen

Textiles

Through handweaving, Clausen creates physical spaces in which to further explore and challenge notions about the method. Her projects include “Weaving Kiosk” (2017) in the Nordic countries, “Export/import” (2018) in Japan, and “Groundwork” (2016) in South Korea.

Yuki Ferdinandsen

Silversmith

Yuki Ferdinansen is a Japanese silversmith and metal chaser based in Denmark. Using the traditional Japanese artisan technique Arare in creating Danish modern design, Ferdinansen produces hammered and textured pieces that blend Japanese and Danish design sensibilities.

Stine Goya

Fashion Design

Designer Stine Goya established her namesake brand in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2006. The brand creates four seasonal collections, artist collaborations and fashion shows in-line with their signature marriage of color & print. Everything is developed in-house and the brand remains completely independent.

Chris L. Halstrøm

Furniture & Product Design

Alongside creating simple designs rooted familiarity for her own studio, Halstrøm is also part of the duo INCLUDED MIDDLE together with textile designer Margrethe Odgaard.

Ole Jensen

Product Design

Originally focused on ceramics, but has later on broadened his work considerably. He has taught at several design schools, exhibited his works worldwide, and co-founded and served as a member of several design associations and councils. He also designs for Normann.

Akiko Kuwahata and and Ken Winther

Furniture & Product Design

Akiko worked as a cabinet maker in Japan before partnering with Winther, a carpenter. They live and work together in a villa north of Copenhagen, producing beautiful wooden homeware pieces.

Vibeke Fonnesberg Schmidt

Lighting & Electronic Design

Vibeke Fonnesberg Schmidt handbuilds exclusive one-off lamps in plexiglass and brass with reminiscences of 1960s Italian design, French Art Nouveau, and German Bauhaus modernism. Schmidt has worked with world-renowned partners, including Nilufar Gallery and Dimore Studio in Milan and leading international interior designers.

Henrik Vibskov

Fashion Design

Vibskov has been cited as a New Nordic designer, praised for his playful fashion sense that steers clear of Scandinavian minimalism, emphasizing instead the eclectic sensibility of multicultural Copenhagen. Vibskov is also an artist, interior designer, film director, and musician. He won the Beck’s Futures prize in 2000 for his film The Monk and has also contributed interior designs to numerous places in Denmark, and has designed for the Royal Danish Horticultural Society’s Garden.

 
 

 

Finnish design

Finnish design is about more than looks. In Finland, design is as much about the nature that surrounds it as it is about the everyday lives it needs to support. Finns take inspiration from nature and turn it into objects, architecture, and a blueprint for a way to live. There’s an emphasis on timeless, natural design, recognizing that everything is borrowed from nature and will one day return.

As the famous Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto once said:

“Nothing is ever reborn but neither does it totally disappear. And that which has once been born, will always reappear in a new form.”

 

Famous Finnish designers

Alvar Aalto
(1898-1976)

Architechture & Design

Alvar Aalto was a Finnish architect and designer. His career spanned architecture, furniture, textiles, and glassware, as well as sculpture and painting. Notable works include the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, the Model 60 stacking stool (see header image), and the Aalto Vase.

Armi Ratia
(1912-1979)

Textiles

Armi Ratia was the co-founder of the Finnish textile and clothing company Marimekko, a fashion and textiles company known for its bright prints and female-forward design. She is among Finland’s most famous female entrepreneurs.

Tapio Wirkkala
(1915-1985)

Design

Tapio Wirkkala was a Finnish designer and sculptor, a major figure of post-war design. His work ranges from designs of plastic ketchup bottles and metalware to glass, ceramics and plywood in a range of styles. His success as a glass designer began in 1946 when he designed the Kantarelli vase for Iittala, and the mass-produced Tapio collection was launched in 1954.

Kaj Franck
(1911-1989)

Design & Applied Arts

Franck was artistic director of the Arabia ceramics company (now part of Iittala Group) and artistic director and teacher at the College of Applied Arts – the predecessor of the University of Art and Design Helsinki (now Aalto University) – since 1945, but created designs for other companies as well.

Oiva Toikka
(1931-2019)

Glass Design

Oiva Toikka was renowned for his designs for glassware for the Finnish design company Iittala. Originally trained in ceramics at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, he took up glass design later in life. Some of his best known works are the Kastehelmi and Flora tableware from the 1960s and the Pioni and Krouvi collections from the 1970s.

Maija Isola
(1927-2001)

Textiles

Maija Sofia Isola was a Finnish designer of printed textiles, creating over 500 patterns including Unikko. Her bold colorful designs made the home furnishings and fashion company Marimekko famous in the 1960s. She also had a career as a visual artist.

Antti Nurmesniemi
(1927-2003)

Design

Antti Nurmesniemi is best known for his coffee pots and interior design work. Antti Nurmesniemi’s work includes enamel coffee pots and furniture such as the Jakkara sauna stool, as well as interior design work. He has been referred to as the “Grand Old Man of Finnish Design”, and he won the Lunning Prize in 1959. Nurmesniemi was involved in the modernist design of the Palace Hotel from 1951–1953 with Olli Borg and Olavi Hänninen.

Annika Rimala
(1936–2014)

Textiles

Annika Rimala is best known for her work for Marimekko, who she worked for between 1960 and 1982, most notably the company’s first knitwear collection, Tasaraita, which was launched in 1968. Personality and humor are combined with durability and practicality in her design work.

 

 

Current Finnish designers

Milla Vaahtera

Art & Design

Artist and designer Milla Vaahtera’s products play with ideas of space, shape, and tension. She creates mobiles with brass blown glass items, particularly working with specialized glass blowers and silversmiths to make ethereal pieces.

Antrei Hartikainen

Furniture

Carpentry is alive and kicking with craftsman Antrei Hartikainen. Bringing together sculptural shapes and expert knowledge, Hartikainen’s furniture pieces blur the lines between functionality and artistry – why have one and not the other?

Harri Koskinen

Product Design

Harri Koskinen has an uncompromising, bold design aesthetic that has gained him international renown since the early days of his career. Practicality, a spare style and a conceptual approach to product and spatial design are Koskinen’s trademarks.

Joanna Laajisto

Interior Design

Launched by Joanna Laajisto in 2010. Be it interiors, products, or services, Studio Joanna Laajisto’s philosophy is to create beautiful, long-lasting, and meaningful design that drives from sustainable values and understanding of human behavior. They work in the fields of commercial interiors such as retail, hospitality, and workplace design as well as product and concept design.

For more Finnish designers, be sure to check our list of emerging talent.

 
 

 

Swedish Design

Swedish design is minimalist, with an emphasis on functionality and clean lines. It’s most famous export, IKEA, also places emphasis on democratic design, meaning good, quality design should be accessible to all – especially when it comes to furniture. Sweden is also known for traditional crafts including glass, the instantly recognizable Dala horse, and Sami handicrafts, these are the bone and leather items crafted by the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sápmi.

 

Famous Swedish designers

Anna Petrus
(1886-1949)

Sculpture

Petrus, a sculptor and industrial designer, was at the forefront of the Swedish push towards artistic design of the 1910s and 20s. Her intricate and ornamental work includes tables, candlesticks, vases and more.

Sylvia Stave
(1908-1994)

Silversmith

Designer and silversmith Sylvia Stave created a number of popular pieces – mostly home and interior goods – during her career in the 1930s. Her minimalist, functional style was, and remains, extremely modern and fresh. Stave acted as artistic director for CG Hallsbergs Goldsmith from 1931 – 1939.

Josef Frank
(1885-1967)

Architecture & Design

Josef Frank was an Austrian-born architect, artist, and designer who adopted Swedish citizenship in the latter half of his life. Together with Oskar Strnad, he created the Vienna School of Architecture, and its concept of Modern houses, housing, and interiors.

Greta Magnusson-Grossman
(1906-1999)

Architecture, Interior & Product Design

Greta Magnusson-Grossman was a Swedish furniture designer, interior designer, and architect. She was one of the few female designers to gain prominence during the mid-20th century architectural scene in Los Angeles.

Stig Lindberg
(1916-1982)

Ceramicist, Glass & Textiles

Stig Lindberg was a Swedish ceramic designer, glass designer, textile designer, industrial designer, painter, and illustrator. One of Sweden’s most important postwar designers, Lindberg created whimsical studio ceramics and graceful tableware lines during a long career with the Gustavsberg pottery factory.

Want more? Check out these Swedish women designers to know.

 

Current Swedish designers

Selam Fessahaye

Fashion Design

Selam Fessahaye is a Swedish-Eritrean costume designer who launched her first ready-to-wear collection in August 2018. Her work is romantic, with exaggerated silhouettes and sparkling fabrics, and deeply personal.

Jenny Nordberg

Industrial Design

Well-known and deeply respected in the Scandinavian design world, Swedish designer Jenny Nordberg has made a name for herself with her often humorous and always ingenious pieces and exhibitions. Her multidisciplinary work ranges from small home products to furniture, but always has a touch of the unexpected. Nordberg is also focused on production, and is the founder of the local sourcing production platform SPOK.

Tham & Videgård

Architecture

Tham & Videgård are based in Stockholm, Sweden, and directed by co-founders and lead architects Bolle Tham and Martin Videgård. Since the start in 1999 the practice has attracted attention for its experimental approach and innovative works. Notable works include the Moderna Museet in Malmö and the Stockholm Concert Hall.

Wang & Söderström

Art & Design

Comprised of Swedish designer Anny Wang and architect Tim Söderström, Wang & Söderström focus on digital/physical explorations and fabrication.

Kajsa Willner

Industrial Design

Based in Malmö, Swedish designer Kajsa Willner specializes in furniture, product, and exhibition design. Her pieces are usually site-specific, taking into account the environment and atmosphere of the location. Willner’s willingness to experiment, play with materiality, and focus on sustainable design makes her a stand-out amongst emerging Swedish designers.

 

Left: Kajsa Willner‘s Materiality Aggregation; Right: Wang & Söderström, photo by Mishael Phillip

 

For more, check out our list of emerging Swedish designers.

 
 

 

Norwegian Design

Factors such as nature-inspired forms, graceful lines, and light are prominent in Norwegian design, but its biggest influence is function. The design in Norway is geared towards the outdoors and thriving in harsh winters, with very little room for luxury. Instead, a sense of wellbeing is found in the comfortable and robust.

 

Famous Norwegian designers

Jac Jacobsen
(1901-1996)

Product Design

Jacobsen originally worked in the textile industry, before he developed the Luxo-L1, a balanced-arm lamp, in 1937. Today, the lamp is part of various exhibitions in museums around the world as as an example of classic lamp design.

Else Marie Jakobsen
(1927-2012)

Textile & Product Design

Else Marie Jakobsen was a Norwegian designer and textile artist, she is particularly known for tapestries and her work on altarpieces. She made 33 at home and abroad, including in Copenhagen, Spain, and the UAE, and wove over 500 tapestries for private homes and public buildings.

Ingmar Relling
(1920-2002)

Furniture

Relling started life as a carpenter before launching a company in 1950. From 1960 he focused on chair design, most notably developing the Siesta and Orbit styles.

Tias Eckhoff
(1926-2016)

Product Design

Educated in ceramic arts but ultimately multi-disciplinary, Eckhoff was one of Norway’s most versatile designs. His work includes his notable cutlery collection, Maya.

 
 

Current Norwegian Designers

Anderssen & Voll

Furniture

Anderssen & Voll was established in 2009, and works within various fields of design but focuses on domestic objects in particular. Their work receptive to cultural influences and applies market knowledge in forward-thinking ways to generate groundbreaking, functional and desirable products.

Andreas Engesvik

Product Design

Engesvik is an internationally renowned designer of furniture, tableware, and other product design for a great variety of brands including Iittala, Muuto, Folgia (see header image), Fontana Arte, Ligne Roset and Asplund. His personal practice is concerned with contemporary classics.

Kristine Five Melvær

Product Design

Melvær designs tableware, lighting, furniture, graphic design and textile objects. She connects visual communication with design and focuses on the communicative potential of objects in order to create emotional bonds between object and user.

Looking to buy some modern design when in Oslo? Make sure to stop by Kollekted By.

 
 

 

Icelandic design

Contemporary Icelandic design is perhaps an anomaly amongst Scandinavian design. While its by no mean impractical, it is perhaps the most avant-garde, as the need for resourcefulness and innovation in a country so limited when it comes to natural resources has seen creativity flourish. Wool is ever-present and plays a large part in Icelandic traditional design, while more modern materials like fish-leather can be found in modern contemporary design.

 

Famous Icelandic designers

Guðjón Samúelsson
(1887-1950)

Architecture

Guðjón Samúelsson was a State Architect of Iceland, and the first Icelander to be educated in architecture. He’s considered one of Iceland’s most influential architects and designed notable buildings like Hallgrimskirkja.

Einar Sveinsson
(1906-1973)

Architecture

Einar Sveinsson was an Icelandic architect. He was the City Architect of Reykjavík between 1934–1973, and widely considered to have played a key role in shaping the appearance of Reykjavík in the mid-20th century.

Högna Sigurðardóttir
(1929-2017)

Architecture

Högna Sigurðardóttir was a leading Icelandic architect and the first woman to design a building in Iceland. Notable works include the Bakkaflöt house.

 
 

Current Icelandic designers

Hannah Whitehead

Ceramic, Homeware & Product Design

Studio Hanna Whitehead focuses on a hands-on approach, working in a personal way to interweave story, shape, materials, and color. Her work borders art, design, and craft, often utilizing diverse materials within the same subject.

FÓLK

Interior

Founded in 2017, Fólk is an interior and lifestyle brand that makes designs for modern sustainable living. Fólk works with progressive designers on smart homeware, furniture, and lifestyle products focused on sustainability, responsibility, and transparency around the production process.

Usee Studio

Fashion & Homeware

Usee is a small design studio launched by friends Halla Hákonardóttir and Helga Björg Kjerúlf.

Find more emerging Icelandic designers to know here.

 
 

 

Scandinavian design differences between the countries

Although it may originate from one group, there are subtle differences between the Scandinavian design coming from each country.

Norwegian design can be described as less style-conscious than its Scandinavian neighbors. Its designs offer a quirky mix of cutting-edge, modernist, and historical design.

Sweden stays muted in colors but also in character. Sticking to pale tones and nothing too loud. A distinguishing feature of Swedish design over the years is the prioritization of efficiency – an ethos that its designers successfully embrace.

Perhaps as a way of encouraging hygge, Danish design can be more playful than its Scandinavian neighbors, as it welcomes tonal shades and the odd pop of color. Danish design has also been heavily influenced by the German Bauhaus School and the country’s special relationship with Japan.

 
 
 

How does Scandinavian design differ from mid-modern century

The two are often conflated and used interchangeably, but there are crucial differences between the styles. While there is a great deal of overlap, mid-modern century is an altogether darker style that focuses less on light. It’s typically used to describe Modernist design from the 1940s-1960s.