Clean lines, clutter-less surfaces and natural materials, these are the three pillars of Scandinavian design. A branch of the Modern Movement, Scandinavian design prides itself on producing sublime, unadulterated forms that culminate into one functionally dynamic work of art. Whether it be a chair, table, bookcase or lamp, each piece is designed and crafted to personify the unattainable: perfection.
Scandinavian Design: A Brief History
The Industrial Revolution ushered in rapid change. The machine age not only accelerated industry, it also introduced the world to the mass production of weapons of war. After the destruction of WWI, all beauty seemed to drain from the natural world. The Industrial Revolution was both a blessing and a curse. Though it brought forth technological advances and made daily living easier, it was also the face of death. If world advancement meant sacrificing young men in a foreign war, was it worth it?
Artists, writers and designers alike were embittered by what they had seen and endured in the war. For them, the bloom of life was gone. It was during the interwar periods that the shift in the arts began. It moved away from the flowery and ornamented and moved to the clean and utilitarian.
Commonly referred to as Democratic Design, Scandinavian design (like Modernism) creates products and furnishings that are mass-produced and affordable. The purpose of Scandinavian design is to make a design that will transcend time. This means if you bought a Scandinavian chair today, it will still be in vogue, 20, 60, and even 100 years from now.
Like Modern design, the goal of Scandinavian design was to advance user experience through textiles, furniture and lighting. Scandinavia refers to the Northern countries of Europe, including: Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Smash Magazine reports that to maintain survival, these Nordic countries began creating highly functional furnishings and designs. If a decorative element did not further the function of the object, it was classified as unnecessary and made obsolete. What good is a floral motif if it does not enhance user experience?
Following in the footsteps of their predecessors, Muuto design founders Kristian Byrge and Peter Bonnen wanted to develop a product grounded in the Scandinavian design aesthetic that would encapsulate the integrity, honesty and organic-ism.
A leading design firm today, company leaders Byrge and Bonnenwork carefully with the best, personally-selected designers from the field in countries ranging from Sweden to Finland. In fact, the company’s name Muuto, was inspired by the Finnish word muutos, a word that connotes change or having a new perspective. How does Muuto Design capture both change and the Scandinavian design tradition? By developing pieces that are at once bold and muted, light and heavy. Muuto designers use natural and manmade materials, including, plastic, wood and leather.
The elements that make up the sofa you sit on and the light you read by are just as vital to the space as the objects themselves. In an interview with Dwell Magazine, Bonnen and Byrgesay that they started their company back in 2006 because “[Their] aim was to build on the strengths of Scandinavian design—functionality, craftsmanship, a no-nonsense and no-flashiness approach…” The design duo wanted to further build on the traditions of Scandinavian design and add “…[A] wider range of materials, of colors [and] of personal expression.”
By designing products each branded with their own color, stitch, pattern and texture, Muuto introduces consumers to the artistry of design. Design does not begin as this industrial object without a soul. Design takes its shape in the designer’s imagination. Design is a human endeavor; design is a human experience.