In the 1930s to 1960s, during the period of World War II till its end, the design of products amidst the warring states in Europe had created a great change on their respective treatment towards product and design. For countries that were affected by the war, their design had, in essence, been affected by their political influences or economic status. A prime example would be the Germans. During the rule of Hitler, the Bauhaus school had to be closed in 1933 due to the disagreements of the Bauhaus’ internationalist approach and decision to remain apolitical to the Nazis. Post-World War II, the Ulm School was started to research on new methods of production and social responsibility in design. It was also successful thanks to the implementation of the Marshall plan by the United States of America. While this is a prime example of the political intervention to design, I will be examining the Europe that had little to even no involvement in the war – the Scandinavians.
Referring to specifically, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. While Norway and Denmark had been invaded by Germany, Sweden had managed to remove herself from most of the action through strict diplomacy. Although it is noted that the Scandinavians had little action during the war and were mainly co-operative during this period, the main crux of their design ethos laid with their surroundings. With 3 months of summer and 9 months of cold winter, limited resources, and their strive for democratic design, the Scandinavians had produced a unique characteristic of designed products to reflect their characteristics and environment.
The cold climate in the Nordic countries proved that they required another source of warmth. The Danish concept of ‘hygge’ which refers to the feelings of ‘coziness’ and ‘warmth’ was heavily implied throughout the designs of the region. In order to achieve this feeling, a lot of natural materials like wood and stone were used. Products were designed to look like natural objects. In Figure 1., the glass vase was constructed to reflect the image of an apple. The underlyingnaturalism of these products create a pseudo-natural effect on interiors when used, augmenting the concept of ‘hygge’. Other examples would be the use of wood.
The chair in Figure 2. is a prime example of the application of ‘hygge’ despite having a modernist minimalist design. The wood is bent in a curvilinear manner as opposed to angular bends. The chair provides a warm ‘feeling’ through the use of material and form, reinforcing the concept of ‘hygge’ in a non-naturalistic manner (as opposed to the Apple Vase in Figure 1.). Another example of the warmth in the design is the curves emulating the human physique, providing the imprint of human in the design
Due to their geographic isolation, the Scandinavians had to learn how to marry their skills in craftsmanship and with their surrounding resources. As a result of this lack of resources, a serious need for functionalism was adopted. However, in the previous paragraphs, it is also noted that the use of ‘hygge’ was also adopted through the functionalism. An example of this was the lamp. Yki Nummi’s Kuplat Lamp was anelegant lamp that emulated a bubble. This design was showed that the beauty of something so simple did not detract from its inherent function – the lamp as asource of light and illumination. Another good example of this skilled craftsmanship would be the chair in Figure 5. The chair is essentially made with one piece of wood, demonstrating the skilled craftsmanship and smart use of limited resources, yet the smart use of wood reinforced the idea of ‘hygge’, or the feeling of warmth and coziness.
The Scandinavians post-war, had a steady rise in economy and industry. There was the rise of the working class, creating a starker inequality level within the region. In 1943, Ingvar Kamprad started the ball rolling by creating his mail-order sales company, IKEA which would soon grow into the furniture chain. In 1959, IKEA started its first flat package design. The democratic design of IKEA furniture was fuelled by the belief that the not as well-off should be given the same opportunities. Through this, we can understand that the Scandinavians believed in opportunities for all and even in their interior and product design, they ensured that everyone could experience the same feelings ‘hygge’ in their lives.
Consequently, the Scandinavians were well-aware that they were unique in their design methodology. Being situated in a unique continent, they managed to work with their cold environment to create an intrinsic, psychological experience of warmth in their design. Through naturalism and the thoughts and concepts of ‘hygge’ the Scandinavians managed to push through by experimenting on forms and materials. Their leave-no-one-behind mentality was also emphasised with modular designs and flat packaging design through IKEA. In the end, despite their lack of resources except for their environment, they managed to pull through and create objects that were both functional and possessing the spirit of ‘hygge’ unlike the Bauhaus school of thought which aimed for functionalism, and believed in utilitarian design.
[Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2018, from https://static3.businessinsider.com/image/5b59f31be361c03c008b45ea-1200/in-the-1960s-ikea-discovered-that-it-could-make-tables-more-affordable-by-producing-them-from-particle-board-a-materialmade-from-wood-chips.jpg
Eyþórsdóttir, K. S. (2011, June 13). The Story Of Scandinavian Design: Combining Function and Aesthetics. Retrieved November 11, 2018, from https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/06/the-story-of-scandinavian-design-combining-function-and-aesthetics/
Mjøset, L. (2000, February 15). The Nordic Economies 1945-1980 – ARENA Centre for European Studies. Retrieved from https://www.sv.uio.no/arena/english/research/publications/arena-working-papers/1994-2000/2000/wp00_6.htm#topp**