As Magnus Englund, the co-founder of Skandium, launches a new book on the subject, he ponders the future of design from his region
I was delighted when design writers Charlotte and Peter Fiell asked me to write the main text for their major new book on Scandinavian design — they have some 40 books under their belt already compared to my meagre couple on Scandinavian interiors, but after 17 years building up and running Skandium, the region’s design is something I have lived close to for a long time, and in particular its history and influence outside Scandinavia.
The starting points were to uncover new photographic material, attempting to move away from a narrow focus on the mid-20th century, which tends to dominate histories of Scandinavian design, anchoring the story earlier in time and bringing it right up to the present day, and also to introduce forgotten designers and manufacturers. We actively decided to include architecture and graphic design, as these fields are so closely linked to product design, yet are often ignored in this context. It’s also interesting to look at the relationship between the political creation of the successful Scandinavian welfare states in relationship to their pioneering design and architecture, and the use of design for the building of national identities after the Second World War. Our aspiration was to create the major reference source for the next decade or so, and we were lucky to procure the services of the leading Swedish graphic designer Henrik Nygren, too.
But the question is where Scandinavian design goes from here. Recent years have seen a strong growth in Danish brands such as Hay and Muuto, while Ikea has moved from being a follower or imitator to commissioning renowned designers to create credible products. With both manufacturing and design often taking place outside Scandinavia, the model of the future seems to follow that of Scandinavian fashion giants like H&M — even so, the heritage is still revered and many lost classics are being brought back into production. It will be interesting for all to see what happens next.
Modern Scandinavian Design by Magnus Englund and Charlotte & Peter Fiell is published by Laurence King Publishing