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Scandinavian Design

Scandinavian design is a term to represent a design movement characterized by simplicity, minimalism and functionality that emerged in the 1950s in the five Nordic countries of Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark. While the term Scandinavia only refers to the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, it can be used colloquially to refer to all five of these countries.

The Lunning Prize, awarded to outstanding Scandinavian designers between 1951 and 1970, was instrumental in both making Scandinavian design a recognized commodity, and in defining the profile of Scandinavian design. Since 2006, the tradition of a pan-Nordic design award has been resumed with the Forum AID award.

The idea that beautiful and functional everyday objects should not only be affordable to the wealthy, but to all, is a core theme in the development of modernism and functionalism. This is probably most completely realized in post-WWII Scandinavian design. The ideological background was the emergence of a particular Scandinavian form of social democracy in the 1950s, as well as the increased availability of new low-cost materials and methods for mass production. Scandinavian design often makes use of form-pressed wood, plastics, anodized or enameled aluminum or pressed steel.

The concept of Scandinavian design has been the subject of many scholarly debates, exhibitions and marketing agendas during the last 50 years. 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. Others, however, have analyzed the reception of Scandinavian design abroad, seeing in it a form of myth-making and racial politics.