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Spotlight on Scandinavian Design


Scandinavian office furniture design

At the recent ORGATEC, Accent Group noticed a strong resurgence of office furniture featuring what we perceive to be elements of Scandinavian Design – lots of simple yet functional forms, wood, white and glass.

Accent Group is releasing the Oslo table, featuring legs made from ash, glass or laminate top that comes in a range of great colours. We even called it after the Norwegian capital city in reference to its clean design.

It appears though that there are different schools of thought as to what the characteristics of Scandinavian Design actually are. According to ’Scandinavain Design Beyond the Myth’ by Halén and Wickman, the current global perceptions of Scandinavian themes in design, be it furniture or otherwise, are outdated stereotypes.

”Traditionally, Scandinavian Design in the past century has been associated with simple, uncomplicated designs and these superficial characteristics have promoted a veritable charicature,” says ’Beyond the Myth’ co-author Dr Widar Halén.

Halen believes that design exhibitions across Nordic countries perpetuated this stereotype, ”they [would] repeat the catalogue-texts, brochures and press releases lacking any form of original interpretation, and thus the Nordic myths and chlichés have been repeated just like the Scandinavians themselves had presented them,” he says.Commentators ”have always tried to find a common denominator in design from the various Nordic countries but more precise and thoroughly analyzied characteristics are hard to find in their writings,” he says. ”Thererefore a whole history of design is full of such superficial descriptions.”

”We repeatedly hear about Nordic segression and isolation, closeness to nature, protestantic puritanism and simplicity and a democratic attitude,” says Widar. ”But we are never told if this simplicity and puritanism in fact is different from the one we find for example in Japan, New Zealand, in the Netherlands and so on,” he says.
The diversity in current Scandinavian Design is as all-encompassing as in current New Zealand Design, and most would agree there is not a blanket term to describe what we produce design-wise in this country.

”A broader attitude has been noticed over the last years that challenge the myths and clichés that have flourished for decades around the designation ’Scandinavian Design’, ” he says. ”The exhibition and publication of Scandinavain Design Beyond the Myth” was a serious step in the right direction, it has influenced the design debate in the Nordic countries, where myths and sterotypes around ideas and national identity in relation to good design and taste have been heavily discussed over the last 10 years ,’ he says.

Perhaps other countries should begin to discuss it too. So, we’re interested: what does ’Scandanavian Design’ mean to you?

Rob Foster

As sales manager of Accent Group NZ Ltd, Robert Foster engages in all customer-focused aspects of the company’s activities. As well as managing the sales team, his role encompasses product design, marketing, new business development, account management, and the development or improvement of systems and services that support our customers.

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