Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why is Swedish Design so different?

Simple question. Are there any easy answers? Every time I come to Sweden and go into department stores, craft stores, or just the simple supermarket there are lots of cheap and nice looking things that are not made in China. Lots of real konsthantverk (= art crafts). Here, in the US, it is not like that. I am envious!

Look at this:
Svensk Form

and, I didn't realize how nice BLIW soaps where until today! I wish we had one of these in the guest bath.


PP said...

How do you like the work of this firm? I'm not so hot on it...neat tech stuff with that chair(look at the video)But their work is very self conscience, and not trying to follow any tradition. As to the question of why the stores here are filled with cheap china crap and not in Sweden I don't really know. It is only recently that mass market stores here, like Target, have started to focus on design. Its still all made in china though. I'm wondering when(if?) there will be a backlash against this. When people suddenly wake up and wonder:"why is all this stuff made in China"? Waht happened to American made quality items? (i can't get this link towork!!!!!)is a site that has some nice made in USA stuff, but you have to seek it out, mostly not avail. in a local dept. store.

It would an interesting case study.

PP said...

made in USA

LS said...

Words I associate with Swedish design :

clean lines
colorful, but not many colors
inspired from nature

Words I associate with most American design and everyday items:
lots of colors, sometimes too much
cheap materials
slit-och-slang (use and throw away)
too complex lines
faux antique
faux luxury
gold, sprinkles, glitter

The first link you included PP - I don't like their designs that much - it is too complex. I like the Made in USA web site - anything more local is good. Wonder if there is a site like that for Sweden.

Did you read that article in most recent National Geographic about prodution in China - one town makes 70% of all socks in the world or something. Incredible, and from a sustainability perspective, really stupid.

AREA said...

Its because Swedes rule the world...DUH! :]

LS said...

Swedes haven't rule the world since the 1640s, 'the big power time' (stormaktstiden) in Sweden. Now Sweden is just a blip on the screen, except for design and music, right?

AREA said...

Ohhhhh, so now China and the US are the big world-power?

EH said...

Hello there, Sweden is NOT just a blip on the screen, the famous botanical professor has put Sweden on the map again!

Not only Linné...

O.K. said...

The things I mostly associate with "Swedish design", comes from or are inspired by the culmination of the thought of "Folkhemmet" (translation?), i.e. 1950s - early 1970s. An idea to make life better for the common man, plus a lack of market for luxury items resulted in simple, functional, robust and beautiful design of everyday items.

Examples that spring to mind is Stringhyllan (the String bookshelf), Ingvar Kamprad's IKEA, the loudspeakers from Stig Carlsson and the numerous things from Sigvard Bernadotte. The only royalty who made a difference in everyday life for the average Swede, by the way. ;)
(And who lost hist royalty status.)

Today good design is becoming a luxury item more and more, and the common man has to/does settle for poorly designed crap from China... :(
(There is good stuff from China too.)

In general I agree with LS' associations.

A funny thing I realized when visiting MOMA's store in NYC, was that perhaps 2/3rds of the stuff came from Scandinavia. Denmark was clearly the dominant origin.

These are my not very firm opinions, you are welcome to disagree. :)

I almost forgot, we have working dishbrushes too, hehe.

LS said...

Comments to O.K.'s post:

I think the stringhyllan (string bookcase) is overrated. Remember, our grandma had one.

I once knew a girl whose father had the patent on the little flat area on the top-front of dish brushes, the thing you scrape off hard stuff with.

I had no idea Sigvard was involved in design! Even if you don't like the cheapness of IKEA, it has really changed how Swedes look at design I think. Our house is full of IKEA, some good, some bad. Worst was the pine chairs named Rebecca that are now in the barn, broken, and some particle board dressers.

O.K. said...

LS: Just because I think of stringhyllan as swedish design, doesn't mean it has to be good. But I still think it is in the swedish tradition, design-wise. The same goes for IKEA, it is the idea behind it I was thinking of, not necessary their latest catalog.

Ps. I urge anyone interested in audio to check out Stig Carlssons thoughts on orthoacoustics. As he claimed; " My speakers are the only ones in the world designed for ordinary living rooms".

PP said...

Things were not always this way...seehere,
here and many,

When I was in design school, a long, long time ago, it seems. Design was barely on the radr screen in the US, among the general population anyway. Of course as students it was quite different, we lived, breathed and ate design 24/7. It used to really annoy me, no, REALLY annoy me that things were so poorly designed. The field of "Industrial Design" was really not known outside of the those who practiced it. I remember going to a meeting at AT&T with a model we had made of a hand held quality control computer, we had designed the form and it was pretty much decided upon. One issue that came up in the meeting was color. The client said just mold it in grey. The next meeting we came back with a bunch of samples in various greys(and other colors as well) to "prove" to the client that color might actually be important! The device wound up being bright red. Anynow now "Dee-sign" is a buzzword and corporations spend lots of money on it as a matter of course, Time, and other mainstream magazines have an annual issue on it. Students must have an easier time trying to explain to their parents and friends what Industrial Design is now!

PP said...

http://more swedish design

O.K. said...

Fixed PP:s link:

More swedish design

O.K. said...

After looking at PP:s links I realize I might not be updated on what constitutes swedish design. I'm not too sure I like the contemporary version. One thing I associates with the old school of swedish design is ergonomics.

Take a look at these stairs, very steep but still no rail? And imagine what the acoustics will be like in a room without any dampening textiles.
I liked this sideboard though.

I wonder when the backlash comes and the pendulum swings the other way with red velvet curtains and wallpapers, one inch thick wall-to-wall carpets, built in bookcases, heavy leather furniture etc. Or maybe it will become even more spartan before that?

Reminds me of the Monty Python sketch were a architect specializing in slaughterhouses describes his plans for a apartment building. "And here you see the rotating knives..." :)

PP said...

"oh, was this not what you had in mind?"