Charlotte and Peter Fiell are leading authorities on 20th-century design and have written numerous books on the subject including Taschen’s 1000 Chairs, Design of the Twentieth Century, Industrial Design, Scandinavian Design, Designing the 21st Century, Graphic Design for the 21st Century, and the soon to be published 1000 Lights.
Together they work from London as Taschen’s international design book editors.
(This article originally appeared in Saab Magazine)
Since the 1930s Scandinavian design has been guided by a humanizing approach to Modernism distinguished by functional practicality and the sophisticated simplification of form. Traditionally, Scandinavian designers have sought to enhance the quality of life through the development of appropriate and affordable product solutions – designs that are inclusive rather than exclusive.
The idea of design as a means of improving everyday life has also meant that many Scandinavian designers have focused on products for the home – from furniture and textiles to cutlery and ceramics. Their all-encompassing quest for “ideal forms” has led them to find inspiration not only from vernacular precedents that have been honed over many generations, but also from the wonderful variety of shapes found in the natural world – for example, the patterns of frozen ice, the curving shores of a lake, the texture of tree bark.
This fascination with finding definitive forms has meant that Scandinavian designers often refine their work over long periods of time in order to create the best possible solution. This careful and thoughtful approach is central to the remarkable longevity of certain Scandinavian products. The plethora of Scandinavian “design classics” that have remained in production with the same manufacturers for decades – from Alvar Aalto’s simple laminated wood Model No. 60 stool for Artek to Arne Jacobsen’s Cylinda Line teapot for Stelton – are irrefutable proof that well-designed, well-executed products can stand of test of time and remain impervious to the vagaries of fashion.
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