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At the close of 3daysofdesign, Copenhagen’s annual design event, we speak to three leading brands about the past, present and future of Danish design.

Since its beginnings in an old warehouse in the Østerbro neighborhood of Copenhagen, 3daysofdesign has blossomed into a renowned event on the international design circuit, inviting attendees to explore an array of showrooms, talks, exhibitions and product launches in the Danish capital. This year, 3daysofdesign featured more than 80 exhibitors from all design disciplines.

To explore what has turned Danish design into a set of ideas and principles that are echoed throughout the world, we speak to three different brands about its past, present and future.

House of Finn Juhl
Hans Henrik Sørensen, Owner

Why are Finn Juhl’s designs still relevant today?

Because Finn Juhl was an original. He approached furniture design from an artful standpoint and that breathed longevity into his objects. He was inspired by modern art and he fused that with ideals of functionalism, allowing him to create a new design idiom.

What influence has Juhl had on contemporary Danish design?

Juhl has inspired a whole generation of designers. His work paved the way for Denmark’s breakthrough moment as a design nation in the mid-20th century. He established himself in the USA early on in his career and held multiple exhibitions of Danish design there throughout the 1950s, carrying the term “Danish modern” into the world.

When does design shift from being contemporary to being timeless?

Two elements are prerequisites for timeless design: talent and renewal. The Danish greats who paved the way between 1920 and 1970 had an abundance of talent and brought forth new ideas that in turn shaped modern functional design into what it is today.

 

  • Words:
    Nikolaj Hansson

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Joachim Kornbek Hansen, Design & Brand Manager

What can the long-lasting success of Danish design can be ascribed to?

The classic modernist expressions created a strong foundation that contemporary brands have managed to tap into and revive. The lasting success lies in a combination of clever branding along with designers getting an informed grasp of what Danish design should accentuate. The tradition here is softer, whereas other parts of the world have more forceful expressions. To me, Danish design is about stripping elements down to their core.

It seems that minimal and classic expressions have a renewed appeal. Do you think this will remain constant in the future?

I think the nucleus of it all will endure. It’s in our DNA: Scandinavian tempers differ from those of other regions and it shows in our design. Where others are more expressive, Danes tend to tone down. However, trends are moving faster now more than ever before and other regions influence Danish design much more today than was previously the case.

How do you think Danish design will change in the future?

The external expressions of Danish design may change, but the underlying values will always stay the same. Working with a minimal approach to materials and colors is becoming the norm rather than the new—this is to be challenged by designers. I see more and more people working with expressive colors and daunting materials in comparison to a decade ago. The future of Danish design will materialize from young talented designers and brands that make their voices heard.

 

“The future of Danish design will materialize from young talented designers and brands that make their voices heard.”

Kvadrat Soft Cells
Jesper Hansen, Head of Design

At Kvadrat Soft Cells, you explore the potential for the marriage of design and technology through acoustic panels. How do you create something new?

We take design tradition and place it in an industrial context. Our approach is quite multidisciplinary. The team is comprised of architects, industrial designers, cabinetmakers, toolmakers and engineers. Pooling these versatile disciplines into one large pot allows us to form new notions and ideas about design by dispersing the reference points.

To what extent do you look towards the past when developing new products?

We’re currently working on creating three-dimensional free-form interiors made from textiles. We’re looking at the wings of airplanes from the 1920s, and how they combined aluminum and silk, to see how we can apply that approach to our design today.

Will the future always have an element of the past?

To a large extent, yes. New designs and technologies are created on the backbone of pre-existing elements. But we’re living in an era in which things are being broken down; the Danish government has created a disruption counsel—a body of people to disrupt the Danish business model and look at how innovation can occur through rethinking ideation. Things are changing fast. However, design will never take a drastic turn toward something completely distant from its current state. There needs to be a degree of familiarity.

This post is produced in partnership with 3daysofdesign.

  • Words:
    Nikolaj Hansson
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