By Morten Grøn, CEO, Design denmark
In the coming days, 18-20 January 2015, Design denmark co-hosts a conference and a series of open debates with designers, companies, trend researchers, design education programmes etc. in cooperation with the design trade show Northmodern. We call the event ’GRUNDstof i dansk design’ (core substance of Danish design), and together with the design profession at large, we aim to cover the full scope of our design legacy. Via debates, cases and presentations from big and small design firms, stories about crafts, innovation, design legacy and renewal, we seek to identify the current trends characterising Danish design.
Danish design is in the middle of an interesting transition, as established design-based companies such as Bang & Olufsen, Stelton, Menu, Kähler and others engage in a wave of renewal, redesign and rebranding. The legacy is under review, and the core substance is expanded and complemented. A similar trend is seen abroad, where major brands like Nike, Moschino, Barbie and Disney are also undergoing renewal. Small Danish companies stand out by virtue of their innovation capacity and inventiveness – take Wood Wood, which was headhunted to redesign Disney’s iconic figures, and SOULLAND, which gave American LEE a major design makeover.
At Northmodern, we will be hearing about these developments and discussing the future perspectives for Danish design. How can companies preserve their DNA in a time when change, open-source marketing and user-driven innovation are setting the agenda? Among others, I look forward to hearing Rasmus Graversen, who is the youngest generation at Fredericia Furniture, talk about how and why a Danish furniture manufacturer agrees to an international design rebel like Niek Pulles deconstruct their J39 chair by Børge Mogensen together with nine other Danish design objects. Fascinating!
For while political decision-makers and journalists are asking what will bring Danish design into the future – what will carry our design legacy forwards – Danish companies are busy providing the answer. As a Danish newspaper recently wrote, Danish design firms are seeing strong growth rates and have increased their already substantial export volumes significantly in recent years. In furniture, lighting and home accessories, companies like Hay, Muuto and Normann Copenhagen are showing high growth and strong sales figures abroad. But other types of design companies too are active players on the international market – Kontrapunkt is creating a visual link between Chinese and Western character sets and alleviating global confusion in international airports. In the same field, the small specialised company Triagonal Informationsdesign is creating wayfinding systems for hospitals and major international airports, including London Heathrow Airport and Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan; OeO is working with Japanese craft firms to create new products for the international marketplace; LOOP Associate is in China right now, as is Seidenfaden Copenhagen; AM™ ApS is in India … the list goes on. Design firms – in all their diversity – are flexible and innovative, and many of them are pursuing a global business strategy.
In other words, there is no reason to wonder whether Danish design will be able to achieve the same level of international acclaim that it enjoyed in the 1950s – the world is already noticing us and is keen to pick up Danish design methods and skills. The participation of Design denmark and its members in events like the French Maison&Objet and the biggest Asian design fair, SZIDF, in autumn 2014 is strong confirmation of this fact.
We are therefore looking forward to joining you on a three-day tour of the Danish design landscape and listening to the diverse range of talents who are currently involved in branding Denmark and renewing the Danish design DNA. We need many more events with an international focus like Northmodern. These meeting places for the industry, buyers and the press help promote the positive developments in Danish design and boost the designers’ well-earned confidence and passion for new endeavours.