By Marie-Louise Munter
Editor and Content Curator, missdesignsays.com.
“So, why is Danish design so successful?” This is a question I am often being asked by journalists from around the world, and the answer has for many years been driven by the narrative from the great 50s and 60s, where alle the great masters Juhl, Wegner, Mogensen and Jakobsen etc. created a golden age for Danish design.
When I then ask the same journalists why THEY think that Danish design is (still) so successful, I often hear names like Normann Copenhagen, Hay, Muuto and &Tradition. And yes, they are hard to avoid if you are a foreign journalist with VIP access to the major design fairs.
But where is the bridge between Danish design’s former glory and the new wave of success, where the designers are not necessarily Danish and the furniture, in the worst cases, is not even produced in Denmark?
Danish Design Thinking
The bridge is called ”Danish design thinking”, the DNA of Danish Design. I believe that our democracy, our humanistic approach and desire to produce products, designs and systems that work and last, lies deep within the Danish people. We know what functionality, form, light, simplicity, etc. does for eye, the body and our soul. Our way of designing a welfare system became our design DNA. And it’s unique whichever path you choose.
And yes, some Danish design brands have chosen to focus on international designers, leaving virtually nothing but a Danish address on their website. Some have been forced to change strategy, moving production of Danish icons abroad, while others stick to the idea that Danish design is designed by Danes and manufactured in Denmark – with the emphasis on craftsmanship and MADE in Denmark.
Is one more right than the other? Is one kind of ”Danish design” better than the other? Well, not for me. No matter where these brands are heading, or staying, they are all based on the Danish design thinking. More or less. Making it a big thing or a small.
I often hear about the old days and the “close collaboration between designer and manufacturer.” Back then the great masters ate, drank and smoked (a lot!) together, sometimes for days, weekends or weeks. They met to discuss, to challenge each other and to be creative in the name of the good design… until they succeeded.
No More Cigars
The world has since changed. It’s now hard-core business – with contracts in stead of cigars on the table. Few people spend days and nights together, and the design process has become more impersonal, although, of course, there are exceptions. The internet has no borders. Social media shares images and portfolios. And every designer and company can brand themselves and get in touch with foreign continents faster than back in the old days you could comprehend pen and paper.
It is not a threat. It’s an opportunity.
Therefore, Danish design is not hampered by the golden age, but is able to create new, and probably also, good business. You only need to choose your path – and do it wholeheartedly.
In my opinion, Danish design – as a brand – has got more strings to play and it is probably the best answer to the question.