Denmark is famous for many things, including its delicious pastries, innovative cuisine, cycling culture and the whole Viking thing. But one area that perhaps sets it apart from other countries is its reputation for design. Danish design is renowned worldwide for its minimalistic, functional, and sleek aesthetic. The style is both understated and elegant, with a focus on form, function, and quality. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at Danish design, its history, and some of its most famous practitioners.
A Brief History of Danish Design
Danish design has its roots in the early 20th century, when a group of architects and designers founded the Danish Design School in Copenhagen. The school was based on the principles of functionalism, which emphasized the importance of design that was both beautiful and practical. The school quickly gained a reputation for producing talented designers, and by the 1950s, Danish design had become an international phenomenon.
One of the most influential figures in Danish design was Arne Jacobsen. Jacobsen was a prolific designer, known for his minimalist furniture designs, particularly his chairs. His most famous design is the Egg Chair, which he created in 1958 for the lobby of the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. The chair is a perfect example of the simplicity and elegance that characterizes Danish design.
Another important figure in Danish design was Hans Wegner. Wegner is best known for his furniture design, particularly his chairs. His most famous design is the Wishbone Chair, which he created in 1949. The chair is made from wood and features a distinctive Y-shaped backrest. It is considered a classic of Danish design and is still popular today.
The Characteristics of Danish Design
Danish design is characterized by a number of key features. One of the most important is its focus on function. Danish designers believe that form should always follow function, and they prioritize the practical over the ornamental. This means that Danish design is often very minimalistic, with clean lines and simple shapes.
Another important characteristic of Danish design is its emphasis on quality. Danish designers believe that good design should last a lifetime, and they use only the highest-quality materials and manufacturing techniques. This means that Danish furniture, for example, is often made from wood, which is durable, sustainable, and easy to work with.
Finally, Danish design is known for its attention to detail. Danish designers believe that every element of a design should be considered, from the overall shape to the smallest details like the hardware or stitching. This means that Danish designs are often very precise and refined.
My favourite Danish designer is Arne Jacobsen. Designer of ‘the famous chairs’, as well as furniture and products, he also was an architect, with a quite phenomenal body of work. If you are visiting Copenhagen I’d recommend popping into the Royal Copenhagen Hotel (it keeps changing its name, currently Radisson Royal Copenhagen) either to stay, or for a drink, as the foyer area features his Swan and Egg chairs, and has a very elegant 1960s chic Scandinavian feel. Just opposite the main Copenhagen train station (Hovedbangården) and Tivoli.
If you feel like a little tour by bike a half hour to the norther outskirts of Copenhagen, or take the train to Klampenborg Station, you can visit Bellevue beach. The lifeguard towers, kiosks and apartments opposite the beach were designed by Arne. About a 15 minute walk towards Copenhagen there is a fantastic petrol/gas station designed by him too. Just a beautiful piece of design.
Famous Examples of Danish Design
There are many famous examples of Danish design, from furniture to architecture to everyday objects. Here are just a few:
- The Egg Chair by Arne Jacobsen – The Egg Chair is perhaps the most iconic piece of Danish design. Created in 1958, it is a perfect example of the simplicity and elegance of Danish design.
- The Wishbone Chair by Hans Wegner – The Wishbone Chair is another classic of Danish design. Created in 1949, it features a distinctive Y-shaped backrest and is still popular today.
- The PH Lamp by Poul Henningsen – The PH Lamp is a design classic, created in 1925. It features a series of concentric shades that diffuse the light, creating a soft and warm glow.
- The Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon – The Sydney Opera House is one of the most famous buildings in the world, and it was designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. The building is a perfect example of the simplicity and elegance of Danish design.
- The LEGO Brick – LEGO is perhaps the most famous Danish design of all. The company was founded in 1932 and has been producing its iconic plastic bricks ever since
The Visit Denmark website (the official tourism website for Denmark) has a great page linking in to different design elements if you are visiting the country.