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Norwegian Design

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									Norwegian Design
Kristin Elise Strand Interior Architecture University of Teesside School of Arts and Media 2007

Norwegian Design
Kristin Elise Strand Interior Architecture University of Teesside School of Arts and Media 2007



NORWEGIAN DESIGN.................................................................................................................................. 1 CONTENTS ...................................................................................................................................................... 2 CHAPTER ONE............................................................................................................................................... 5 CHAPTER TWO............................................................................................................................................ 13 CONCLUSION............................................................................................................................................... 21 BIBLIOGRAPHY .......................................................................................................................................... 23 INTERVIEWS ................................................................................................................................................. 23 ARTICLES ..................................................................................................................................................... 23 BOOKS .......................................................................................................................................................... 23 INTERNET ..................................................................................................................................................... 24 BROADCASTS................................................................................................................................................ 28 PICTURES ...................................................................................................................................................... 28


During my studies as a designer living away from Norway I have learned more about Norwegian design than I did whilst living there. This has encouraged me to write my dissertation on the topic of Norwegian design history. “Norway Designs” is a popular design shop localized in Oslo, the capital of Norway. The shop sells everything from clothes and glassware to toys and kitchenware. As the name of the shop is Norway Designs it would be right to assume that everything in there is Norwegian design. This is not true. There are mainly designs from other Northern countries, but very little from Norway, as it turns out. Even though the shop manager, Trond Kinn, wants to sell Norwegian design, it is difficult to find Norwegian design to the high level of quality the shop desires and the few things that are Norwegian in the shop are often expensive. The shop raised a lot of questions about Norwegian design and made it clear what the aim for this dissertation should be. The aim of this dissertation is to find out what Norwegian design is and how it is related to the culture, history and people of Norway. Additionally this paper will question why Norwegian design is not as well recognized within the term “Scandinavian design” as that of Sweden and Denmark. Finally this dissertation will consider what initiatives are being implemented to redress the balance and to promote Norwegian design further.

The first chapter will look into the identity, character and culture of Norwegian society, this is important if one is to understand the significance of Norwegian design. In addition Norway’s history will be studied to give a better understanding of the foundations of Norwegian design. A key time frame for Norwegian design is the 1950s to the 1960s. This is when the term “Scandinavian Design” first appeared. Therefore this will be focused on in the end of the chapter.

The second chapter will cover what is currently happening within the Norwegian design environment. This section will identify new up and coming designers and will reflect on their own views on the changes and difficulties that they have experienced in the Norwegian design market. In addition a broader focus on the environment of the Norwegian designer will be analysed with emphasise on funding and the attitudes of


Norwegian manufactures. Contemporary views and theories will be investigated to give balanced analysis to this issue.

The sources for these chapters will be mainly from books and interviews with current designers. The books will not only be about Norwegian design, but also Scandinavian design as it is necessary to look at the difference between the Scandinavian countries. To find out about the national identity and culture it is also useful to have been brought up in Norway and have personal knowledge about the country. Other sources will be from internet and professionals on the subject such as design shop managers and sellers as they will have worked with it for many years and have first hand knowledge on the subject. The most important source for finding out about designers and current debates will be newspapers, magazines and the internet as they are the most up to date. Interviews with new designers are vital as they are the ones that can explain what is current in the design environment, and how they have experienced it.

One of the reasons to write about this subject is to gain useful information about design in Norway, which you do not learn from abroad. As the main source of information is gathered through interviews with designers and professionals in the industry; it will also open up for valuable connections in Norway.


Chapter One
To find out what Norwegian design is it is first important to know what has influenced it throughout history and how the Norwegian culture has had an impact on their design. Furthermore find out which Norwegian designers that accomplished international acknowledgement when Scandinavian design was at its peak in the 1950’s

Norway is situated in the north of Europe with borderlines to Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Norway has had a long history of being under other countries rule. It has only been independent for 100 years; it finally got it’s independence in 1905 after being under Swedish rule for almost a century. Prior to being under Swedish rule they were in union with Denmark for over 400 years; in Norway they call this union the “four-hundred-yearnight”. You would think this long time under common rule would make the countries very much alike. Maybe so, but it has also made Norway a very proud nation and very aware of their cultural heritage from before the unions with Sweden and Denmark. “The Norwegians are an intensely proud nation of people, whose character has been shaped as much by their Viking past and centuries-old seafaring heritage as by their history of material hardship and foreign domination.”1 They keep their history close to their heart, maybe because it is the only thing they can truly call Norwegian. “All around the coast of Norway there are saga plays, where they dramatize some kind of event in the Viking past. “2 During the Viking period, and some time after, Norway had a great tradition of handcrafted work and ornaments. They were a well travelled people around Europe and they brought the influences with them back home. After the Viking period, when Norway got christened, there were many churches built in Norway, and many of them were made out of wood. The Borgund Stave church is one of the 28 churches that are still standing. It was built around 1150. The ornaments on the Urnes Stave church shows how the European
1 2

Figure 1 The 17th May in Oslo

Fiell, C and P. Scandinavian design, Taschen, 2002 p. 52 Thomas Herand Eriksen, professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, ‘Thinking allowed’, BBC Radio 4. 16.08.06


influences blended in with Norwegian history. The motifs have a clear similarity as the ones used on Viking ships.

Figur 2 Urnes Stavechurch

Figur 3 Gokstad Viking ship replica

Figur 4 Borgund Stavechurch

After the Black Death plague in 1350 2/3 of the population died, and in 1380 Norway came into a union with Denmark. At the time of the ‘four-hundred-year-night’ there was a fear of Danification, the Danish language and style over ruling the Norwegian language and style. As a result of this Norway have two languages still today to preserve the dialects around Norway. The fear of Danification helped strengthen the countries folk traditions, and they made their own furniture. Whereas the Swedes copied French furniture with their rococo ornamented chairs; Norwegians could not afford that luxury. In fact, before Norway had their oil fortune they were one of the poorest countries in Europe.

Rosemaling is a style of painting which evolved around 1700 century and the beginning of 1800. It has it’s origins from the baroque and rococo period. Norway got their inspiration for it mainly from letters such as S and C from hand drawn bibles, which the peasants got a hold of and developed further. Peasants developed techniques to decorate their home, even though there were no arts and crafts schools to attend nearby. Today there are several courses for learning Rosemaling.


Figure 5 Rosemaling The 17th May is the day the Norwegians celebrate the independence they got in 1814 from Denmark. This day is one of the best days to see the Norwegian patriotism. They celebrate the day by going out in the streets dressed up in their national outfits and waving their Norwegian flag. There are not many other countries that celebrate their country with such excitement and it shows how their patriotism grew under other countries rule. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are the three countries which go under the term Scandinavia. Finland and Iceland are sometimes mentioned under the same term but these will not be considered when mentioning Scandinavian design further on in this dissertation. The correct term for all of the five countries is ‘The North’. As the three countries: Norway, Sweden and Denmark, are much alike both in language, culture and political view, it is not strange that many people get confused and often see them as one country. Similar to that Scotland and Wales often goes under the banner England. However nothing upsets the Norwegian, Swedes or Danes more than to hear that Americans think Stockholm is the capital of Scandinavia or a taxi driver in England wonders what language they speak in Norway and similar misunderstandings. As mentioned before the Norwegians are a very proud nation. “Nothing so much annoys Norwegians, Danish and Swedes then to be jumbled up in a big suitcase called Scandinavia.”3

Norwegians love their forests, mountains and coasts. It is normal for them to have weekly walks in the forest or mountains. Many of them also have a second home in the mountains or by the sea. They are careful to preserve the nature that surrounds them, the cabins are


Thomas Herand Eriksen, professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, ‘Thinking allowed’, BBC Radio 4. 16.08.06


often restricted in shape and colour so they can easily blend into the nature. Even though they have very modern homes, many people still keep their cabins old fashioned. It is for the Norwegians a kind of back to nature feeling, to get away from the everyday life. “Sundays, you don’t go to church, you go to the forest, if you haven’t been into the forest you feel a bit guilty. “4

Even though Norway is a very large country considering the space, its population is only 4, 3 million. In comparison Sweden has 9.1 million people and Denmark 5, 3 million. Until the 20th century most of the people lived far away from each other, most of them were farmers and fishermen and they had the resources they needed. This and the fact that Norway has 8 months of cold and darkness, and 4 months of brilliant summer, meant that they had plenty of time to work on their homes to make it as bright and comfortable as possible during this long time. As the country is so stretched, the far north of it has rough weather conditions most of the year; the government has tried to prevent people from moving south to the cities, as it will result in farms being deserted and there will be unoccupied land. One of these actions is that people moving to the north of Norway will have parts of their student loans cut down by living there for 4 years or more. Sweden and Denmark does not take any actions to prevent everybody to move to the cities, this and the fact that they have a bigger population means they have bigger cities and less people living in the countryside.
Figur 6 Map over Scandinavia

Aksel Sandemose is one of Norway’s most famous authors; in 1933 he wrote a book about a murderer and the reasons why he became one. Not many Norwegians have read the book, but most Norwegians know about the law of Jante which is from the book. Jante is the name of the city the murderer grew up in.


Nils Christie professor in criminology at the University of Oslo, ‘Thinking allowed’, BBC Radio 4. 16.08.06


The Law of Jante: 1. Thou shall not presume that thou *art* anyone [important]. 2. Thou shall not presume that thou art as good as *us*. 3. Thou shalt not presume that thou art any wiser than *us*. 4. Thou shalt never indulge in the conceit of imagining that thou art better than *us*. 5. Thou shalt not presume that thou art more knowledgeable than *us*. 6. Thou shalt not presume that thou art more than *us* [in any way] 7. Thou shalt not presume that that *thou* art going to amount to anything. 8. Thou art not entitled to laugh at *us*. 9. Thou shalt never imagine that anyone cares about *thee*. 10. Thou shalt not suppose that thou can teach *us* anything.5

Aksel Sandemose believed that these laws existed in every city of Norway. If somebody stands out of the crowd, or worse brag about themselves, they are looked down upon. This is obviously only jealousy and stupidity. Nevertheless it exists in the sub consciousness of many Norwegian people – especially the elder generation. This may have affected the Norwegians into not thinking big, to not stand out of the crowd with new designs. There are many small shops in Norway selling Norwegian handcrafted work. These artists keep themselves with the same designs which have existed for many decades. They keep the business small, maybe just as a hobby on the side and they don’t evolve or expand. They don’t think big.

The second world war had a big impact on Norway and it was the main reason why Norwegian design industry was not focused on by the government in the 50’s and 60’s. During the war Norwegians wore paperclips on their jackets, as this is a Norwegian design, it was a symbol of Norway and liberation from the Germans. After the war Norway needed housing more than anything; this may have set the Norwegians back a bit as it was in the 50’s 60’s that Scandinavian design started to be acknowledged internationally. The phrase ‘Scandinavian design’ was developed during a New York exhibition where there was a stand called Scandinavian design. They became acknowledged for their clean lines, good


Sandemose, A , En flyktning krysser sitt spor,( 'A refugee crosses his tracks'), Gyldendal, 1933 p. unknown


quality products and ergonomically correct furniture, all at the same time. Later in the 1970’s Norway got their oil fortune and this time they didn’t have the need for developing new industries.

Norway stopped focusing on export and furniture for the average user at the end of the 60’s. Designers and industries only worked with innovation and new developments on the contract market. This is why Norway disappeared from the international design marked for many decades. We only produced for our own market, and imported very little. We were self-sufficient (The selections of furniture available was controlled by the furniture stores) this stagnated our design development. Norwegian manufacturing industry was not needed after we got our oil and it is the manufacture industry that needs designers.6

During the 50’s and 60’s Norway had designer’s equivalent to Danish and Swedish designers, but there were not as many or as well profiled. Arne Korsmo was an architect and designer from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. His wife Grete Prytz was also a designer, she was especially good with metals and silver as her father was a goldsmith. They met when Arne Korsmo started working for Grete Prytz father Jacob Tostrup Prytz. Arne Korsmo
Figure 7 Enamelled stainless steel bowls by Grete Prytz

and Grete Prytz designed together with many objects but they also worked independently. Arne Korsmo designed the Norwegian

section at the “Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans le Vie Moderne” in Paris. He later received a gold medal for his silver cutlery. While he was director of the National College of Arts and Crafts from 1936 to 1956 he still designed furniture mainly using metal and wood. After she completed her studies at the National College of Arts and Crafts Grete Prytz started to design jewellery and metal ware for the family owned goldsmith company Jacob Tostrup. During the 1970’s she designed a number of enamelled stainless steel bowls, these were recently taken into production again.


Interview by the author, 12 July 2006, with Espen Voll, furniture designer, Oslo.


Arne Korsmo and Grete Prytz were Norway’s “design couple” – equivalent to Charles and Ray Eames in America and Robin and Lucienne Day in Britain – and as such, had enormous influence on the Norwegian design community.7

Tias Eckhoff is one of Norway’s most acknowledged designers both nationally and internationally. He was born in 1926 and educated in ceramics at the National College of Arts and Crafts. Early in his career he started working for
Figure 8 Ana chair Figure 9 Una cutlery designed by Tias design by Tias Eckhoff Eckhoff

Porsgrund porcelain, he changed the factories way of thinking by focusing more on the shape and function of the product rather the ornaments

on it. In the 1970’s Eckhoff started to gain an interest in plastic and he started making furniture. The ‘Ana’ chair is one of them. There are very few Norwegians that have not sat in this chair. It is easily produced, stackable and comfortable. Eckhoff has also designed products of metal; his most famous is his cutlery. It is still a popular cutlery in the modern market. He has been awarded many prizes for his designs; three of these are the Triennalen gold medals in Milan year 1954, -57 and -70.

Norway’s history shows that as a country it did not have the confidence to merge into the design industry. For a long time Norway was under Swedish or Danish rule, this made the country less powerful in comparison to its neighbours. To succeed with designed products abroad you need to be bold and put yourself out there. The law of Jante has prevented many Norwegians to think big. However, at the same time, years spent under Swedish and Danish rule gave Norwegian designers their own self awareness of which they became very proud. This explains why Norwegians have such a strong patriotism in their design.

To be able to understand the timeless simplicity that developed here up in the north – characterised by clean lines, practical usage, well handcrafted and democratically


Fiell, C and P. Scandinavian design, Taschen, 2002 p. 370


idealistic – we have to turn towards the peasant community, which for many decades was an important factor in the development of the culture in the Nordic countries. The routines and costumes of the peasants played an important part when it came to developing the basics for practical and simple design, which has an increasing affect on everyday life. On the European continent you will find the opposite result: It was the ideals from the upper class that controlled the influences.8

The living conditions in Norway are somewhat different from that in Sweden and Denmark; people live further apart from each other. This has strengthened their relationship with nature. As they have not been independent for a long time their self-confidence is still developing. Second World War set them back a bit during the strongest period for Scandinavian design in the 1950’s, later it was the oil that set them back – But at that time Norwegians didn’t think they needed another industry. All of these aspects had an impact on Norwegian design and consequently it got less recognition abroad than other Scandinavian countries.


Sommar, I. ‘Skandinavisk Design’, Gyldendal, 2003.


Chapter two
This chapter will first look into Norwegian design environment today and see if there have been any changes over the last few years. It will first look at artists and designers, what they do to promote themselves and it will discuss the manufacturers and government part in the process of selling products. As well as look at some new up and coming designers today and current projects.

“Norway designs”, as I have mentioned earlier, is a design shop in Oslo which sells exquisite glassware, clothes, jewellery, kitchenware, paper and ceramics. A few of these things are of Norwegian design, but most of them are from other Northern countries. The shop manager; Trond Kinn, wants to sell Norwegian design, but as it turns out it is difficult for the shop to get a hold of Norwegian design. He misses the professionalism the Swedish and Danish artists and manufacturers have. As an example; Norwegian artists would come into the store trying to sell their products without having thought about the selling price, and if they have; they have not consider if the price will suit the product for it to sell.

We have many examples of glass artists that have products which are made with the same technique as older internationally recognized artists. They say “my vase is as difficult to make as Ulrika Vallien’s vase”. I’m sure that’s correct, but they still can’t take the same price. They don’t get that. If I had one example with paintings everyone would have understood. I could have used as long time on a painting as Munch did, but I still would not be able to take the same price for it. You have to work yourself up as an artist. You have to be willing to start at the bottom.9

Another thing the artists should consider is to be effective in their production. For a product to sell it needs to be at a reasonable price. It is most useful to produce a large amount over a shorter amount of time to push the prices down.

If you make a ceramic cup, and then make a plate it’s not effective. In Denmark we have seen that they make cups for a week, and then they produce plates the week

Interview by the author, 8 November 2006, with Trond Kinn, shop manager, Oslo.


after. This way they work more efficient and they can lower the prices. Norwegian design need mass production to survive in the marketplace. This sounds quirky, but I have many examples.10

It is not only the artists fault that there is a lack of Norwegian design available; the producers are often too afraid of taking a chance with new designers, making it very difficult for the designer to get their products produced. One of Norway’s most famous designers right now is Johan Verde. He has worked with many different companies both in Norway and abroad. He has designed everything from chairs, cutlery, cups and plates, even chocolate. He likes to experiment with materials, challenging the material in new shapes and forms. “I strive and experiment with the materials, by sketching, folding, flexing, cutting and bending until the form unfolds.”11 One of Verde’s productions was a service for children which was manufactured by a Danish company. He first went to the Norwegian porcelain company Figgjo with the product. When they didn’t take a chance on it he went abroad. If Figgjo would have had the courage to say yes to the product they would have improved their portfolio and profile both abroad and in Norway.
Figure 10 Loop chair designed by Johan Verde

I think both Sweden and Denmark are more international in the way they think. When they start a production they think about the European market, while here in Norway we tend only to think about what will sell in Norway. Our hope is that Norwegian producers will use some of their budget for projects they’re not so sure will make a large profit, but it will still boost the producers’ profile. 12
Figure 11 Stelton children service designed by Johan Verde

Hadeland Glassverk and Porsgrund Porcelain are two big companies in Norway selling glass and porcelain. Porsgrund Porcelain started in 1885 with producing high quality porcelain and is today Norway’s biggest company selling porcelain. The nationalistic
10 11

Interview by the author, 8 November 2006, with Trond Kinn, shop manager, Oslo. Homepage of Johan Verde,, consulted 11 November 2006. 12 Interview by the author, 8 November 2006, with Trond Kinn, Sales manager Norway designs, Oslo


motifs on their porcelain at the beginning of 1900 showed the strong emotions and desire of independence from Denmark. Gerhard Munthe, Henrik Bull and Theodor Kittelsen were among the designers at that time. Theodor Kittelsen is also famous for his drawings of trolls and fairies. Nora Guldbrandsen was hired in 1928 and while she was there she completely modernised both the designs and manufacturing of the ceramics. After the Second World War they wanted to modernize the product line again and recruited many new designers. Among them was Tias Echoff who was mentioned earlier. Today they produce everything abroad, and still holding on to their designs form the 1970’s.

Hadeland Glassverk started their production of glassware in 1765; they did not have any skilled craftsmen at the time so the people required were brought in; mainly from Germany. Their first productions was copies from items around Europe, it was not until the 1920’s that they made their own designs and models. Sverre Pettersen, Ståle Kyllingstad, Willie Johansen and Herman Bongard are a few of the designers they have had over the years. Today they have had to cut down drastically on their staff and half of their production is abroad, earlier 95% was made in Norway. Because of the drastic cut down they are in need of money and this is visible in their design, they think only profit, and they want profit right now. They do not think long term., for that reason they don’t invest in new Norwegian designers.

I think we have many good young designers today. The problem is that they have problems getting their products into production. It’s the companies that are to afraid of new design. Hadeland Glasverk is an example. They produce almost everything abroad and are only concerned about what will sell, right now. The same goes for Porsgrunn Porcelain. (Unfortunately the same owner).13

The Norwegian Government is gradually realizing that they can not live on oil forever and more industries are needed if they are to sustain their living standards when the oil is gone. The Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry funded the Norwegian Design Council in 1963. It is a council that offers help for all designers and architects in Norway. ”Our


Interview by the author, 8 November 2006, with Trond Kinn, Sales manager Norway designs, Oslo.


mission is to promote the use of design as a strategic tool for innovation, in order to achieve greater creation of value in Norwegian trade and industry.”14 Among other things they contributed to the 100% Norway exhibition in London 2006, which was a great success. A more resent organization was established on the initiative of Norwegian ministry of Culture in 1992. Norsk Form is focusing on general understanding of design in Norway.

By means of exhibitions, publications, conferences, evening meetings, study tours, award ceremonies, competitions, networks, workshops for children and adolescents, as well as through media initiatives and projects, Norsk Form aims to draw attention to and improve understanding of the importance of design and architecture.15

The Norwegian Design Council and Norsk Form established in 2004 what is suppose to be Norway’s most important exhibition, meeting and resource centre; Norwegian Design and Architecture centre. The building was created under the phrase: ‘When people meet, things happen’16. This was very much the start of a new era for Norwegian design council and Norsk Form. The much needed space and money became a reality.

You can get funding for product development in Norway, but not for the marketing part, as marketing is the most important thing to sell your product it is still hard to get the product out in the market. ”It is still difficult to get a political agreement on getting support for industry and development of the design environment in Norway.”17

Peder Børresen from Moods of Norway, a popular Norwegian clothing brand, says that for many countries Norway is exotic, this gives the designers a good selling
Figure 12 Moods of Norway t-shirt.

Homepage of Norwegian Design Council:, consulted 13 July 2006. 15 Homepage of Norsk Form:, consulted 12 July 2006. 16 Homepage of Norway’s design and architecture centre:, consulted 12 July 2006. 17 Interview by the author, 12 July 2006, with Espen Voll, Furniture designer, Norway Says, Oslo


point. The clothing collection from Moods of Norway includes t-shirts with patterns such as; a local Norwegian farmer, Norwegian tractor and the previously mentioned rosemaling. They also use Norwegian scenery in their promotional pictures, as they have realized the potential of using Norway as a brand.

Figure 13 Moods of Norway promotional picture

Johan Verde has experienced that foreign industries has a bigger interest for Norwegian design now. They are looking for something new, and that something new in this case could be the ‘outsider’; Norway. Even Scandinavian industries have increased their interest for Norwegian design, something that would have been out of the question 15 years ago.

“Norwegians have always used their traditions and history in the way they design, the designer’s today still do, but with a bit more sense of humour. The trend started under the postmodernist time when old shapes and stereotypes were redeveloped in a neo – traditional way. Artists and designers started to see the exotic and the extraordinary in their traditions and they exhibit provoking work often with an ironic look. Several of our new designers are bringing this trend forward in a more controlled and minimalist way, challenging and universal as they are. They mean that the Scandinavian design has become more sophisticated and serious. They’re


saying wake up! They’re holding up a mirror and present us a new more clichéd, humoristic version.”18

There are very few articles about Norwegian design these days without it mentioning the design company “Norway Says”. Norway says was an exhibition project from the year 2000, before they opened up an office in Oslo in the year 2002. It consists of four designers; Espen Voll, Andreas Engesvik, Torbjørn Anderssen and Hallgeir Homstvedt. They have designed many things from furniture to stereos for manufacturers such as Asono and L.K. Hjelle which are both Norwegian companies. They have also designed for Swedish and Danish companies. They were the first Norwegians which contributed to a Milano Fair in almost 30 years. They are considered by many for being the designers who brought back the attention to Norwegian design (again) after many years.
Figure 15 Asono Mica music player designed by Norway Says Figure 14 Break sofa designed by Norway Says

Norway’s best tourist attraction is their beautiful scenery such as fjords and mountains. These fjords have recently been voted the ‘worlds most beautiful’ by the National Geographic. The Norwegian road council has engaged a large project concerning the roads to these sights. Viewing posts, places for rest, and stopping stations will be redesigned. Many different architects have been contacted and the project is already set in motion. It has engaged a lot of attention both in Norway and internationally. One of these projects is the viewing point called Sohlbergplassen. It was designed by the newly educated Tommie Wilhelmsen and Todd Saunders. The viewing point looks like a diving board of wood 640 meter over the fjord. The project, covering large areas of Norway, will not only enhance the tourist experience, but also renew the ideas of architecture in Norway. As people get used to modern architecture they will understand the value of beautiful and creative

Exhibition at the Norwegian Arts and Craft museum, ‘Scandinavian design beyond the myth’, 07.11.2003


architecture rather than being critical towards it. NSB (National Railway) did a similar thing when they opened up the railway stations in the end of the 1800’s in Norway. All of the railway stations were built in the new style at the time. “NSB was an important contributor to the development of new design in Norway. These railways stations have meant a lot for the way we build over the whole country.”19
Figure 16 Sohlbergsplassen for the tourist road project

Oslo is currently building a new opera theatre. A lot of money has gone into it and there has been some debate on if it is necessary to build it. But the debates have quietened down now and people are starting to look forward to seeing it finished. Frank Nodland is one of the architects working for Snøhetta and has been involved in making the opera theatre as well as one of the projects funded by the Norwegian road council. Snøhetta is a successful architectural company with many famous buildings on their portfolio. A few of these is the Alexandria library in Egypt and one of the buildings on Ground Zero in New York. Frank Nodland believes that if this was happening 20 years ago the opera would probably not have been built in the first place, they would have found it unnecessary, and that the money could have been used for something else instead. This reminds us of the laws of Jante; ‘Thou shalt not presume that thou *art* anyone’20. He thinks Norway is benefiting from the fact that Norway does not have the traditions in design as Sweden and Denmark developed in the 1950’s. As Norway does not have traditions to fall back on it makes it easier for them to think new, and therefore are more intuitive.

Because of Norway’s lack of experience and confidence within the design environment they fall behind the Swedish and Danish professionalism, but new interest in Norwegian design has made Norwegians more confident, and they are starting to realise the potential
19 20, consulted 22 November 2006. Sandemose, A. En flyktning krysser sitt spor,( 'A refugee crosses his tracks'), Gyldendal, 1933


industry there is in design. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to be done to make the manufacturer’s understand the importance of taking a chance on Norwegian design.


One of the aims for this dissertation was to find out what Norwegian design is, the answer for this question very much lie in the Norwegian culture, history and people, as they have shaped the Norwegian design into what it is today. All in all Norwegian design does not separate much from what is considered “Scandinavian design”; it has clean lines, practical usage and is well handcrafted. Why Norway is not as well recognized within the term “Scandinavian design” as that of Sweden and Denmark can be explained by looking at Norway’s history and culture rather then their design or lack of it. Norway has not been independent for a long time; therefore have had a lack of confidence in themselves. And they have been self sufficient and therefore not expanded up on design. Another matter is that Norway is a large country with few inhabitants, as a result they have lived far away from each other and this has led to communication problems concerning the influence of design from one city to the next in comparison to Denmark and Sweden. During the 1950’s, when Scandinavian design was at its peak, Norway was focusing on rebuilding after the World War II and therefore fell back during an important period to make a stand. Later it became the oil fortune in the 1970’s that influenced Norway and prevented them from building their design industry. It was the circumstances surrounding the design industry that prevented Norway to be on the same level in design production as Sweden and Denmark, and not their design.

Norway has realized the potential they have in the design industry and initiatives have been implemented to improve their production and promotion abroad, such has funding The Norwegian Design Council and Norsk Form. The Norwegian Road Council’s project across Norway shows how Norway is renewing themselves and opens up for new designs as it will bring modern architecture to the outskirts of Norway, not only in the city centres. The building of the new opera in Oslo shows how people’s attitude against new design is changing, as this would not even be considered 20 years ago because of the expenses. Even though a lot is changing; there is still a lot to do to catch up in the international design market and it will be some time before Norway has the same level of design production as Sweden and Denmark.


The increasing interest for Norwegian design abroad may be because the market is looking for something new and Norway is often described as exotic and new, probably because it was the country that was left behind, the ‘outsider’, and therefore it has had a fresh look on design. The new architecture and design centre built by The Norwegian Design council and Norsk Form very much shows how Norway is changing “When people meet things happen”21; Norwegians are starting to come together and see their potential in the design industry.


Homepage of Norwegian Design Council:, consulted 13 July 2006.


Thanks to everyone at Norway Designs for valuable information about Norwegian design and its history.

Interview by the author, summer 2006, with Trond Kinn, Store Manager, Norway Designs, Oslo. Interview by the author, 12 July 2006, with Espen Voll, Furniture designer, Norway Says, Oslo. Interview by the author, 18 July 2006, with Peder Børresen, Clothing designer, Moods of Norway. Interview by the author, 16 October 2006, with Vidar Koksvik, Artist, Klart Glass, Oslo. Interview by the author, 10 November 2006, with Johan Verde, Oslo. Interview by the author, 14 November 2006, with Frank Nodland, Architect at Snøhetta, Oslo. Interview by the author, 22 November 2006, with Tanja Sæter, Glass artist, Oslo.

Thompson, Henrietta, ‘Norway Designs’ in Blueprint, October 2006, pp Schjølberg, Torstein, ‘Hot autumn at Hadeland’ in Petro&industri, edition 5 2006, pp 74. Goa, Torbjørn, ‘Tyler Brulé’ in Design interior, edition 6 2005, pp 89. Bell, Jonathan, ‘fjord perfect’ in Wallpaper*, march 2006 pp71.

Fiell, C and P. Scandinavian design, Taschen, 2002. Alsmaas, I, H. Norway – a guide to recent architecture, B T Batsford, 2002. Hård, U. Scandinavian Design, Nordisk Rotogravyr, 1961. Bjerregaard, K. Design from Scandinavia no 4, 5, 6,7,11, World Pictures APS. Sommer, I. Skandinavisk Design, Gyldendal, 2003.


Webpage on art and design created by Bergen school of media., consulted 15 July 2006.

Norwegian property development online magazine, Article written by Elisabeth Dalseg 19 April 2006 about Tias Eckhoff cutlery design., consulted 15 July 2006.

Official webpage of Moods of Norway clothing brand., consulted 20 July 2006.

Official webpage of Johan Verde, Norwegian designer., consulted 20 August 2006.

Official webpage of Hadeland Glass Corporation., consulted 2 November 2006.

Official webpage for Norway Says., consulted 20 July 2006.

Online business magazine, Article by Stein Ove Haugen, ‘From Grunerløkka to New York Norway Says’., consulted 11 November 2006.

Official webpage of IAESTE Norway., consulted 15 October 2006.

Norwegian online living magazine, article about Grete Prytz Kittelsen., consulted 15 July 2006.

Official site of Norway in the UK., consulted 15 July 2006.


The Norwegian Design Council official webpage., consulted 20 August 2006.

American website on design, Totem Design. Article about Norway Says: ‘Norways Says, Hello New York’., consulted 15 July 2006.

Norwegian online newspaper, Dagbladet, article written by Sølvi Glendrange about Norway Says. consulted 15 July 2006.

Bergen National Academy of the Arts, article about Norway Says written 6 October 2004. way_says_tok_prisen, consulted 15 July 2006.

Norwegian website set out to be Norway’s best website for design and design related links. Article written 15 August 2005 about an exhibition of modern Norwegian design and architecture., consulted 15 July 2006.

Norwegian website set out to be Norway’s best website for design and design related links. Article written 15 June 2005 about an exhibition of Norwegian design., consulted 15 July 2006.

Norwegian online newspaper, Aftenposten, article written by Carsten Bleness 24 September 2005 about 100% design exhibition in London., consulted 20 July 2006.

Website created by the Norwegian architect foundation. Article written Magdalena Eckersberg 2 November 2004 about Norway Says., consulted 15 July 2006.


Norwegian property development online magazine, article written by Elisabeth Dalseg 14 February 2006 about an Exhibition in Stockholm., consulted 20 July 2006.

Norwegian Television channels website. Article written by Øystein Heggen 25 September 2003 about 100% Design Exhibition in London. consulted 20 July 2006.

Innovation Norway, a new state owned company promoting nationwide industrial development. consulted 20 August 2006.

Webpage for company identity enhancement. Article on Norway Says., consulted 20 July 2006.

The Norwegian Prime Ministers web archive. Written 22 August 2001., consulted 20 July 2006.

The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design., consulted 12 July 2006.

Online Book club. Article published 22 March 2006., consulted 20 August 2006.

The official Norwegian webpage in England., consulted 14 August 2006.

Website with general information on the Nordic countries., consulted 14 August 2006.

Website of Tanja Sæter., consulted 29 October 2006. 26

Norwegian online newspaper., consulted 10 November 2006.

Petro online magazine. Magazine concerning oil, energy and industry., consulted 10 November 2006.

Official website for the Prosgrund Porcelain Company., consulted 10 November 2006.

Norwegian consumer council., consulted 20 November 2006.

Norwegian website which gathers news and information about design in Norway., consulted 19 November 2006.

Norwegian online newspaper. 70b5fda84af6f2c0d, consulted 19 November 2006

Norwegian website which gathers news and information about design in Norway., consulted 22 November 2006.

Norwegian News channel., consulted 13 January 2007

Tourist page for Norway, consulted 13 January 2007.

Info about rosemaling, consulted 13 January 2007.


Stave church information, consulted 13 January 2007 Norwegian Railway history, consulted 13 January 2007.

News for press., consulted 13 January 2007.

Bo Bedre, interior design magazine, consulted 15 July 2006.

Map of Scandinavia 1=669330&CID=161126&CUR=826&DSP=&PGRP=0&ABCODE=&CACHE_ID=0, consulted 15 January 2007.

‘Thinking allowed’, BBC Radio 4. 16.08.06

Figure 1: Tourist page for Norway, page 4

Figure 2: Online Encyclopaedia, page 6


Figure 3 Online encyclopaedia _at_the_Chicago_World_Fair_1893.jpg, page 6

Figure 4 Online Encyclopaedia, page 6

Figure 5 Webpage with info about Rosemaling, page 7

Figure 6 Map of Scandinavia, page 8

Figure 7 Norwegian online living magazine, article about Grete Prytz Kittelsen., page 10

Figure 8 Norsk Form webpage, consulted 13 January 2007

Figure 9 Manufacturer of Norwegian cutlery , consulted 17 January 2007

Figure 10 Official site of Johan Verde, page 14

Figure 11 29

Official site of Johan Verde, page 14

Figure 12 Official site of Moods of Norway, page 17

Figure 13 Official site of Moods of Norway http://moodsofnorway, page 17

Figure 14 Official site of Norway says, page 11

Figure 15 Official site of Norway says, page 11

Figure 16 Norsk Form webpage, consulted 17 October 2006


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