Is Nordic graphic design the best there is? It’s certainly extremely popular and having a big influence on graphic designers working all over the world.
We spoke to 12 of the best Nordic graphic designers to see what they think defines the design scene in their homeland and why it has such a global appeal.
1. Daniel Brokstad – Norway
“I think Scandinavian design and how it’s defined has a big link to our way of thinking and how our culture works. We combine function with aesthetics, often in a modern and minimalistic way. We are quite straightforward, saying things exactly as they are and how we see it.
“We’re surrounded by nature. At times we can appear as a bit cold on the outside, but we’re warm once we open up. All of this is a part of us and is reflected in our design.”
‘Sinners Passing’ by Daniel Brokstad
2. MARIA GRØNLUND – DENMARK
“Danish design has a tradition for being minimalistic and inspired by our nature and weather, which is often greyish in the tone because of the cold climate and long winter nights. So in that manner, my colourful design is very atypical, seen from a Danish perspective.
“There’s a lot of fine Danish graphic design which is often distinguished by a certain stringency, timelessness and understated elegance, with weight on quality and ‘form follows function’. Danish design bureaus like Kontrapunkt, e-Types and Hello Monday really manage to catch the essence of the Danish design heritage.”
‘I Speak Fluid Colors’ by Maria Grønlund
3. Vladimir Stankovic – Denmark
“The graphic design scene in Denmark is very much alive and quite dynamic, with exhibitions and events dealing with graphic and industrial design characterised by a minimalistic approach on the one hand, and those inspired by fairy-tale and fantasy themes on the other.
“The way the Nordic design communicates, with its emphasis on functionality and usability and its playfulness of colours and forms, is what makes it so appealing to people worldwide.”
Devil Frog Illustration by Vladimir Stankovic
4. Sedki AlImam – Sweden
“I have always been a huge fan of Scandinavian design way before moving to Sweden. I believe it has earned a global appeal due to it being functional, simple, and in touch with nature.
“Having been here for over a year now, I have come to appreciate it even more! It is truly a reflection of the culture, lifestyle, and society as a whole.”
‘Ikea Man’ by Sedki Alimam
5. Tom Emil OlsEn – Norway
“I would describe the graphic design scene in Norway and Scandinavia as having a clean and simple expression with strong focus on the details. You can probably say that Scandinavian design is a tribute to minimalism. Simple clean surfaces combined with suitable materials defines the red thread.
“In addition to the simple clean style, there are also strict requirements for visual perfection. From a branding perspective, the Scandinavian style is seen as market efficient and exclusive, which has given Scandinavian designers a highly regarded status internationally.
6. Daniel Brox Nordmo – Norway
“Norway is at a top level when it comes to graphic design. The competition between the agencies is very high, and they all have to evolve as the market changes.
“Norway is a great place to work with a lot of inspiring people!”
Poster design for ‘Kulturnatt Oslo’ by Daniel Brox Nordmo
7. Kim Ihre – Sweden
“I can see that graphic design in Sweden is becoming increasingly political. I get the feeling that it is important for many Swedish designers to contribute to society. One reason for that is the growing issues surrounding racism in the country.
“When it comes to the success of Nordic graphic design in the rest of the world, I think it’s because design has always been prioritised here and considered to be an important part of both culture and business.”
8. Mikko Nuuttila – Finland
“Here in Finland, we are a practical and modest nation, surrounded by minimalistic nature, and the graphic design reflects its inspirational surroundings. This unique style stands out because of its exceptional functionality.
“As a designer, and I admit, as a typeomaniac, I am always aiming to create functional, but still, surprising and experimental graphic design, only by using very simple elements – be clever but keep it simple.”
Poster and Typography design by Mikko Nuuttila
9. Kristine Gulheim – Norway
“Graphic design covers many different subjects. You work with a variety of clients, products, formats and styles. I think the appeal is the opportunity to learn, experience and explore.”
Logo design for Mote & Produksjon by Kristine Gulheim
10. Rakel Tomasdottir – Iceland
“Iceland can be a very inspiring environment, we have amazing nature and a small but very creative community. However, the small community makes it hard to specialise in just one thing.
“I believe you have to be good at everything to be a good graphic designer in Iceland and that is also what I love about graphic design, it is such a diverse field.
“With graphic design you are reaching out, you are talking to people through images, typography and forms, without opening your mouth. That, as well as the added bonus of getting to draw a lot, is the reason why I chose graphic design as my profession.
“Most Icelanders live by the phrase “þetta reddast” meaning “it will all work out somehow”, which often means very tight schedules and a lot of late nights, due to clients handing material in late, but maybe that is a universal problem.”
Kristine Gulheim hard at work on an illustrative design
11. Sigríður Kristinsdóttir – Iceland
“Graphic design in Iceland is often experimental, organic and free from global trends… Having said that, many Icelandic designers do amazing things, using inspiration from trends around the world. We are explorers and maybe it is also appealing that we are a bit quirky and weird. When I explore, I keep an open mind and try not to categorise design. I look at what I consider beautiful design and also the things I don’t like… and sometimes I get inspired by the things I hate. Like… typography!”
12. Gustav Karlsson – Sweden
“I’m not sure that I can say that there is a particular Swedish design scene, with a general style and meaning to it; but I think I see a lot of graphic design with strong concepts and it’s often politically driven. Those two qualities, along with work that is thoroughly worked through, makes the best design in my opinion.”
Packaging design by Gustav Karlsson
Why do you think Nordic graphic design is so influential? Have your say in the comments section below…