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  • Sydney Barton

inspiring us: Scandinavian Design

The design world has recently been abuzz with a newfound fascination for all things Scandinavian, and in no place is this being observed more than in the fashion community. I was lucky enough to spend the summer in this region and was able to glean some insight into the culture and aesthetic of Scandinavian design. Throughout my seven-week stay in Copenhagen, I visited countless design firms and museums, excitedly filling my sketchbook until it was so thick with inspiration that the binding broke. But the things I will remember most about this invaluable trip are the small details of ordinary Danish life: the blankets resting on the backs of every chair in outdoor cafes, the sun setting at 10pm and rising at 3am, the pink rose petals sprinkled on cobblestones. As a graphic design student and intern at Polychrome, Scandinavia had a huge impact on my artistic eye, and its elements will forever be embedded in my work.

Read on to learn more about the design of gorgeous region!

Polychrome is currently inspired by the effortlessness and timelessness of Scandinavian design.

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A historical and cultural region of Northern Europe, Scandinavia most commonly refers to the countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, while in some cases including Finland and Iceland. These Nordic countries have largely impacted the world of design through the Scandinavian design movement, which began in the 1950s. Simple, modern, minimal, and functional, their classic “less is more” concept has long been characterized by reducing design to its most basic and practical form, eliminating unnecessary and extravagant elements while still retaining effortless beauty.

View some beautiful, timeless examples of Nordic design below:

sources: Home-Designing | yliving | Pinterest | the-dvine | Svenskt Tenn | Best Products | The Crafty Gentleman | UlraLinx

The basis of Scandinavian design is modernism, a cultural movement that began at the end of the 19th century as an opposition to Realism and a response to the invention of photography. Scandinavian design is often referred to as democratic design because of its affordability and accessibility. Its focus on functionality is rooted in the early necessity for products to be used simply for survival purposes in this historically cold and desolate area of the world. Yet as the movement evolved, a balance was formed in which products would not only be clean and basic, but also pleasing to the eye and often inspired by nature. As the birthplace of countless impactful and impressive design and fashion brands such as IKEA, BoConcept, Marimekko, ECCO, and H&M, Scandinavia has changed the world when it comes to design, and its spare and effortless style has spread globally as well.


Explore the simple charm of Copenhagen in some of the photos from my trip:

Photos copyright @ Sydney Barton

Generally, the charm of the Scandinavian aesthetic is the juxtaposition between clean, modern architecture and quaint, colorful buildings. Simple, flat-toned apartment buildings and shops are often covered in delicate weaving vines and in many other ways, too, bold and straightforward forms contain surprises in the details. Set amongst the classically simple, blacked-out fashion of the locals, the earthy palettes and countless streams of bicycles create a timelessness that Europe is so well known for. The Scandinavian way of living puts a large emphasis on enjoying the simple things in life, and on every sunny day that deters from the usual constant rain, the locals can be seen spending entire days outside, drinking, picnicking, and playing games with friends or family in the fresh air. The Nordic people have always been tight-knit and extremely family-oriented, so much of their design in the past century has been focused on domestic products and those that enable one to easily and quickly accomplish tasks so as to focus on other more important things.

Time outdoors with loved ones is a priority and considered part of a healthy lifestyle - image source: Discover Study Abroad


Today, design and fashion in Scandinavia has evolved and been influenced by other countries around the world so current trends in fashion and textile prints are integrated with classic Nordic silhouettes and color schemes. Head-turning women’s fashion is also a constant element of these trend conscious cities. Earlier this year, the Copenhagen and Stockholm fashion weeks caught the attention of fashionistas all around the world as they showed their iconic sleek and neutral aesthetic combined with current style trends like bohemian dresses, head-to-toe print patterns, and unexpected pops of color. At its core, Scandinavian fashion is inspired by environment, and so the long, dark winters and perpetual rainy weather have clearly inspired people there to dress in a way that provides their own lightness and sunshine.

Explore street style from Copenhagen fashion week - image source:

While the everyday style of locals in cities such as Copenhagen tends to adhere to neutrals and modest silhouettes, high fashion in Scandinavia often has a mind of its own. Street style during fashion week this year included prints and patterns that parallel Polychrome trends. Dainty, feminine floral prints spotted flowing down the cobblestone streets call to mind our Fine Romance trend, and were fashionably juxtaposed with sporty or holographic accessories reminiscent of our Futurama trend. Channeling our Cuban Revolution trend, bold floral prints and unexpected splashes of tropical colors were combined with leather and camo to exhibit laid-back, yet ultra-cool vibes. Overall, the effortless harmony between minimalism and humanism embedded in Scandinavian style and design is admirable and is definitely inspirational for designers all over the world. With runways in Copenhagen and Stockholm becoming more and more influential and fresh talent emerging from Nordic design schools, Scandinavian design is poised to make a comeback that will be turning heads for some time to come. ​


Sources: Vogue | Fashionista | Copenhagen Fashion Week | Smashing Magazine | The Locals

* We intend no copyright infringement by displaying images from other sources on our site. Unless otherwise noted, all images are the property of their respective owners.

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