History Of Danish Furniture Design Cultural Studies Essay

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Scandinavia is generally well-known for its design represented by pure and simple lines which is focusing on users needs. Nowadays people generally meet with design from north mainly in IKEA store however this is only one direction which was developed from Scandinavian Modernism with its origin in 1920 as Fiells (2002, pp. 8,16,18) explain. Denmark as one of the Scandinavian country also excels in design and especially in furniture objects. For example name as Arne Jacobsen speaks for success of Danish furniture design from 1950's and 1960's as this period has been so far the most celebrated (Danish Design Centre, 2009) not only among Danes.

However does this affirmation automatically leads to a conviction that the same can be asserted about Danish graphic design? It should not be a matter of fact to consider that product design and graphic design are developing the same and therefore they need to be on the same level. These two disciplines are not identical to which heads an attitude that Danish graphic design is in the shadow of Danish furniture design. To advance towards to the design situation in Denmark this work will concentrate on development of these two art disciplines from their beginnings through the contemporary works up to the young artists and companies who supposedly can form the future of the furniture and graphic design in Denmark.

2. HISTORY OF DANISH FURNITURE DESIGN

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To better understand why Danish product design and specially furniture design became internationally rather well known than the graphic design, in the first following paragraphs will be described certain parts of the history which had an impact on the development of design in Denmark. Furthermore these two areas of design will be firstly analysed separately based on historical consecution which caused future international success or failure of these disciplines.

One of the most iconic design from Denmark according to Fiells (2002, p. 30) which brought fame to Danish furniture design is a chair number 3107 created by Arne Jacobsen. However before all of the achievements of this talented man can be enumerated, much more have to be described from the history of Denmark. Fiells (2002, pp. 20,22) indicate that Danish tradition of craftsmanship go down back up to the Viking Age when Danes learned how to process existing materials for producing objects for everyday use. With such deep history of craftsmanship, they were able to learn how to create quality made products. Nevertheless the production of industrial design absolutely began at the end of eighteenth century by foundation of Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactury. During many years Danes were influenced by various elements but the main principles always stayed the same. Function, beauty and good choice of material can be found in almost all designs which were created in Denmark even tens years ago. The Authors who are engaged in the theme of Scandinavian design (Fiells, 2002, p. 23; Bhaskaran 2005, p. 168) clarify that all these elements formed in late 1930's art movement Danish Modernism which is a part of Scandinavian Modernism and last up to the present days.

2.1 Kaare Klint

Since there are many significant designers in the history of Denmark it is impossible to mentioned all of them. Therefore only the most important names which moved Danish design forward will be presented. As Fiells (2002, p. 352) assert, Kaare Klint was the first furniture designer who accentuated the importance of proportions of human body with a design of chairs. With his students at Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen at the furniture department he examined previous styles in order to develop better objects which would satisfied user even more. This different approach towards a process of designing helped him for example to create in 1933 the Deck chair (figure 01). This specific rest chair let to relax head due to added pillow or legs by movable lengthening part. By his unique attitude Klint influenced many of his students and moved Danish furniture design to another level. Furthermore as Fiells (2002, p. 23) emphasise since the days of Kaare Klint the origins of Danish and Scandinavian Modernism can be dating.

2.2 Poul Henningson - designer of PH lamps

In relation to the iconic Danish design objects, the PH lamps (figure 02) need to be involved. PH stands for the name of Poul Henningson who produced during his life more then 100 projects of lights as Fiells (2002, p. 243) indicate. Henningson as Klint also came with new approach, however not to the design of furniture but to the lightning. As Fiells (2002, p. 26) point Poul Henningson demanded a new view to the design. With an invention of light bulb the designer himself argued (Louis Poulsen Lighting, 2008) that not many lamps creator knew how to design pleasant artificial light. Henningson studied stages of the daylight and tried to applied found knowledges to his design of lightening. As Fiells (2002, p. 242) emphasize, Henningson was able to create set of lamps with shadings and coloured edges which did not illuminate the room by direct light. He was one of the first who required to design products for everyday use which can be bought not only by high classes of society in Denmark but by everyone. Therefore while Klint was producing his furniture in few pieces from each design, Henningson started to manufacture his products massively. As Lauritsen (2004, p. 128) indicates the dark winter in Denmark forced people to use artificial lightning. Because of long dark evenings and affordable prices, it is supposed that PH lamps became very popular among Danes. In addition due to the well-developed concept and modern design, Henningson's lightings became a cult design object which is well-known in Denmark as well as abroad.

2.3 Arne Jacobson - the most iconic Danish designer

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However the designer who brought most fame to the Danish design in general and whose works continue to be produced and sold successfully all over the world was still not mentioned. His name is Arne Jacobsen and as Fiells (2002, p. 296) assert, he is known for being the most famous designer and architecture creating in the middle of the twentieth century in Denmark. In area of architecture according to Byars (1994, p. 277) Jacobsen was inspired by European architects such as Le Corbusier or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Due to this influence, in late 1920's he was the first who introduced Functionalism to Denmark by his project 'House of the future'. Nevertheless this was only the beginning of his all achievements.

Between the years 1958-1960 Jacobsen was in charge of a construction of SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. But Jacobsen was not responsible for the building only as a architect but also as a designer of interior including furnishing from chairs to door handles. Comparing design of the building with the furniture and other objects which were created mainly for the guest rooms and lobby, Jacobsen succeeded more as a designer then an architect. The building of the hotel (obrazek) is identified by straight lines and cannot be overlooked mainly because of its heigh. Even Jacobsen himself admitted (Republic of Fritz Hansen, 2009) that many people who saw the building did not like its architecture. The furniture with its most famous Swan and Egg (figure 03) chair originally compete to the exterior by rounded lines. Regarding the design of mentioned Egg chair, few literature exploring design of products (Phaidon Design Classics 334-666, 2006, pp. 493,513; Byars, 1994, p. 277) claim that the first concept of this chair was resembling to the creation of Norwegian designer Henry Klein. Warning which was sent to Jacobsen need to be taken positively because he was forced to improve the Egg chair with futuristic rounded shapes of shell which made the design timeless. In addition Jacobsen designed also the Swan chair which creates the remaining part of the couple. As Fiells (2002, p. 302) emphasize, these two design objects were not significant only in the hotel lobby and rooms but later on for furniture design generally.

However the Swan not even the Egg chairs are still not the most famous. Before Arne Jacobsen started to work on project for SAS he designed the Ant (figure 04) and the Series 7 (figure 05) chairs. The Ant chair which was designed firstly in the year 1952 created big design attention when was introduced to public, as Heaths and Jensen (2000, p. 160) clarify. Moreover in 1955 Jacobsen presented developed version of the Ant chair - the Series 7 chair, known also as a chair no. 3107 which Fiells (2002, p. 30) describe as "... one of the best-selling chairs of all-time, but also one of the most iconic products of Danish design". With the first fabrication of the Ant chair is engaged a story when Arne Jacobsen came to the front manufacturer Frintz Hansen with a plea for a production of his design. Unfortunately Hansen refused his request because of the high expenses for output. However he would offer him a cooperation but only if Jacobsen found a purchaser for his order. As Bo Rasmussen (konggullerod, 2006), a factory manager of Fritz Hansen tells, Jacobsen found a costumer with demand after 300 chairs and the production could start. This anecdote clearly shows that behind the success of Jacobsen's chairs is not only modern design but also a luck. Another statement pointed by Heaths and Jensen (2000, p. 113) which can clarify the success of the Ant and the Series 7 chair is its lightness and storage ability. This made the product easy to export and helped to spread this furniture out of Denmark and become known internationally.

2.4 Verner Panton - designer of one-piece chair

The last dominant designer who will be introduced in the next paragraphs, took completely different approach to the design of furniture than all mentioned artists above. Verner Panton, as Dickson (2006, p. 265) indicate, tried to use different materials than wood or leather, for example plastic. He was also avoiding natural colours and rather preferred colours such as red, yellow, purple or blue. As Byars (1994, p. 424) describe, before Panton started to work on many of his psychedelic furniture he was a part of Arne Jacobsen's studio where he got a chance to be present in development of many well-known objects such as mentioned Ant chair.

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As Dickson (2006, p. 267) asserts, although Panton studied in Denmark and was surrounded by its design his gamesome fantasy and admiration for future were reflected in his work so dramatically that no company in Denmark was able to manufacture his projects. Therefore he decided to leave to Switzerland and to cooperate with Vitra company which had necessary technology to produce his most famous Panton Chair (figure 06). This iconic design object was long time in process before it could come to the production in 1967. While this chair was interesting for not having back abutment and for its utilization of a plastic with which there was not much experience, this design was created only from one piece, as Dickson (2006, p. 267) emphasized. These reasons and facts made Panton design world famous and contributed to the larger admiration of Danish product design.

3. HISTORY OF DANISH GRAPHIC DESIGN - TILL 1960

In relation to all mentioned famous design products from Denmark, the Danish graphic design history also need to be mentioned to compare achievements of these two areas.

3.1 Thorvald Bindesbøll - first Danish graphic designer

According to Ejlers (1997, pp. 58-59) the first artist who can be signed as a graphic designer was an architect and product designer Thorvald Bindesbøll. Number of his works in area of graphic design is not extensive however for the Danish graphic design history there is one work which need to be mentioned. Architect Bindesbøll designed a logo and a label for Danish famous beer Carlsberg (figure 07) in 1904. Folkmann (2007) emphasizes that until then most of the graphic works produced in Denmark adapted typefaces mainly from Germany, except for Bindesbøll. Although he did not produced much works in area of graphic art he is reputable for the new approach to a design of typefaces. Instead of only accepting offered design from abroad, Bindesbøll created new type only for Carlsberg which the company with small changes has been using up to this day. This logo and its designer showed new direction to the Danish graphic design. Nevertheless in the course of several years the solution for Carlsberg's logo can be understood similar to typeface of Coca Cola. Although the typeface of Carlsberg does not appear handwritten as Coca Cola, there still can be found certain resemblance which does not make the logo outstanding for its design in the period when most of the letter design where inspired by a handwriting. Generally people are buying beer for its taste not for the logo itself and this is also a case of Carlsberg. Ejlers (1997, p. 61) himself assumes that graphic works of Bindesbøll usually did not follow any typographic rules because he treated letters as pictures. On the other hand he was the only artist among the famous graphic designers of the first half of twentieth century who achieved to created logo which has been in use both nationally and internationally for more than 100 years.

3.2 Architects in graphic design

As was mentioned above, the logo was made by artist whose original profession was an architect. In the article by Ejlers (1997, p. 58), the author discusses a subject about graphic works done mainly in the first half of the twentieth century such as street signs, telephone directories, book covers or posters which where mostly created by architects. This reality could be caused by a fact that in Denmark during the first 50 years of twentieth century were no graphic design schools. As was already written, most of the typefaces where applied from German design therefore there was no need to employ graphic artists. When Carlsberg wished to have an original logo the company asked Thorvald Bindesbøll however not as an architect but as a graphic designer. Another well known architect and designer Knud V. Engelhart who was creating after Bindesbøll were influenced by his few works that he produced in the area of graphic design. Ejlers (1997, p. 62) explains that Engelhardt's first works were affected by Bindesbøll's ornamental lettering. While later on he was able to develop his own style which can be seen for example on the typeface design of street signs done for north part of Copenhagen. His successor Gunnar Billmann Petersen, who cooperated with Ib Andersen who as well studied at School of Architecture, was also influenced at the beginning by works of his teacher.

All these mentioned artists were sharing their experience and were influencing their successors however they created imaginary closed line of graphic designers which could not be often entered by others. This was true till year 1951 as Dickson (2006, p. 485) describes when Billmann Petersen became a professor of the first Department for Industrial design in history of Denmark at Copenhagen's Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Students studying under this department were taught to design posters or typefaces as well as products such as lights or cars. More specialization was achieved in 1959 when the department was divided into the Industrial design programme and the first Graphic design programme leaded by already mentioned Billmann Petersen. Opening of this department gave new possibilities to students and to Danish graphic design in general.

3.3 Comparison with Europe

However from comparing a foundation of the first Danish Department of Graphic design with for example German Bauhaus explicitly results how late this department was opened. Arntson (2007, p. 32) indicates that the Bauhaus was founded already in 1919 which shows a difference of 40 years. While the Bauhaus was already influencing not only graphic design but also other areas of art in Europe, Denmark was locked in a line of "graphic architects" creating one by one.

On the other hand to point that in Denmark at the beginning of twentieth century was also another name than Bindesbøll or Petersen, an artist Valdemar Andersen must be mentioned. As Dickson (2006, p. 497) described, this painter worked also as an illustrator, interior designer or creator of packagings. His art was influenced and inspired mostly by French Art Nouveau which is visible from one of his commercial poster done for the newspapers "The Politiken" (figure 08) in 1908. His works were ornamental and simply ingenious. The use of colours and decoration elements in Andersen's posters makes from him truly artist with feelings for composition.

Nevertheless beside the graphic art growing in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century, Danish graphic design was not so courageous. From the works of Danish typeface designers can be remarked that they did not experiment much with the typography such as artist of the Bauhaus or Dadaism. Therefore they were not so remarkable and memorable as for example Guillaume Apollinaire or generally Swiss design.

Moreover, if the Danish graphic design history will be compared to the history of Danish furniture design some differences showing backwardness of this art discipline could implicate. When graphic design started to be taught at Royal Academy in Copenhagen in 1959 the furniture design department was already training its students for 35 years. In addition while first students began to form the future of graphic design, Denmark could already be proud of design objects such as PH lamps or Jacobsen's Ant chair. Till the year 1959 Denmark was still missing graphic design pieces which could be proudly sent to the international environment.

4. DANISH GRAPHIC DESIGN AFTER 1959

So far the paragraphs above were examining the events from the first half of the twentieth century. To be more precise till the year 1960, except for the Pantone chair which was produced in 1967. During the mentioned period the Danish art of graphic design did not succeed internationally as the furniture products. Most of the iconic furniture design where created around 1950 while graphic design works were still at the beginning of its development. However when the first graphic department was established Danish graphic design expected improvement within this art area by arrival of new talented graphic designers.

4.1 Claus Achton Friss - designer of Kingdom of Denmark

To see how the graphic design situation has developed or not after the foundation of the first graphic department, the works of current designers will be introduced. The first artist who will be presented is Claus Achton Friss. Even he established his own studio already in 1950, most of his famous works came into being within next 30 years as Ejlers (1997, p. 71) reported. His design is well-known among Danes because most of them were done for the Kingdom of Denmark, for example Queen Margrethe's monogram (figure 09) from the year 1976, embassy sign or national arms. As Ejlers also emphasized (1997, pp. 71-72) Friss was exceptional by his solutions of situations when he missed suitable fonts. He designed his own to fit with the client identity therefore Friss left behind a big amount of fonts.

To examine the Queen's monogram, as it is one of his most significant work, this design will be compared to monogram of the Swedish and British royal family members (figure 10,11). So far as both of the shown Danish and British monograms are for the queens, Friss's design appeals more feminine then another. The elegance in the design of thin lines suits to women generally more than bold letters. However the British solution shows power and hide femininity which can indicate to a vulnerability that is a character incongruous with governance. Overall Friss was able to design suitable projects for Danish kingdom to represent itself with dignity which classified him among reputable Danish designers.

4.2 Ole Søndergaard - designer of pictograms and traffic signs

If a good artist was determined by number of prizes, Ole Søndergaard would be certainly one of them. Since the 1980 when the IG prizes for Danish graphic designers began to be awarded, from the information given by Schenstrøm (2010) Ole Søndergaard has already received six prizes given by Danish Design Centre. Additionally as Søndergaard (Ole Søndergaard, no date) indicates he was awarded by another 7 prices but only one of them from 1992 the European Community Design Prize was international. Considering the time period when he was working on most of his projects the number of awards should be interpreted as a success for Søndergaard's works.

According to Dickson (2006, pp. 489,496), Søndergaard is known in his home country as a designer of pictograms and road signs which he was creating during the last 10 years of twentieth century. Pictograms and all signs generally need to be simple and understandable therefore most of the Søndergaard's works are mainly simplified forms of symbols which were in the use before 1990. However comparing Ole Søndergaard's logo design to another graphic designer who was living and creating in the same time but in the different country shows lack of creativity in his works. Jan Solpera is a Czech graphic artist who also studied at university during 1960's as DvoÅ™ák (2010) affirms. Solpera was designing logos as Søndergaard but on the contrary he participated in projects where he literally played and experimented with typography which is visible from his posters (figure 12). Søndergaard on the other hand created technically clean design however with standard quality (figure 13) where the creativity which would move his design to another level is missing.

4.3 Per Mollerup - designer of Copenhagen's airport signs

Dickson (2006, p.493) suggests that Per Mollerup is also an important part of Danish graphic design since him with his studio was awarded for the Copenhagen's airport signage (figure 14). With projects such as information and navigation systems the emphasis is placed on the user and his easier understanding of symbols rather than on a graphic aspect which is also important however it goes to the second place. While Per Mollerup was designing the airport sign he decided to stay with the proven combination of dark background and light lettering as many other airports (figure 15), in his case - black and yellow. Therefore he was able to create simple navigation for travellers passing through Copenhagen airport which has been in use already for 20 years, as Dickson (2006, p.493) indicates.

4.4 Bo Linnemann and Kontrapunkt

Another contemporary designer which can compete with Ole Søndergaard by numbers of received awards is Bo Linnemann. Except approximately 12 prizes from Danish Design Centre, Linnemann received also several international as different sources (Danish Faces, 2007; Schenstrøm, 2010) show. In comparison with Søndergaard, Bo Linnemann together with two other partners founded about 25 years ago the Kontrapunkt firm. It is a design and brand company which operates not only in Denmark but also in Japan, as the agency (Kontrapunkt, 2010) reports.

Graphic works of Kontrapunkt are distinguished mainly by light colours and simplicity of design solutions which make them appeal purely, modern and minimalistic. The best examples which would represent style of the studio are projects of visual identities for Danish chemists (figure 16) or Japanese Tasaki which produced pearl jewellery (figure 17). It is probably because of Danish liking for simplicity that Kontrapunkt is in charge of design for public places such as Billund airport, Movia transfer, Danish Railways or Copenhagen's tourist centre where the Danish graphic design is mediated to tourist and foreigners.

4.5 Graphic and furniture design at the end of twentieth century

These mentioned designers has been working in graphic area after the first graphic design department at Royal Academy was established. Even they have created larger amount of works than graphic designers from "the line of architects", compared to success of furniture designers this art continuously missing the iconic design as appeared in Danish product design in form of Ant chair or PH lamps. Graphic design works are considerably less imaginative, challenging and playful than the furniture design objects. Although all the design is technically well-done the idea for the design solution is in general standard. Awarded graphic designers such as Kontrapunkt, Ole Søndergaard or Per Mollerup, as Schenstrøm (2010) reported, were given repetitively the prizes for commercial projects which were limited in area of creativity. These designers were not awarded for creative works which would allowed them express themselves entirely. But for more serious works such as airport or traffic signs that need to follow given rules. In general from all presented graphic works and designers can be seen that Danes understand graphic design more as a means for a commercial communication rather then an art tool.

5. FUTURE OF DANISH DESIGN

Even nowadays, time is passing faster then ever, the Art cannot become iconic over a night. Designers who were designing their works within past 10 years still cannot be fairly appreciated because society needs to evaluate these arts with some time distance. This statement is supported by the fact that Danish Design prizes for graphic design were not awarded right after the establishment of the first graphic department. It toke 20 years when the first graphic design project was given the IG prize as is known (Danish Design Centre, 2008, p.35) because Denmark had a need of time for graphic designers to gain experience. Artist who were presented in the paragraphs before are according to different mentioned sources so far the best of Danish graphic design. However they cannot be equaled to names such as Arne Jacobsen or Verner Panton as their works are not so iconic as works of Danish furniture designers.

5.1 Young Danish graphic designers and studios

With arrival of new technologies, forms of graphic design are changing all around the world. From the end of nineteenth century till almost the end of twentieth one of the most powerful medium was a poster, in general prints. Despite of its previous popularity this medium has being supplied by more digital art such as websites or digital panel and it is presumptive that posters will slowly disappeared (Blažek et al., 2010). Therefore future generation of graphic designers are adapting themselves to the new call in graphic industry. There are many artists who were influenced by the digitalization and now mainly work with popular computer graphic such as Aastrud Sigrid and Bay Thomas (Worldwide graphic design, Scandinavia, 2009, p. 222) as can be seen from examples of their works for Ford (figure 18). Or Stefan Mylleager (Worldwide graphic design, Scandinavia, 2009, p. 223) who creates mainly motion graphic videos (figure 19) and CD covers. Not only these artists but many others will probably develop this art direction which is due to the internet and other modern technologies, which spread information quickly and everywhere, a matter not only of Denmark but global.

However there is another group of artists which creates in different direction. It could be probably caused by the big digital press that some young designers rather based their creations on handwork, usually in illustrations which are afterwards retouched in graphic programs than only on computers. Some of them can be seen in the publication presenting Scandinavian graphic designers (Worldwide graphic design, Scandinavia, 2009, pp. 222-223) such as Ehlers Sune who illustrates his "Duudle" creatures (figure 20), brothers Rune and Esben Fisker who create animation videos and illustrations (figure 21) or Thoberk Jakob who worked in Spild Af Tid design studio focusing on different kind of media done by animation or illustration. Another young artist Karina Petersen who is mentioned by Devroye (2010) experiments with typography by different forms of expression (figure 22).

All these mentioned designers present new view to graphic design either by digital art or illustrations. Nevertheless most of them express themselves more openly and playfully than the generation before which is the approach that Danish graphic design was missing. Moreover nowadays modern era with its technologies helps present artists easier and faster beyond the borders of Denmark. On the other hand they are facing to large competition in which they have to success.

5.2 Future of Danish furniture design

The biggest success for Danish design was in 1950's and 1960's but since this time period Danish furniture products have not achieved such popularity. It seams that designers are aware of this situation because as Danish Design Centre (Danish Design Centre, 2009) remarked, within past several years relatively young companies began to introduce new quality products to the market. Hay is one of the firm which realises that Denmark cannot live only from the fame of previous generation but need to continue and develop. As Danish Design Centre (Danish Design Centre, 2008) also indicates, by cooperation with young artists Hay was able to create successful company with creative furniture solutions only within seven years. Their products such as the Blow chair (figure 23) or the Princess chair respects the elements of Danish Modernism as simplicity, importance of good usage of materials, quality technics of production and focus on user. Furthermore they do not only copy existing products however they bring something new and original into the Danish design of furniture.

6. CONCLUSION

From the beginning of the twentieth century when the line of architects was working on graphic design projects and not even after the first establishment of the graphic design department. Danes have not been able to create graphic art which would become so iconic as furniture products from 1950's and 1960's. Most of the works were technically well made but missed ideas which would create from them better art then only standard. Comparing Danish graphic design works with others from Europe a lack of creativity can be found in their design solutions. This can be caused by working mostly on commercial projects where the creativity is usually limited by instructions and wishes of client.

However this cannot be asserted about the furniture design consisted of iconic Ant, Egg or Panton chairs and PH lamps which are admired and well-sold even after 60 years from the day they were created. The Danish modernism, as the furniture design in Denmark is collectively called, is known for the emphasis on function, the use of simple lines, the focus on good choice of materials and quality production. These principles were consider by Arne Jacobsen in 1950's as well as by designers working on chairs for Hay more than 50 years later. And this is the matter which creates Danish furniture design so powerful.

7. REFERENCES

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