Design has historically been a part of everyday Norwegian life, people that create items of visual beauty balanced with healthy measures of functionality, sustainability and good old-fashioned durability. This is innovative design featuring genuine advantages for the user – and this is the mark of Norwegian designers.
One distinctive mark of this creative group is the competitive instinct. One of the more sought after awards is the Jacob Award, established over half a century ago. Recognized as the highest distinction that can be bestowed designers in this country, it is awarded by a permanent Norsk Form jury, a group that represents highly documented and acclaimed experiences within the broad spectrum of design. In 2008, this award was won by Ståle N. Møller for his central role as a design leader in the area of protective clothing with Sweet Protection AS, a trend-setter within sports clothing and protection. Sweet Protection works closely with Abry Design, and this award typifies the emphasis that Norwegian design puts not only on style – but the practical aspects involved.
Sweet Protection knows the importance of protective clothing in challenging environments.
© TTeam Skier: Åsmund Thorsen - Photo: Endre Løvaas
Spotlight on Talent
The entire spectrum of Norwegian design is gaining attention on the international scene. Whether it is graphic, interior or furniture design; clothes fashion, industrial design, cyber-design for the ever-evolving internet, or combinations of these – quality and creativity is being recognized. Norwegian design success lies in individuality supported by tradition, excellent education, and a solid national support network. It is a success that should be acknowledged.
The Norwegian Design Council (NDC) recognizes this wide collection of talent each year through its Awards for Design Excellence (AfDE), an annual tradition that began back in the early 1960s. Divided into various categories, these awards are given to both the company and the designer – the only such awards in the country. The AfDE is part of the ongoing Norwegian Design Council effort to put design in the centre of the communication, marketing, and innovative process in the developing and building of brands and products.
Covering the Design Spectrum
Credibility is of utmost importance in these annual awards, and the NDC ensures the highest level of objectively by choosing not only recognized Norwegian experts within the fields of design, but also designers from other Nordic countries. These competitive categories include Packaging Design, Graphic Design, Interactive Design, Industrial Design, and the universal design category “Design for All”. Companies and designers compete within each of these areas as part of the NDC initiative “Awards for Design Excellence.”
The “Awards for Design Excellence”, are bestowed upon both manufacturers and designers who have collaborated in product development. The “Honours Award for Design Excellence” is the highest ranking award in Norway, awarded to both the manufacturer and the designer for one specific product. The sought-after “Classic Award for Design Excellence” is given to designer and manufacturers of a specific product that has been on the market for at least ten years. Finally, the “Young Talent” category provides the opportunity for young designers to showcase their best design projects.
Designing Better Lives
Formel is a well-known award winning industrial design company that makes a good habit of winning awards. In 2008 alone, the company has taken home nearly a half-dozen major prizes, including the “Designprisen 2008”, the only “trade-award” given to a designer and not to a product/producer. The company received this award for the innovative saddle chair “Jockey”, made for disabled children, enabling the child to be positioned secure and comfortably – and be able to be elevated to any table height. User-friendly, lightweight and fully collapsible, the Jockey is portable and durable.
In addition, Formel has won no less that four Norwegian Design Council Awards for Design Excellence in 2008, including the Zpey fly fishing rod system; the Krabat Pilot, a cutting-edge technical aid designed to assist crawling for handicapped children; the series of A20 Architectural lamps for Glamox; and the Glamox I50 and A50 lamp series, two families of light fittings that satisfy both the extreme requirements placed on industrial illumination and the high demands made by architects and light designers when it comes to aestheticism and functionality.
According to Formel’s Geir Eide, the secret is in understanding the need for combining esthetics with practical use, “What is of utmost importance is identifying and understanding the needs and wishes from all interested parties who will be involved in the product's life cycle.” One example of this is HÅG Sideways, a new meeting room chair Formel has designed for HÅG. The chair combines esthetics and functionality with excellent environmental qualities.
||The Krabat Pilot, a cutting-edge technical aid designed to assist crawling for handicapped children.
© T© Formel Design
Sitting on Top of the World
Ekornes ASA, the largest furniture company in Scandinavia with brand names that include Stressless, Svane og Ekornes. Ekornes production takes place in seven different factories in Norway with products being sold through its own sales network globally in chosen markets.
Changes in lifestyle and habits demand design creativity, and Jens P. Ekornes saw an opportunity when the world was discovering the television set. With its roots in basic Scandinavian Design, the Stressless® Original was designed to follow body movements and allow the user to adjust the recliner in a number of ways. The series of Stressless chairs and sofas has had an undisputable positive effect on the many relax – the collection now includes 31 Stressless chairs and 13 Stressless sofas, with a total of 1300 Stressless chairs or sofas produces daily. Products and production are optimized for industrial production.
The development of Stressless Jazz Medium has been based on the natural movements of the body, just as the original Stressless. Always pleased when recognized by the Norwegian Design Council with the Award for Design Excellence, Ekornes’ creativity lies in a deep inspiration by company history combined with an eye on designing for the future.
||The development of Stressless Jazz Medium has been based on the natural movements of the body, just as the original Stressless.
Aesthetics & Use
Aesthetics and use are a key part of design, and the Norwegian Design Council recognized this with the Award for Design Excellence for the new line of electric radiators by Adax. This new range, called Adax Neo, has a simple and elegant design, and is also environmentally friendly with automatic day and night setting included as standard – designed to save customers approximately 25% per year in energy costs for heating purposes.
According to Adax Marketing Director Steinar Sandum, “In our 60-year history we have been working with a wide range of acknowledged designers, the latest being the cooperation with Hareide DesignMill in the development of the Adax Neo. Additional creative impulses in the project were also provided as a result of a close cooperation with two students from the Norwegian School of Architecture and Design, working with Adax as their industrial partner in their post-graduate thesis.”
||Adax Neo’s simple and elegant design is also environmentally friendly – designed to save customers approximately 25% per year in energy costs for heating purposes.
Since its foundation back in 1837, family-owned Norwegian company Jordan has been producing world-renowned oral hygiene products, as well as painting tools and household cleaning products. Long experience has led the group to its position today as one of the leading world authorities in the preventive oral care field. But Jordan is not content with past achievements alone. “We are always looking for new and good ideas. We ‘collect’ ideas from different sources – from research, consumers, trends, competitors and so on. This is an on-going process,” says Jordan’s Category Development Manager, Michelle Wentworth.
The Jordan group is a large-scale employer: currently, 787 are employed worldwide, including 180 in Norway. Everyone involved has responsibility to contribute towards innovation. “Creativity is reliant on team effort for its success,” says Wentworth. However, the creative process also requires a certain amount of additional outside influence. “Right now, I have two workshops arranged where we have invited ‘outsiders’ – people in fields of influence ranging from stylists and editors to product designers – people who can help us with idea generation,” she says.
The process has led Jordan to big successes and vivid products. The Jordan Individual range of toothbrushes encompasses 18 different designs in two different sizes. The striking design led to Jordan being awarded one of the Norwegian Design Council’s Awards for Design Excellence in 2008.
“You have to be passionate about your business and try to do things differently. Everyone must be open to new things in order to realize new ideas,” according to Wentworth. “Design is a critical factor – it means building on a foundation, visualizing and capturing the idea. It has so much influence,” she says.
||Jordan is always looking for new and good ideas, exploring and collection information from different sources including research, consumers and trend analysis – a continuous process.
Since 1995, Abry Design has received more Excellent Design Awards from the Norwegian Design Council than any other design firm for such varied products as technical sports clothing, a trooper helmet as well as this year’s award for the Showersandal together with AVIVO; and the North Legion’s Merc snow motocross (SMX). As with all other Abry design successes, this came as a result of close cooperation and creative communication.
North Legion’s founders Egil Stene-Johansen and Grunde Wågen had observed that while surfers and skateboarders had a corresponding winter sport in snowboarding, there was no such wintertime option for those who enjoyed and competed within BMX and mountain biking. While North Legion was in contact with a number of design agencies in the early going, Abry was chosen for a number of reasons – not in the least because of their expertise in winter sports products.
The design team consisted of Ståle Møller, Even Sørbye, Chris Kavanagh og Christian Abry. Convinced that North Legion’s idea could be the basis for a brand new winter sport, the team knew that it was of utmost importance to combine functionality with aesthetics – the snow motocross product had not only to look good, it would also have to perform with excellence and safety on the slopes. Such criteria as swing control, safe transportation in ski lifts, the transfer of all bike tricks, security, noise reduction and personal expression were key. The idea was to create manoeuvrability that would be a natural extension of the user’s creativity and skills.
The result was the award-winning Merc, winner of numerous awards that have included recognition as the 2006 Overall Winner Ispo Brand New Awards as well as the Norwegian Design Council’s Award for Design Excellence in 2008. North Legion sees this success as a firm starting point to not only a successful product, but potentially the birth of a new winter sport. According to North Legion’s Grunde Wågen, “Although we know it will take time, we feel that the snow motocross can be an exciting new category of winter sports competition. With its combination of speed, manoeuvrability and personal expression, the Merc is well-positioned to take the lead in the development of this new winter sports discipline.”
Emil Abry of Abry Design was asked about the recipe for the company’s 30-year history of consistent design success, “We live by simple rules that seem to work – cultivate innovation, allow for individual freedom and let talents grow. Experience is valuable only if used to challenge the task from all angles and gives the designer confidence in his pursuit for ultimate solutions.”
“For us every project is special – so is the client. We have learned that you succeed only if you are able to get to essence of the challenge, and design products or solutions based on the unique competence of the client. We use this approach whether the task is small or large, a huge seagoing vessel, a web site or a small medical device,” Emil Abry concluded.
||The Merc SMX, winner of numerous awards that have included recognition as the 2006 Overall Winner Ispo Brand New Awards as well as the Norwegian Design Council’s Award for Design Excellence in 2008.
© North Legion
||The Shower Sandal, new and innovative foot brush made by Avivo, design by Abry Design.
© Avivo/Abry Design
Looking Good in the Rain
Designer Lisbeth Lillebø was born and raised in the rainy city of Bergen, where people know the necessity for wearing comfortable clothing that can keep the weather at bay. Traditionally, rainwear had been typically either heavy duty labour type clothing, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, dainty and pretty women’s rainwear - that looked good but often did not keep out the effects of strong weather. The missing element was the comfortable, practical fashion garment that could be worn by a wide variety of people in the rainy weather.
Lisbeth Lillebø had a conceptual vision, and decided to focus her design talents on women who valued quality and fashion – but also knew the importance of practicality. To cover the breadth of the needs of her target group, she designed three groups of rainwear; “Blæst” for the busy career woman, “Blåne” for the active, and “Bulder” as the lush, higher fashion alternative – which of course can be used by all.
The Norwegian Design Council recognized the distinctive design and user-friendly element of the Blæst Citycoat, awarding Lisbeth Lillebøe and Ballade Norway the Award for Design Excellence, calling it a collection that “represents a long-awaited addition to an ever growing market. The public has agreed, and these rainwear collections have been very well received in the market.
||Citycoat is the missing element – the comfortable, practical fashion garment that can be worn by a wide variety of people in the rainy –
or nicer – weather.
© Ballade Norway
The Missing Link
Brunstad, established in 1941, is one of Scandinavia’s leading upholstered furniture manufacturers. The company’s ‘Sting’ chair won a 2008 Award for Design Excellence from the Norwegian Design Council. The inspiration came from natural, organic shapes, intended to provide good ergonomic support. And of course, the chair looks very good. “The designers intention was to break with the cubistic shapes that have been prevailing for such a long time in the furniture business,” says Brunstad’s Marketing Secretary, Inger-Marie Vågane. Visual lightness is a key here, both for the Sting chair and Brunstad’s new design, the Stream sofa and pallet. Despite the fact that the Stream model only has been displayed in stores from September/October 2008, sales have been impressive, showing the popularity of Brunstad design and following up the good results for the Sting chair.
The Sting chair is designed by well-known designers Helge Taraldsen and Arild Alnes. Comfort is one of the key components of the chair’s success, but also adaptability and multifunctionality. “The rounded shapes make it possible to relax in different positions, and by using the Stream pallet as a footstool with the eccentric table turned into the sofa, the use of the furniture is extended,” adds Vågane. Interest in the new Stream model, created by the same designers, at its first show, the Stockholm Furniture Fair in February 2008, was strong. Furthermore, another part of the concept is the idea that furnishing can be done across diagonal lines in a room.
The Norwegian Design Council’s awards jury identified Sting as the “missing link” in the world of loungers – elements of style from a variety of eras combined with a functional, sensible shape that is suitable for most environments, are key factors in Brunstad’s understandably impressive success with its design.
||Brunstad’s ‘Sting’ chair won a 2008 Award for Design Excellence from the Norwegian Design Council.
This article provides merely a taste of the talents and creativity represented in the 2008 Norwegian Design Council’s Award for Design Excellence. For a complete overview of both the awards as well as NDC activities, see the website