20th century

Industrialization accelerated in Sweden around the turn of the 20th century, a development that was seen as both positive and negative for design

Industrial mass production made things cheaper, but there was also concern that the aesthetic quality of the goods would deteriorate. The solution was to have artists design products for industry. The 20th century and the modernist era were a period dominated by various different styles and movements.

The story of modern Swedish design starts with the Home Exhibition organized by the Swedish Society of Arts and Design in 1917. The event had both aesthetic and social aspirations. The aim was to beautify everyday objects, combining practicality with an attractive form, so that they were equally suitable for daily use and special occasions.

The 1930 Stockholm Exhibition marked the breakthrough of functionalism. The home should be democratic. Function, not class affinity, was the prime consideration. The needs of the residents would govern the design.


The 1950s are often called the golden decade of design, as the rest of the world began to show increasing interest in Swedish design.

Overdimensioned proportions, rounded forms, bright colours and patterns were typical of 1970s design. Objects were supposed to be practical and child-friendly.

In the 1980s, postmodernism entered the design lexicon. Design became art, and mass-produced items were allowed to become exclusive in a way that the modernist drive to beautify everyday objects for the masses would not have permitted.

In the 1990s, the fastidious design idiom of Swedish modernism inspired a new simplicity, which lacked the social aspirations of the earlier era.


Nationalmuseum Design
@ Kulturhuset Stadsteatern
Sergels torg, Stockholm 

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