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Why Scandinavian Graphic Design Works: The Magical Story of Minimalism

What comes up in your head when you hear the words ‘Scandinavian graphic design’? It’s true that the bright colors of Ikea jump to mind right away, but I refused to believe that Ikea alone can define such a big design concept.

Who better to ask about the Scandinavian graphic design than our in-house creative studio? As it turns out, Ikea serves as a great representation for it (and Scandinavian design in general), but there’s much more:)

Here’s your personal guide to Scandinavian graphic design with top graphic design tips, so you’ll know what works best and can drive more conversions, just in case you feel like a Viking:)

Scandinavian graphic design is the baby of history

It wasn’t born out of the blue; it’s the spur of a special mood in history: a combination of the changing social views and the materials available.

Some call Scandinavian design ‘democratic design’, and there’s a reason for it. In Scandinavia, people believed that useful products shouldn’t be a privilege of those with deeper pockets, but should be available and affordable to everyone in need – with an emphasis on the word ‘need’.

Design does not have to scream at you in different shapes; it’s the minimalist functionalism that counts and can be turned into true art. Here’s what I mean:

clear-cut scandinavian graphic design

This idea spread all around Scandinavia and beyond, a lot with the help of dedicated institutions like Svensk form (a.k.a The Swedish Society of Industrial Design).

With time, the concept of mere need and functionalism got mixed with emotions, which really transformed Scandinavian design and moved it closer to peoples’ lives, giving it more of a human touch.

From furniture design to digital

Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Marcel Wanders – all of these great minds have had their say in Scandinavian design, but today, it is not just about furniture. Scandinavian design has moved to the digital space, but its characteristics haven’t evaporated.

Graphic designers like Tom Emil OlsEn, and many others who picked Nordic motives as their muse, argue that Scandinavian graphic design style still has a “clean and simple expression”.

But is it just the clear-cut design that can help you drive more conversions, or is it something else as well?

There are at least 3 more Scandinavian <graphic> design principles to discuss:

1) Colors and high contrast

Thanks to the Nordic nature and it’s grayish tones, calm, pastel colors get a very clear voice in Scandinavian graphic design.

scandinavian graphic design pastel colors

On the other hand, the gloomy Nordic weather conditions pushed graphic designers to pay a lot of attention to high contrast. When seeing sun outside is less of an option, Scandinavian graphic designers start searching for more creative ways to bring colors to life. This banner is a great example:

scandinavian graphic design shapes

2) Typography

Aside from having graphic representation, Scandinavian design has its own typeface. Can a font represent the whole country? It can. Sweden Sans “a modern, but edgy typeface with some local tweaks” has been selected as one of the national fonts by the Swedish government.

Many of its elements are taken from the Swedish lifestyle and small, nation-specific pieces like street signs. When you look at Sweden Sans, the shapes are simple; there’s just the right amount of symbols. The general feeling is as if the letters are flowing in the air, with lots of white space.

Swedish sans font scandinavian graphic design

[Image Source: sweden.identitytool.com]

But there’s more than just one font. Helvetica – one of the most common typefaces used, was developed by a Swiss, Max Miedinger, in 1957. Designed to have a neutral feel, without any additional meaning, the font is a portrayal of a desire for a change.

Helvetica supports minimalism with its sleek curves, saying ‘no’ to all the old-fashioned, flashy fonts we are used to see in so many advertisements.

font scandinavian graphic design

3) Handcraft and art influence

It was the lack of materials in the past and the nation’s isolation that led Scandinavian designers to use the natural resources available.

What’s more, movements like Romanticism with its loyalty to traditions, German Bauhaus school – well-known for mixing technology with fine arts, and the belated Scandinavian industrial revolution – all had their impact on how Scandinavian design looks today.

Given that, it’s no wonder that the style of Scandinavian graphic design (even in the digital world) puts more focus on every pip of creative detail, mixing what at first look like contradictory concepts.

scandinavian graphic design handcraft
[By Saana Ja Olli, Source: Canva Learn – designschool.canva.com]

Scandinavian graphic design drives more conversions

Scandinavian graphic design may be your best bet when you want to catch audiences, increasing performance and conversions in the world in which human attention span stands at just a few seconds.

It’s this kind of design that presents a very straightforward path for users, letting them focus on the message without any unwanted content and graphics around, without kitschy fonts and colors, without overwhelming with information.

Key takeaways

If you are captivated by this kind of graphic design as much as we are, there are just a few key takeaways to keep in mind and avoid making mistakes:

  • Use light fonts
  • Focus on the details
  • Don’t forget about white space
  • Work with the right colors – if you’re in performance marketing industry, experiment more with high contrast, but don’t go crazy in order not to fall victim to chaotic color mixes
  • Take advantage of grids – working with grids allows for structure. This way you can design in a more methodical, controlled and precise manner rather than letting your mouse fly all over your screen.

In case you don’t feel a 100% about working with Scandinavian design creatives yourself, we can help! We believe that with the right approach and in-house technologies every creative can be turned into money-making art that brings you phenomenal results – learn more about our media capabilities.

katyaor
About katyaor
Why Scandinavian Graphic Design Works: The Magical Story of Minimalism