The concept of "Danish Design" became internationally recognized in the 1940s and 1950s. It is now a part of the Danish national identity, reflecting the virtues of Danish culture and the Danish mentality. Honesty, openness, and usefulness are key words in the Danish approach to the design of everyday objects, with beauty never the goal in and of itself, but rather the result of a thorough investigation into the best way to solve a specific human need.
The products covered by the Danish Design concept in the 1940s and 1950s were primarily implements for house and home, such as furniture, lighting, and textiles. The Danish Design phenomenon originated even earlier, however. Architect, social critic, and writer Poul Henningsen, furniture architect Kaare Klint, and silversmith Georg Jensen were among the early sources of inspiration. The development of Danish Design as a concept was also influenced by collaboration between cabinetmakers and architects of the time, and by the late arrival of industrialization to Denmark. By the time industrialized production really took hold, Denmark already had a living artisan tradition and craft quality concepts to build on.
Danish Design brought something new to the design world: an organic functionalism, which freed itself of militant geometrical shapes while representing a new, more demanding simplicity, and a design concept based on a genuine interest in the interaction between the user, his tools, and the environment. The Danish Design concept came about through pioneering work by a large number of architects, designers, and manufacturers. The interaction between the designer and the end user, the attention to detail and respect for materials in construction and manufacturing, and the wish to simplify without oversimplifying are all characteristic traits of the Danish Design concept, as well as a high regard for quality craftsmanship.
Beginning in the mid 1990s, Danish furniture entered a new golden age. Thanks to manufacturers with the knowledge to spot talented designers and the willingness to invest in their development, a new generation of Danish designers and craftsmen has come of age. They have been given the challenge of bringing the concept of Danish Design into the future, preserving its identity and values in an increasingly globalized world.
In the 21st century, Danish contemporary designers face new demands spurred by concerns about the consumption of natural resources and environmental sustainability, as well as new technology. While the Danish Design heritage primarily includes furniture, lighting, textiles, and buildings, the Danish Design of today ranges from furniture, complex industrial products, toys, tabletop textiles, and hospital equipment to the visualization and communication of company and organizational identity by means of graphic design.
Proving themselves worthy of the legacy of their forerunners, the Danish designers of today continue to challenge Danish Design with new technology, ideas, materials, and designs. Both highly functional and emotionally attractive, their products appeal to sense and sensibility alike, proving that design tradition, when refined and retooled using new ways of thinking, can make a real and relevant contribution to 21st-century lifestyles.