This upsurge is the work of a new generation of talented designers. Innovative forces within the various disciplines have brought new dazzle to Norwegian design, refining and enhancing its appeal. The demand for Norwegian design has skyrocketed on the world market as well as within Norwegian companies, and both national and international media have been following developments closely.
For many years, "Norwegian design" was a virtually non-existent concept everywhere but in Norway. While the Danes, Finns and Swedes managed to maintain a reputation as design nations as the status of Scandinavian Design ebbed, Norwegian design has led a quiet, more withdrawn life.
Norway is traditionally known as an exporter of raw materials, an image that has been reinforced by the growth of the petroleum industry. For many years, there was little tradition of utilizing designers in product development processes. Today, however, this situation is changing, and the number of Norwegian companies incorporating professional design expertise in their product development has increased markedly.
The petroleum industry created a basis for innovative technical developers who came to recognize the value of working with designers. A commercial sector seeking to enhance its professionalism began to generate an increased demand for graphic design products. In 1993, Norsk Form, the Centre for Norwegian Design, Architecture and the Built Environment, was established as a publicly-financed foundation to promote awareness and understanding of design-related issues. The 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer gave Norwegian design high visibility and helped to spawn widespread public interest.
Since then, design has become the focus of growing attention in the media, and has been transformed from a virtually unknown concept to a household word for much of the population. This has in turn had an impact on Norwegian companies, as evidenced by the rising number of applicants to the Norwegian Award for Design Excellence from the Norwegian Design Council (established in 1963).
One of the industries that has made the most active use of designer services is Norway’s furniture industry. This industry has an unbroken tradition of developing novelty products and has maintained a solid share on the export market. The Balans pieces and the Tripp Trapp children’s chair are national as well as international bestsellers.
Norwegian furniture designers were also responsible for the most obvious manifestation of the current standing achieved by Norwegian design. In April 2000, the newly-founded design group norway says was invited to Milan to take part in the annual Salone Satelite, one of Europe’s foremost international contemporary design exhibitions.
At the time, it had been thirty years since Norwegian designers had been asked to participate at the exhibition in Italy. Since then, norway says has been followed by a large number of top Norwegian designers. Today, Norwegian design boasts a wide range of talent and innovative ability, and has taken the international community by storm.