Katie in Copenhagen

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Last week I went to Copenhagen Denmark! I was there visiting my little sister who is studying there. Being of Danish decent it was pretty amazing to see where my family came from. While in Denmark I did the typical touristy stuff like visiting castles and really, really old churches but I also got to learn a bit about Danish design as well. Amazingly I even saw a vector pack element on a poster while walking downtown. That was pretty cool, whenever I work on a vector pack I guess I forget that people all over the world are buying them!

Before I left I got in touch with a few designers who are working in Copenhagen and got some great recommendations for sights to see relating to design. One such place is the Danish Design Center in downtown Copenhagen. I was really fortunate to set up a meeting with a designer, Morten, who is currently working there! He was kind enough to give me a private tour of the museum and introduce me to an amazing instillation artist Mads Hagstrøm. He currently has a show at the DDC called FlowMarket.

For me, FlowMarket was an intriguing user experience. On a long table he set up a bunch of different syringe bottles labeled with different emotions: happiness, truth, sensitivity and so on. At the end of the table there is a stack of shopping baskets, indicating our insatiable desire to be consumers. This piece really spoke to me because, in my opinion, we place far too much importance on material possessions.

Morten and I also walked through another exhibit called Sauma, user-driven design. Several of the pieces were typical house hold items but designed in an intelligent and beautifully simple way. One item in particular that I thought was interesting were these jackets with Velcro all over the outside of them. If a couple people wearing them bumped into each other they would be held tightly together. Some of the objects were more practical than others but they each were interesting perspectives on how products might be improved.

Denmark is known for the furniture design; the Egg chair seems to be their claim to fame. I flipped through a few interior design books with Morten and he explained that Danish homes are all very sparse in the amount of objects placed in a room. The beauty is in the negative spaces. This seems to be a trend emphasized in all aspects of design in Denmark.

There was a really interesting juxposition between old and new in Copenhagen. All the exteriors of the buildings were extremely old with lots of beautiful details on the outside. Inside most of the rooms were filled with modern furniture that had absolutely no decoration. I also learned that IKEA is pretty much the worst place to shop; it’s only for people who are really poor. I love IKEA, most of my apartment is furnished with IKEA furniture because it’s beautiful and simple. You can’t find furniture that is so beautiful for such a great price in the states. Well in Denmark, IKEA isn’t exactly a novelty since it’s been there for years.

After meeting with all these designers I got a pretty good perspective about the difference between American design and Danish design. One thing I found interesting is that in Denmark it seems most clients want very simple designs, with pretty much only typography and no frills to anything. Here it seems that most clients want everything but the kitchen sink! Danish designers seem to crave wanting to try something new that is overly designed and crazy looking, while I want to make all of my designs extremely simplistic! I found that really fascinating. I guess no matter where you are in the world you want to try doing something that is different from the norm.

My overall opinion of Danish design is that they strive to focus on the beauty of negative spaces. Their work is extremely simplistic but shows a wide range of stylistic voices through utilization of simple elements. Their sensitivity to typography was the most inspirational to me. I commend anyone who can use Helvetica for everything but still have the ability to make each piece unique.
Experiencing another country was so amazing and inspirational. Now, I just need to figure out the next country I will visit!

About the Author, Katie Major

I'm a graphic designer with a passion for typography, learning, photography, reading, knitting, and playing music. Check out some of my personal projects here.

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