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The following text is a design dictionary entry on NORWAY.
It provides a background information for
the 35 entries on Norwegian designers written for
Dictionnaire international des arts appliqu�s et du design de 1880 � nos jours
edited by A. Barr�-Despond
(Paris: Editions du Regard, 1996)



Norwegian design:
The institutional background [1996]


By Jan Michl


NORWAY Among the institutions shaping the development of applied arts and design in Norway the two most important have been the educational ones: National College of Art and Design (SHKS) in Oslo where the by far largest number of contemporary applied artists and designers has been educated (founded 1818, now with 380 students), and Norwegian College of Art and Design (SHKD) in Bergen (established 1909, with 220 students). Both of them received a college status in 1981 being until then more of profession-schooling institutions. National College of Art and Design (SHKS) in Oslo has in addition housed the largest applied arts and design library in Norway which it shares with the adjacent Museum of Applied Art. Apart from Oslo and Bergen schools there is also Department of Design in Blaker (part of Akershus College) with 120 students. The art schooling in Norway is now in the process of extensive reorganization, with the aim of uniting formerly independent art-related schools within larger administrative units. Also the basic education (1st to 10th grade) is about to be reformed; as of the school year 1997 a subject called �Art and Crafts�, covering all areas of visual culture, is to run all through the ten grades.

There are several promotional organizations devoted to keeping design interest alive among both manufacturers and the public. Norsk Designr�d ND (Norwegian Design Council / ND) in Oslo promotes use of design in industry through measures such as information campaigns, book publications, competitions, conferences, seminars, design prizes and awards. The main public institution related to design is Norsk Form (Norwegian Form) a centre for design, architecture, and built environment, in Oslo, with the goal of improving the quality of public design, and increasing competitive ability of Norwegian products. Established in 1992, after the initiative of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, it has been very active and brough out a number of attractive exhibitions and publications, often stirring controversies in professional circles. There is also Designcentret i Bergen (Design Center in Bergen) a forum for architecture, landscape, interior and graphic design, presenting exhibitions, lectures and information at large.

There are five main design and applied arts related professional associations in Norway, all centered in Oslo: association of textile and fashion designers (NTKD), of industrial designers (NID), of furniture and interior designers (NIL), of �art-craftsmen� (NK), and of graphic designers and illustrators (Grafill). The three largest of these, NIL, NK and Grafill, with some 450, 650 and 750 members respectively, publish their own professional journals; of these NK�s quarterly Kunsth�ndverk has the largest audience.

The only academic publication concerned with applied arts and design, and covering Norway as well as other Nordic countries, has been the English-language Scandinavian Journal of Design History; it has been published annually since 1991 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In spite of having a population of only some four million, Norway boasts as many as three Museums of Applied Art, in Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, established in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s respectively. All of them have large collections of Norwegian and European pre-industrial and industrial arts, some with Oriental departments, and all three have several expositions presenting contemporary design and applied arts every year.

The main lines of the present-day design and applied arts situation in Norway can be traced back to the aftermath of �Scandinavian Design� of the 1950s and early 1960s. That was the time when the Scandinavian countries achieved a collective international design profile based mainly on living-room related objects with elegant, mildly functionalist aesthetic, and on a balance between craft manufacture and large-volume production. The 1950s consensus, embodied in the concept of brukskunst (literally: �use-art� in Norwegian) came to be eroded in the late 1960s and 1970s: to simplify the positions, the new generation of form-givers now tended to believe either in use or in art, but no longer in both at the same time. Industrial designers, putting the weight on use, wanted to work with design for special needs, public design and working environment, and stressed design methods, ergonomics, etc. Applied artists [decorative artists], such as textile artists, ceramicists and others went to cultivate the art part, promoting pure craftsmanship, and rejecting usefulness in objects and large-volume methods of production. They insisted on calling themselves �art-craftsmen� (�kunsth�ndverkere�) and eventually succeeded in securing a new institutional framework for their redefined trade, on a par with that of fine artists.

The general departure from �Scandinavian Design� was probably easier in Norway than in other Scandinavian countries, because Norway, having been the least well-defined member of the group of four, had lesser economic stake than Denmark, Finland or Sweden in leaving this established and commercially successful export phenomenon. The event which came to illustrate the departure was the emergence of in Norway of the innovative Balans sitting-concept in late 1970s, where the ergonomic aspect was paramount. Its international success also helped to draw attention to solid achievements in the Norwegian furniture design prior to Balans-success , and provided a flying start for the younger generation which came to follow more expressive furniture lines. Several representatives of the now unashamedly luxury fields of �art-crafts�, such as jewellery, ceramics or textile, also achieved international recognition. Another successful area, probably least marked by the post-�Scandinavian design� upheavals, was that of graphic design, which came of age in the 1960s; here the tendency to separation between the world of use and the world of art, energizing until recently much of the Norwegian design and applied arts scene, was neither decisive nor really conceivable, as graphic designers have been bound to get the best of both worlds.

The following Norwegian designers have their own entries in the Dictionnaire:
ABRY, ANISDAHL, BL�VARP, BONGARD, DYSTHE, ECKHOFF S., ECKHOFF T., FARSTAD, FINGER, FLOR, FUGLEVAAG, GJELSETH, GULBRANDSEN, GUSRUD, HANSEN, HAARS, HEIBERG, HOPE, HOUGHTON, JOHANSSON, JUTREM, KITTELSEN, LARSEN, LISLERUD, MOTZFELDT, NILSEN, OLDANI, OPSVIK, RELLING, STURE, THORSEN, TVENGSBERG, VIGELAND, WINGEREI and �SE.



Online since 29. april 2004


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Forfatterens andre artikler p� norsk:
Om status, konkurranse, funksjonalisme og industri (1988)
Godt grunnlag for OL-design (1990)
Industridesign (1997)
se design som redesign: forgivningsdidaktiske betraktninger [uavkortet versjon](2001)

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Forfatterens arbeidssted 2017:
NTNU / Norwegian University of Science and Technology / Gjvik, Norway