One of the most endearing aspects of graphic design is the extent to which it’s influenced by different cultures around the world. Every nation has its own unique design heritage, ultimately forming patterns, styles, and trends that are unique to their individual corner of the world.  

In our last “design around the world” post we looked at what makes Japanese design unique. This week we’re turning our focus closer to home (and a little further north) as we look at graphic design in Scandinavia.  

The term Scandinavia refers to a region consisting of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (though some people include Finland and Iceland in the grouping). And other than its stunning landscapes, harsh weather, and friendly locals, the Nordic north is also widely known for its excellent graphic design culture.

Gentle colours, clean fonts, and nature-inspired visuals are just a few characteristics of Scandinavian design. And a larger part of what makes this style so successful is its timelessness: functional, natural, unfussy, and unpretentious.  

That said, let’s take a look at a few features that set Scandinavian design apart. . .  

Minimalistic 

Probably the first word you’ll hear if you ask a friend to summarise Scandinavian aesthetics will be “minimalism”. Perhaps this stereotype is partly fed by brands such as IKEA, who have brought nordic simplicity into our everyday lives. 

Whatever the case, minimalism does appear to be a key feature in Scandinavian graphic design, especially in logos. Bold, text-focussed logos (like, for example, the one belonging to IKEA) are prime examples of Scandinavian minimalism at work. 

Influenced by nature

The Scandinavian countries are widely known (and envied) for their incredible natural landscapes. From fjords and mountains to sprawling forests, this region of the world is a magnet for nature lovers. 

It seems like the locals, too, are somewhat entranced by the great outdoors. And a deep-rooted respect for nature seeps through many Scandinavian-esque designs.

Cool, unassuming pastel colours are all characteristic of this style. Tree-, animal-, and forest-styled illustrations are a common theme, as well as icons and patterns that resemble elements of the natural world.

Stig Lindberg’s Berså pattern.

Clean fonts

Scandinavian design is often very clean, and this aesthetic of cleanliness can permeate both the images and typography.

When it comes to the written word, titles, logos, and headings, tend to consist primarily of sans serif fonts. This lends space and clarity to the overall design, balancing the visual components by blending them into one seamless display.  

Sweden even has its very own national font: Sweden Sans (above). It was developed by the Söderhavet design agency for the Council for the Promotion of Sweden. The agency themselves call it a “Lagom” font—Lagom being a Swedish word meaning “just the right amount.” Sums it up perfectly. 

Simply Scandinavian 

For more on Scandinavian design, see our post on the brilliant branding of Oatly (a Swedish oat milk manufacturer). Or, to dive deeper into minimalism, take a look at The Art Of Minimalist Graphic Design.