69.65° N, 18.96° E

Tromsø, Norway

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13.8.2019

New Country, New Outlook

As a graphic designer, moving to a new country has been amazing for getting a fresh perspective and rekindling my creative spark. I felt as though I already had a broad worldview, but while experiencing life in a new place I realized my knowledge was limited. Luckily in my work I can take an up-close view of the psychology behind how society functions in a visual manner. As a graphic designer we solve problems with a creative solution, studying existing relations and bridging the gaps necessary for effective communities. In having this specific lens to view Norway, I discovered key principles of Scandinavian design and how it differs from my North American perspective.

Design in Toronto

The Toronto design style differs from what I have seen in Scandinavia. Typically Canadian graphic design is not on the map on a global scale, and this is likely due to the fact that Canada’s population is a fraction of its main competitor USA. Canadian graphic design is developed from a historical approach that derived from inspiration brought from abroad. Although my mental images of the streets of Toronto that I walked are fading slowly, I still imagine the quirky, vibrantly decorated signage all over the city. Similar to other big cities, Toronto has signage that loudly speaks its messages. In Canada it is obvious that our American culture has us obsessed with size and scale and it is something carried into our design. Advertisements, posters, and packaging always include some form of big scale, bright colours, and loud fonts. I think this comes from the fact that life in Toronto is fast paced and street design has to grab the attention of viewers with a short attention span. I find that our design style is a bit more “flashy” and uses a lot of elements in a dynamic way. This is contrasting the characteristics of Scandinavian design.

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Scandinavian Design

I've always been intrigued by Scandinavian design, whether it be in fashion, architecture or graphic design. It's key characteristic that has drawn me in has been its clean form and minimalistic approach that “less is more”. Having been to Denmark for a creative workshop, specifically in the cultural centre that is Copenhagen, I already had some idea of the design themes of Scandinavian countries. The timeless, effective use of colour and functionality is evident. There are some key characteristics that I feel define the style and make it so original. A lot of the designs consist of muted and sophisticated colour palettes, often using neutrals. In some cases bright colours are used, but they are used in a limited way, using only two or three prominent colours to tie in the entire design. The use of colour is strategic and fits like a piece of the puzzle in its minimalistic products. When looking from afar it is evident that Scandinavian design uses contemporary lines and forms and simple shapes comprising the masterpieces that come out of their works. It is uniquely using the vast nature as an inspiration and implementing aspects of it into design, whether that be with wood textures or with the tones of colours from the cold winters. Always in the details and minimal with little to no room for clutter, each element is incredibly strong, especially typography. With typefaces that command attention, Scandinavian design can be a work of art. It is all about the tactfulness that makes these designs ingenious.

Design in Northern Norway

Unfortunately this hasn’t been entirely my experience here in the north of Norway. Although I often see this type of principle of design in cities like Bergen and Oslo and the works that come from there, I find that Tromsø is a bit behind on its development. I find that Scandinavian design is not evidently unifying the Tromsø community and very few companies and businesses have adapted to the principles of this regions graphics. As I look around I see gaps that need improvement, design that is generally outdated. With the standards of Scandinavian design and my own perspectives from Canada, I think design standards of the north can be improved. Scandinavians have something to admire in their creativity and delivery and I believe if we focus back to the original themes, Tromsø can follow suit with its major Scandinavian leaders in the design world.