Scandinavian design in general is known for being simple, minimalistic and focused on user experience: from modern architecture, IKEA furniture, Volvo cars, interior design, to some of the coolest websites online. The simplicity and design patterns were also incorporated by Apple when designing its flagship products and packaging for hardware and software. It was a key to the success of new Mac line, iPhone or iPad. ‘If you cannot present it simple, you do not understand it well enough.’
‘That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains..’ Steve Jobs, CEO Apple
Today, when the web comes brimming with minimalist aesthetics, and the principle “less is more” runs things, Scandinavian design with its simplicity, elegance and functionality as the key characteristics wins customers and influences people. Many of those design aspects have been inherited by web designers based in Scandinavia, with clean, simple lines and strong emphasis on user experience. The technique was greatly influenced by Scandinavian nature and weather conditions. Scandinavian countries got used to long winters and lack of sunlight, so their yearning for warmth, space and light is clearly noticeable in the design, no matter if it is interior or a web project on a design table. Colour choice is also based on landscape peculiarities. Light neutral palette with white, beige, blue, pink and wooden tones is traditional for Scandinavian designs. In order not to make the layout faded and tedious bright contractions elements are frequently used.
The principles of Scandinavian design – of prioritising functionality without eliminating grace and beauty – is a very good approach to web visual communication design today. Granted, when web design emerged as a profession, it focused mainly on functionality anyway, with some of web projects better executed than others. It was not until graphic web browsers started to dominate that graphics began to be heavily incorporated in web design and visual communication designers shaped what we can experience online.
Visual Communication Design
Our everyday lives are filled with a massive flow of information that we must interpret and absorb in order to understand the world around us and understand the information we are faced with. Considering the complex variety of data floating around us, sometimes the most effective – or even only – way to communicate is visually. Minimalistic, visual and user focused design is natural response to the world around us overfilled with information.
Scandinavian websites please the eye with clean look, simple forms. Such layouts are always uncluttered. They are effective without any heavy graphic elements. Scandinavian aesthetics denies anything that is “extra” and “over”, it is focused on laconic interpretation of the world. Highly functional, combining innovative and classic ideas, that is what makes Scandinavian design in trend.
You can argue and say that it’s so easy to get tired of dull hazy layouts, but there are enough arguments to over-persuade you. It’s much more likely that designs with gaudy coloration will make you feel dizzy. Too bright colors are much more annoying than the calm ones. Scandinavian color palettes look clean and refined, welcoming more and more people in. Always fresh and stylish, they are pleasant to look at. Their classical minimalism is ageless, ‘cause it will never go out of vogue.
Art and design mirror the society they are part of. With globalisation of ideas increasing and the world of communication shrinking, a design is not influenced solely by the culture in which it originates. Having visited Norway several times I can see a very close connection to the design all around here. I have gathered some examples of exemplary clean, simplistic and minimal web designs from Scandinavian countries: Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland; and from those influenced by it: United Kingdom and Canada.
The examples I chose appeal to user not only because of visual impression but also due to its information architecture, interaction design and functionality. Those are designed around user experience based on UX and Design Thinking principles. Their advantage is not only the beauty of simplicity, but also how easy and intuitive those are to use: find information, easily receive and understand the message, take an action that a site is intuitively recommending, obtain a service, or memorise brand associations that a particular site is aiming to project. In the era of iPhones, iPads and global popularity of Apple products, Scandinavian design appeal more and more to mass audience, primarily to the Millennial generation, whose mother tongue is digital, regardless where they come from.