Norwegians have been traditionally fascinated by the world around them, from exploring unknown distant lands to the close beauty of their spectacular homeland. This unity with nature, combined with a deep-seated value of common sense and practical solutions, lays the basis for a unique attitude towards design. Understanding that design means far more than image, and can only become a true success when it contributes to improved functionality, substance and enhanced use, is a core strength of Norwegian designers and architects.
One pillar of Norwegian design is the country’s top notch educational structure. Schools that include the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Oslo National Academy of the Arts and the Bergen National Academy of the Arts are well known for their excellence in education. This creative talent is then supported by member organizations that are in place to provide professional support.
Providing the Tool
The Norwegian Design Council (NDC) plays a central role in promoting and integrating design within Norwegian business, a responsibility with results that are felt far beyond Norway’s borders. The NDC has a full understanding that Norwegian companies must excel within their respective lines of work in order to tackle the challenges of a global marketplace, a world with knowledgeable and demanding customers who know good value when they see it and have high expectations to match.
Through programmes and services offered by the NDC, Norwegian companies are encouraged and empowered to use design as a tool for innovation and greater competitiveness. By offering consultancy services related to development of products and services, packaging design, branding, corporate identity projects, workshops, seminars and a wide range of similar services, the NDC sees to it that Norwegian companies are well prepared.
Dressed for Success
The Center for Design and Architecture (DogA) hosts both the Norwegian Design Council as well as Norsk Form. DogA is an award-winning building in a historic area of Oslo featuring renovated architectural gems from the last century and before. Norsk Form champions design and architecture in this country, using exhibitions, publications, conferences, evening meetings, study tours, award ceremonies, competitions, networks as well as workshops for children and adolescents, to draw attention to and improve understanding of the importance of design and architecture.
This information and project-based institution serves as an arena for interdisciplinary studies, innovation, debate and network-building in the fields of design, architecture and urban area planning.
Innovation Is as Innovation Does
Financed by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), the Norwegian Design Council is an important part of the governmental strategy to increase the competitiveness of Norwegian trade and industry. In addition, the NDC also works in close cooperation with a wide range of other Norwegian organizations, including the strategic cooperation with Innovation Norway. This close alliance is geared to strengthen design in Norway, with the ultimate goal being the delivery of continually improving products and services to businesses and consumers both in Norway and abroad.
Innovation Norway works with companies through different phases of their business development process, beginning with the assessment of marketing opportunities and priorities, and moving onwards to entrance strategies, establishment and expansion. The ultimate goal is to help them to increase their product or service impact within Norway and on the global market.
Design as a Planning Strategy
Design is becoming more and more an integral part of this process. Bente Syversen, Project Manager for the Innovation Norway Design Program in the Trondheim region says, “Innovation Norway encourages Norwegian companies to focus on a comprehensive strategy that lays the way for the use of design to increase their level of competitiveness. Design and the use of design helps companies to better position themselves within their respective markets. Although there is a way to go in putting design in the centre of strategic planning, we see definite signals that the use of design in this type of planning is increasing.”
To achieve this goal, Innovation Norway offers a number of services and has a network of design advisers at its offices all across Norway, working closely with small and medium-sized (SMBs) companies in helping them to develop their business. Innovation Norway covers the entire spectrum of businesses, everything from entrepreneurs with good ideas and homemade prototypes to large, established corporations looking for an external perspective. Striving to create identity and quality, Innovation Norway knows they have done their job well when their Norwegian business clients achieve success in Norway and beyond.
Strength in Cooperation
The Norwegian Design Council works with Innovation Norway by identifying and defining new areas of focus; development projects and workshops; and a range of other support and services. All of this activity is this based on ongoing dialogue with non-profit organizations such as Grafill, the Norwegian Organization of Interior Architects and Furniture Designers (NIL), and Norwegian Industrial Designers (NID).
NIL is the member organization in place to ensure that the level of professional interior and furniture designers remains high in Norway. Only NIL members may use the initials MNIL, a protected sign that symbolizes quality. The organization has its own secretariat, taking care of the daily conduct of business, and issues information related to education, members and other matters concerning interior and furniture design. NIL represents its members in contributing to solid quality within areas such as project planning of public and private interior for new and old buildings, selection of colour and materials and management, leadership and advice within interior projects.
NID is the association for professional industrial designers in Norway. Members of this association work within product design, public and transportation design, graphic and packaging design, communication and new media design, furniture and textile design. GRAFILL is the Norwegian organization for visual communication within the areas of graphic design, illustrations, interactive design, animation and creative development, representing the leading Norwegian artists and craftsmen within this area.
Designing the Bergen Region
There is creativity within design throughout Norway, and the Bergen Region is an excellent example where open and active cooperation is resulting in success. Design Region Bergen (www.DRB.no) is a member organization dedicated to bringing the regional design creative forces together to inform and inspire. Led by Monica Hannestad, DRB cooperates closely with Kunsthøgskolen i Bergen, NHH, Bergen Chamber of Commerce, Bergen kommune, Hordaland Country, and Business Region Bergen in showing the value of design and design-based communication.
Design Region Bergen is dedicated to connecting the design environment within Hordaland County and creating a “venue for communication”, through the drb.no web community where designers meet business, further on through meetings, seminars, workshops and other events. According to Hannestad, “Our vision is to make the region of Bergen to one of the leading within design driven social and business development. Our main goal is to ensure that our members and other potential clients are provided updated knowledge concerning the role of design in value creation”.
By creating projects and activities where design is actively involved, and by implementing design in areas not known for the use of design, as fish farming, sub sea, renewable energy and of course bigger impact in service design and tourism, DRB contributes to a dynamic communication process –that results in positive impact and value for the region.
Tying it All Together
The Norwegian Design Council is active year-round in planning and staging activities and events, including the annual national Design Day. This high-profile event focuses on companies, designers and solutions that clearly exemplify Norway’s creativity in developing business-sound products and services using design elements and strategies. Other events include the 2008 European Business Conference on Inclusive Design, profiling new knowledge and demonstrating benefits of design as a profitable strategy for innovation and commercial success.
Possibly the most hotly contested annual awards in Norway are those organized by the NDC. Each year scores of companies compete for various awards that include the annual Award for Design Excellence, and the Honors Award for Design Excellence, given to companies and designers who have developed successful design solutions. Other awards include the International Design Award, Classic Award for Design Excellence and the Young Talent Award.
Dressed for Success
The Norwegian Design Council, together with the design and architecture environment here in this country knows that user-oriented designers are possibly the most accessible and efficient innovation tools available in product development. Working creatively, with innovation and cooperation, Norwegian designers and architects will continue to “raise the bar” with products that are aesthetic, sustainable, user-friendly, environmentally responsible and commercially successful.