From the 30th of March to the 2nd of September, V&A Childhood museum is holding an exhibition about Nordic Design for Children from 20th century till today.
Who never played with Lego ? or shopped furnitures from IKEA ? Today Nordic design is everywhere and with the growth of Scandinavian design trend during these past years, some brands expanded to the international market and became Scandinavian icons of the modern world. This exhibition helps us to understand the context in which design for children have been created, and how Scandinavian culture is strongly embedded in each of the product presented, reflecting a strong cultural identity.
What we are calling today Design for Children is one of the most important discipline in a society as it is all about conveying the values, traditions and culture to the next generation. By looking at all the products presented it is clearly noticeable how the nordic environment, values and 20th century economic context influenced nordic livings and industries.
One of the main and recognisable item of this selection is the LEGO Bricks. Founded in 1931, the company as originally producing small wooden playthings echoing the carpenter skills of its founder. After the 2nd World War, the plastic innovations brought LEGO to expand to a whole new market. However, despite of it’s innovation and raw material change, the company has always kept it’s philosophy. Influenced by Ellen Key, a Swedish writer and feminist, the nordic culture has during the 20th century encourage the development of children trough freedom and creative activities, creating spaces where everything becomes possible for them.
Nevertheless, construction and creative playthings have also been develop in other country at the same time. Looking at the “Chalet Suisse” game in France produced by JeuJura, the traditional carpenter heritage brought manufacturers to develop construction games based on the typical French and Swiss mountains wood house aesthetic. The influence of the wood making industry on the children toys.
During “les Trentes Glorieuses”, referring to the thirty years from 1945 to 1975 where french economy was flourishing, another manufacturer named Vilac, crafted many wood toys echoing the status of french society. The prosperity and success of the french industry became a strong national symbol and became embedded in the identity of the country. Cars, Planes, Trains, Fireman trucks, all these emblems have been reproduced in wood to become toys. Through this process, this design for children convey many implicit messages like the celebration of the french wood making savoir faire as the industrial success of the nation.
Games are never innocent, they are in fact the strongest statement of a society, echoing the education and symbols they are choosing to convey.