Coming events

Nordic Forum for Design History 2018, November 23

Iceland’s Museum of Design and Applied Arts, Garðabær

Theme: Copies, Classics & Traditions

Originality seems to be an overarching ideal in modern design, where copying has the lowest esteem. This is inherited from Romanticist notions of art and dominates modern art and architecture as well. Laws and regulations against design copies are often based on intellectual property rights despite they are difficult to judge legally. Copying in this sense is seen as plagiarism, as stealing ideas, not just quoting or repeating forms.

However, copying means also to some extent confirming, and it has had – and still have – a proper function in education and tradition. Traditional craft education was based on copying, and the skills were developed in making exact copies. Though modern design education is explicitly about creativity and original innovations, there might still be tacit lines between when to break rules and when to align the aesthetic norms of the teachers and the school. There would be no training without following and confirming some rules or models, and academics as well have to show skills to reproduce ideas and schemes.

In the history of Nordic design traditions and schools are central references to confirm common identities and ideals. We highlight some designs as original and canonise them as design classics. Being ‘classics’, however, means that they are used as models by followers. The status as classic is confirmed by later versions or reproductions. And some of the early Scandinavian furniture classics were even versions of traditional types, as type form was an ideal in Functionalism. In this sense the copying of types and models played a significant role in Nordic design, e.g. the schools of Kaare Klint and Carl Malmsten. We see such traits in all the Nordic countries as alignment and confirmation of traditions as well as modern identities, if we go beyond the black and white understanding of originals versus copies.

The presentations and discussions of Nordic Forum 2018 unfold the productive role of copying to cultural processes and historical developments in Nordic design, beyond illegal plagiarism.

Presentations may be in both English and the Scandinavian languages, as Nordic Forum wishes to promote both inter-Nordic exchanges as well as internationalisation of Nordic research.

Send registration for the conference to before Nov 19 and please mention your name, title and evt. institution.


See the programme and invitation


Iceland’s Museum of Design and Applied Arts

Read more about the place of this years seminar

Iceland’s Museum of Design and Applied Arts

To give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies Read more about cookies

Accept cookies