Our work is all about moments of truth and long-lasting effects.
Our own moment of truth came in 1998. That year, an art director, an architect and a strategist joined forces to tackle a corporate identity programme of a scale and complexity that would have stretched the skill and resources of Europe’s most established brand agencies. The three shared a vision for a new kind of consultancy, one that could apply strategy and design to reinvigorate their client, Scandinavian Airlines, and a host of others to come; a creative space or workshop where collaborations with a wider range of designers and specialists from other disciplines could give brands a presence in new and powerful places.
In the years that followed, the design laboratory would bring the new SAS identity fully to life. More than 2500 items were infused with colour, wit and warmth, from aircraft and travellers’ lounges to uniforms, signs and sugar sachets whose two-line poems put a thought in your head that could last the whole journey.
There was nothing forced or false about the SAS system. It was supported not by trends, but by a simple, abiding truth: the bonds that exist between Sweden, Norway and Denmark of culture, language and lifestyle, and the natural Scandinavian leaning towards economy, clarity and cordiality. Timeless values gave rise to timeless design that has transformed the SAS brand into a powerful, precious asset. Having lasted for more than twice as long as its original intended ‘design life’, it still looks tailor-made for today.
Our way of thinking was born. Design that was based on truth and insight could create real, lasting, positive change. Another Swedish icon, IKEA, came to the design lab for a new packaging system to contain more than 8000 non-furniture products. The simple, inexpensive cardboard wrap system put products on display to customers and saved tons upon tons of material each year. Still in use, it has outlasted many of the products it originally wrapped.
That ethos has endured, too. We think at a global level and work across continents. And we keep an unswerving focus on what lasts. On clients rather than projects. On truth, not triviality. On intelligence, not speculation. On design that endures and makes a difference.
The simple but sophisticated design system we developed in 2005 for packaging Askul’s office products has made must-haves of workplace necessities, stolen market share and earned classic design status.
Our identity for Sweden’s foremost contemporary art gallery, Moderna Museet, employed the most modest, most striking means: a simple handwritten signature. Robert Rauschenberg’s scribble sums up the museum’s ethos of ‘Access and excellence’. And, true to all good art, it continues to pose questions and beg answers. Whose hand? Whose gallery? Whose art? A pertinent and timeless mark.
That timelessness is a hard thing to achieve. So we stay curious and open to the world around us. We work as a multidisciplinary team at all times, constructing strategy and pooling opinions, ideas and inspirations. And we remain independent, owned and directed by our founder. We speak our mind and seek solutions that answer our clients’ problems, no one else’s.
Those solutions are often unconventional. Sweden’s oldest porcelain maker, Rörstrand, was in steep decline before we introduced it to the fashion designer, Filippa K, in one of the first brand marriages of its kind. That ongoing collaboration, and others like it, have revived the fortunes of this treasured business.
Everything we do is directed towards positive, permanent change for our clients. Each new challenge is assigned the talents that can add value, assembled from SDL and our collaborators. We challenge assumptions, extract insights, consider every angle, every touchpoint, every opportunity.
And we only start the process of design when we have unearthed the truth of the matter, past, present and future.
Welcome to Stockholm Design Lab.
Explore the projects that helped define us