Unexpected sources of inspiration: Finding Space in Scandinavia

Despite every warning of dreary, rainy, bone-chilling cold weather, I recently took a fall trip to the Scandinavian wonderland of Denmark and Sweden. And though Scandinavia is certainly an expected source of inspiration for design, the mark it left on my day-to-day life was wholly unexpected.
Jason Walkow
January 30, 2024

This post is a part of our Unexpected Sources of Inspiration series where we share how inspiration sometimes comes from the unlikeliest of places. I’m Jason, Head of Design at Plain Sight Ventures, and your friend in the design-nerd world. Feel free to reach out to me at jason@plainsightventures.co if you want to connect about design things or coffee or running or really just anything!

Despite every warning of dreary, rainy, bone-chilling cold weather, I recently took a fall trip to the Scandinavian wonderland of Denmark and Sweden. Though the weather warnings were spot-on, I was surprised at how little the weather actually mattered. Constantly immersed in cobblestone streets packed with age-old stone buildings next to minimalist modern newcomers, the cold really just seems to fade away and you actually look forward to layering up and packing into hip little coffeeshops like La Cabra, Coffee Collectif, or April. It also helps that yummy baked goods are everywhere you look, helping to insulate you for the short daylight and windy nights.

Source: April Coffee Roasters

The first thing most people think of when you mention Denmark or Sweden or Scandinavia in any capacity is…IKEA. There’s a good reason for that. IKEA has made minimalist, modern Scandinavian design aesthetics approachable and accessible to everyday consumers whether you’re in New York or Ohio. IKEA’s democratic design principles of “function, form, quality, sustainability, and low price” has been (mostly) a force for good design, pushing the notion that minimalism and intentional use of space is optimal for good living.

It’s hard to explain just how right it feels to live day-to-day in Scandinavia. There’s a system and a balance and a calm to things that just doesn’t really exist here in the States. The sheer use of “space” is something that lends itself to all facets of daily life, and you really do find yourself leaving room for the unknown and learning to appreciate gaps, whether they be gaps in your schedule or in conversations or in a park. This was certainly a big moment for me as a designer.

So often, designers try to use all available space to squeeze in content or functionality or graphics - but we can learn from Scandi design that space doesn’t have to be filled. Sometimes, creating space can be intentional and a way to make information more easily digestible or add emphasis to something or just a nice break for the eyes and brain.

Back home in Austin, I’m now trying to be more intentional about giving things, all things, just a little more patience and room to breathe. Creating space for space’s sake is an important skill to add to designer’s toolkit and a principle that I hope to inject into each and every project from PSV. That, and of course, hot cardamom buns for every meeting.

Thanks for reading!

Jason Walkow

Jason Walkow is Head of Design at Plain Sight Ventures. In his free time, Jason enjoys running, eating at the newest spots, and anything coffee-related.

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