When talking about Scandinavian design, the first company that comes to mind may be IKEA, the global behemoth of Spartan furniture.
IKEA wasn't a fluke. Simplicity is a long-held and still relevant hallmark of Nordic design, as the new, one-day exhibit Turn the World Around shows.
Hosted by Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Turn the World Around features about 100 design pieces from five famous Nordic designers, as well as from the Beckmans Design School in Sweden.
Duan Yanling, curator of the exhibition, said that the featured pieces illustrate the fashionable concept of "simple luxury" popular in the Nordic countries.
"From a Nordic perspective, these pieces show the fine products creatively designed especially for daily life and quality living. It's creative, caring and co-sharing," she said.
For example, Nordic custom holds that it is bad luck to put keys directly on a wooden table. So one featured piece is a thoughtfully designed key holder, providing a place to put keys without disturbing either wood grain or local superstitions.
Another piece, called Bookman Lights, is a set of blinking red lights to be clipped on the handlebars and seats of bicycles for better nighttime visibility.
This caters to the ever-growing, eco-conscious cyclist market that has become a huge new opportunity for the design industry, said Ding Hui with the exhibition's co-organizer. Bookman was created in 2011 by three designers who were also devoted cyclists. The end result, these portable lights, was an immediate hit.
A few designs in Turn the World Around carry Chinese elements. The Mo Yan Dress, made with silk and recycled rags and rugs, is designed to echo the concept of reincarnation the Chinese Nobel laureate Mo has explored in his books.
These are more serious, purposeful designs, but the exhibition also features more playful - but never overstated - objects. For example, there are plain, white coffee mugs bearing the quintessentially Swedish letters on them, such as ?, ? and ?.
Cheng Wei, 30, a Beijinger who works in advertising, is looking forward to the exhibition. Cheng's parents studied stage design. Though she isn't directly involved in the arts, she's always been deeply influenced by them.
"It's art and design from abroad, and I only have a shallow understanding of their design aesthetics," she said.
Li Zitong, a student at the Communication University of China, also plans on attending the show, saying she has always been interested in and paid attention to art and design from the Nordic countries.
"I like the home décor designs from Nordic countries, especially the design concepts from IKEA in Sweden. It saves resources, and at the same times it's concise, modern and practical," she said.
When: 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, February 23
Where: UCCA, 798 Art Zone, No.4 Jiuxian-qiao Lu, Chaoyang district
Admission: 10 yuan