What is Lagom? This Swedish Lifestyle Concept Is Taking Over Design

By: Mel Quist

Last week, I wrote an article for a newsletter about the self-care benefits of the Swedish concept of lagom (pronounced la-gome). Defined as “just the right amount” or “enough, sufficient, or just right,” lagom is a way of life in Sweden, whose citizens are routinely listed as some of the happiest in the world. They pride themselves on their specialty for finding harmony or proportion in their lives – and by incorporating this mindset, we can too. Though you’ve probably never heard of it, the idea has exploded in the United States and around the world in the last few years. In fact, Pinterest says pinners are searching for lagom ideas 905% more this year than they were in 2017.

Although many consider lagom as something of a character trait or lifestyle, its principals are also creeping into the world of design. Spend a couple minutes on Pinterest or walk into an IKEA or H&M and you will be bombarded with things inspired by lagom. Notice the displays, advertising, products, lighting, and signage – everything has a distinct unpretending and practical aesthetic. But what exactly does lagom look like? It’s hard to pinpoint and varies widely based on the creator’s preferences (as most design does), but as its definition suggests, simplicity is at its essence. Similar to the Nordic designs that emerged in the 1950s, lagom is a modern update prioritizing function and affordability. Features like practicality, beauty, and natural forms are all essential. Here are a few things you should know to be well versed in this emerging design trend.

Minimalism Is Key
One of the primary drivers behind lagom is adequacy. There is nothing flashy or frenetic about this. From advertising to artwork, furniture to wall color, clean lines, simplicity, and even sustainability are all elements to keep in mind. When done right, it should look laid-back but at the same time sophisticated. Neutral whites and blacks, cool blues and grays, and earthy tones like tans and greens are all key to the look. Brighter pops of color like yellow or orange are also prominent, as are small amounts of metals like gold. Visuals make ample use of whitespace and often feature basic and whimsical designs – think a toned-down take on the quaint, pretty, and sentimental features of twee.

Inspired By Nature
Nature plays an important role in Scandinavian countries. With 97% of Sweden uninhabited and national parks and nature reserves covering a tenth of the country’s land area, there is a strong association between their design choices and nature. Although used sparingly, natural materials such as stone, warm woods, and leather are incorporated in various designs. It is common to see an assortment of florals, greenery, and other foliage and vegetation used to bring a natural touch. Birds, insects, and small animals may also be used. Patterns based on the textures and silhouettes of these elements are often used to achieve this look.

The Marketing World Is Taking Notice
Picking up on trends early is essential to effective marketing, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the minds behind some of the biggest brands are taking advantage of the growing popularity of lagom. Here are just a few that have caught my attention recently.

Target

Target is a retailer that always has a finger on the pulse of what’s about to hit big, and they were one of the first American companies to start employing lagom characteristics to their marketing. Branding for their Pillowfort line of children’s bedding and housewares is rooted in nature and clean lowercase fonts. Recent marketing for their new home collection features fun silhouettes of mountains, wild animals, trees, and hikers. Many of the products are also designed with features rooted in lagom, such as simple design, elements of the outdoors, and neutral colors. Watch Target’s marketing campaigns and you’ll notice areas inspired by this design trend quite often. Just yesterday, the company’s Holiday Beauty Box caught my eye. It’s use of colorful leaves and twigs on a dark gray background is an excellent example of using the concepts of lagom to create a warm, beautiful, and inviting package.

Fjällräven

The iconic Swedish brand Fjällräven, with its fox logo (Fjällräven means arctic fox in Swedish) and prominent diacritical marks has reinvented itself, becoming one of the fastest-growing names for outdoor and lifestyle products in the United States. Launched here in 2012, Fjällräven has been marketed to millennials so effectively, a profile in Forbes noted of the hype brand “you’re more likely to spot the brand at Coachella than you are around frozen cod.” In addition to backpacks and winter jackets, the brand’s apparel is heavily influenced by simplicity and nature.

Chobani

Greek yogurt maker Chobani also completed a branding overhaul heavily influenced by lagom this year. The company, which rose quickly from its 2005 founding to become the country’s leading maker of Greek yogurt, recognized the need to differentiate from new competitors by emphasizing its origins as a healthier, natural alternative to other yogurt products. To achieve this, the company employed colors like natural white, forest green, and milk chocolate to anchor the logo and new off-white packaging. A balance of quirky design with pops of color on products like Chobani Flip and primitive drawings of natural items like cows, leaves, and fruits are also highlighted to reinforce the wholesome simplicity of the product.

As you begin preparing your marketing plan for 2019, think about incorporating a few design features inspired by lagom. Not only will you have an attractive, relevant concept, but you’ll also bring harmony and proportion to your brand.

Image 1 Source: Target
Image 2 Source: Target
Image 3 Source: Fjällräven
Image 4 Source: Chobani

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