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History of Svensk Form part 1

The world’s oldest design organisation is the description often given to Svensk Form (the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design), which until 1976 was called Svenska Slöjdföreningen (the Swedish Society of Arts and Design). In 1845, when the Society was formed, the Swedish word “slöjd” meant manufacturing in the broadest sense of the term.

The guild system had just been dismantled and industrialisation was gaining ground. Anyone at all could set themselves up as a craftsperson and industry was manufacturing cheap copies. In order to defend the quality of Swedish crafts, Svenska Slöjdföreningen was formed. The Society supported the Sunday school of draughtsmanship for craftsmen which artist Nils Månsson Mandelgren founded in 1844. The school, now the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design (Konstfack), was operated by Slöjdföreningen up to 1860 when the Swedish state took over.

The Society soon took on more tasks. It was responsible for Sweden’s participation in international exhibitions, published free pattern sheets for craftspeople around the country, issued pamphlets on manufacturing, supported young craftspeople and designers with scholarships, and opened a museum with objects arranged according to historical styles. The objects were subsequently given to the National Museum. In 1905 a magazine was founded, which in 1932 was given the name of Form (Shape).