Design experience in Denmark: NORMANN

Katja Meriläinen, 22.10.2012

In Copenhagen I visited Normann, one of the biggest design retailers in Denmark. I had meeting with PR-manager Nathja Larsen who gave me a guided tour in the flagship store and told briefly about the company. Is it possible to find obvious differences between selling design in Denmark and Finland? Let’s ask her!


Normann has a wide range of different products: everything from  furniture to cooking books and shoes. Something for everybody, Larsen explains. Actually the whole store is a visual lifestyle-experience with its daily changing entrance installation and relaxing music.

Entrance installation

What are the key elements of success of Normann? According the PR-manager Nathja Larsen the wide range of different products is giving Normann a competitive advantage. We have many different things in our Flagship Store, and if customers want to, they can buy most things for the home and themselves in the store. Also visual impression is important. We put a lot effort in styling, says Larsen. In that way customers are able to imagine how furnitures and other items would look in their own homes. We also organize different kinds of events, also for families, here in our flagship store, she continues.


How about the challenges then? What kind of difficulties does a design retailer face in these days? You never know what customers like, Larsen tells. We need to be able to react fast. It is also important to have products ready to buy. If people have to wait for the product they want to come in stock for a very long period of time, they  might get tired of waiting for it eventually and buy something else instead.

Everything you need?

Current selection of clothes represents 15-20 different designers -chosen by heart

Danish people are however willing to buy Danish design and fashion. We want to keep money in our own country and support Danish designers, says Kalle Heimbürger, fashion buyer at Normann.

Something to learn for us maybe?

A great thank to Normann!

Text and pictures: Katja Meriläinen

My interest to design comes from my studies in craft and design. I’ve been wondering why Finnish design retailers often are not doing so well. Why aren’t we buying our own design? With my visit to Normann I wanted to see how Danish design is represented in one of the biggest design retailers in Denmark and what are the upcoming trends in their field. How they make it work is also how we can make it work.

Kennisland – the best inspiration for social scientists

“Wou!”, was probably the first word on everyone’s mind when we got in to the Kennisland office. The foundation has a beautiful place with a view in a lovely neighborhood in Amsterdam (we found delicious pan cakes just behind the corner).

Nora tells about Kennisland’s awesome work.

The rest was no less impressive. Nora van der Linden told us about the interesting work Kennisland is doing and how the “Knowledge land” got started over a decade ago.  In the beginning it was a organization that focused on political lobbying over education and knowledge issues. When its mission seemed accomplished –  Holland had really become a knowledge society – they started doing work in a wider sector. Their aim was still the same: a smarter society.

Marianna and Maria take photos of the cool office.

Nora and the director of Kennisland, Chris Sigaloff, told us about the projects, such as the Kennisland Safari, where young people come to work with the foundation and in their office for a week, to come up with interesting social innovations for real organizations. In general, Kennisland seemed to be about doing and prototyping, not just abstract research. They also emphasized the importance of reflection and communicating about their work.

Since a very big part of our group have a background in social sciences, this was like honey to our ears. That’s what we want do! And we would do it well! Not suprisingly, Nora and Chris told us that a lot of people working in Kennisland have studied in fields such as philosophy and anthropology.

Kennisland finds them young.

Chris also gave us concrete advice on how to became a successful social entrepreneuer:

  • Writing a business plan is a good exercise, even though you wouldn’t follow it.
  • It’s not very wise to be dependent on just public funding.
  • Keep your work force flexible. Kennisland employs a lot of freelancers since permanent employees are huge investments.
  • Building a cool brand is worth it. Kennisland has a designer working in the office.
  • Don’t be afraid of letting go of your ideas. Copying is the highest form of compliment.
  • Work with others and join networks.
  • Build international relationships.


Coffee and heroes – a few words on the state of cultural institutions


On Monday night, after hours of super intense workshopping we stormed our way to the other edge of the town. Fresh brisk air at the ferry gave us a new boost of energy. We met Jasper Visser, the other co-founder of Insiper by Coffee at Ij Kantine, on the North shore of the Amsterdam. (



Among other inspring things this is what we got:

  • Use the 21st century tools! Heritage institutions and museums in the Netherlands have found new audiences through social media.
  • Cultural experts unite! People working for the same goal need to meet face-to-face. So start networking casually.
  • Your audience is your hero! Engage them by asking questions. Let them tell you a story.

You only need one person to think differently to change the whole organisation. Awake one, awake all. Thanks for the espresso, Jasper!

Yhteismaa – good together

Finally, as we are sitting in the train heading to Copenhagen, I have enough time to finish the introduction to our project called Yhteismaa (Common Ground). Our program has been really busy, but fruitful. Especially the visit to Kennisland yesterday was an inspiring one.

Yhteismaa consist of four people, who are specialized in social sciences, social media, culture and design. Our main task is to design, implement and maintain social projects, events and services together with the society. We help organizations to create fruitful processes together with the citizens by combining our scientific background with expertise in social media, project management and web services.

Yhteismaa’s work is based on a strong vision on how we could all better express ourselves, how our creativity and capacities could be made a better use of and how we could actively participate in the building of the world around us. Often this means creating tools that utilize social media, as well as draw from social movements and collective creativity. We always work experimentally, developing our ideas in close relationship to the users.

We have already been working together with some projects like Siivouspäivä (Cleaning Day), which is a recycling carnival during which people bring their used stuff outside on the streets, parks and gardens for others to buy, take or swap. We also participated with Ilmastoinfo (Climate Info) in the international movement Park(ing) Day in the 21st of September 2012 with our own unique event. In cooperation with city authorities about twenty parking spots were reserved for anyone to occupy, without cars, in the Helsinki. The underlying task was to encourage people to imagine a different kind of city, with little less cars and little more people.

Now our main project is Nappi Naapuri (Spot on Neighbour), which is a web service that enables people living close to each other to communicate easily, ask and provide for help. The long term goal is to determine the extent into which geographical proximity can be employed as a resource to achieve social, cultural and even economic benefits.

So this is Yhteismaa shortly. Currently we are working with our home page, so soon you can find us in Internet ( too. Check it out, when it’s ready (hopefully soon)!