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This design museum urges you take the displays home with you

The Swedish Design Museum To Go is like takeout—for art.

Handcrafted plates crafted from wood derived from Swedish forests so you can have a picnic beside the water. A simple lamp to read a book under the moonlight. A brilliant inflatable helmet in case you decide to take a bike ride. These are among the objects that designers Johan and Nina Kauppi have packed in a backpack for you to take on your next visit to Sweden. “We’ve selected products that are great examples of Swedish design, but that we think will also enhance a visitor’s experience of our country,” Nina Kauppi explains.

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The Kauppis are among the designers tapped by the Swedish Tourism Board on a new project called the Swedish Design Museum To Go. Designers from four regions in the country—the north, south, east, and west—have curated objects and itineraries that will go in a backpack. Visitors to the country can reserve a backpack for free, pick it up at a designated location, and use it for a week before returning it to be cleaned and repacked for the next visitor. Each backpack also has a couple of items that you can keep as a souvenir of your trip. In the backpack that Kauppis packed for the south, for example, you can bring home a set of playfully designed crayons in funny shapes, like a nose and a pebble. “We wanted visitors to feel inspired to draw or sketch while they were on a trip, instead of just using cameras,” Nina says.

[Photo: Johan Wennerström/courtesy Visit Sweden]
While Sweden is a small country, it has many distinct regions and landscapes, and the backpacks are meant to highlight the different areas. Last year, nearly 30 million tourists visited the country, and that figure has been rising steadily over the last few years. A program such as this encourages this growing group of visitors to explore parts of the country they may not have otherwise considered. Take Malmö, the third biggest city in the south of the country. As residents, the Kauppis recommend biking around Malmö to see local architecture as well as natural landscapes, including the farmland that abuts the urban areas.

Stockholm, the nation’s capital, is located in the east. Helin Honung and Dimen Abdulla curated that area’s backpack, which includes a list of their favorite galleries and gardens in the city. They also recommend going to Hellasgården, where there is a lake perfect for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter. They’ve put blankets in their backpack, along with a battery-powered speaker—the perfect companions for a picnic. There’s also a toiletry kit packed with locally produced lotions for using after an outdoor adventure.

[Photo: Johan Wennerström/courtesy Visit Sweden]
The designers are keen to give tourists an opportunity to learn about Swedish design as they explore the country. Sweden has long been a hub of the Scandinavian design movement, which began in the early 20th century and centered on creating objects that are simple and functional. Nina Kauppi says that the country has continued to nurture designers thanks to its free college program, which includes design schools.

Each object in the backpacks comes with a little description of the Swedish designer or company that created it. And unlike seeing these objects in a traditional museum, the visitor is able to experience the functionality of the design in person. In the Kauppis’ backpack, for instance, there is a Streck cup of fine bone china made by Signe Persson-Melin, a Malmö-based designer who has been working for more than six decades. The cup has delicate stripes on it that are not just attractive but also make for a better grip. “A lot of design these days is tech-focused,” Nina Kauppi says. “But we wanted to highlight that great design can also be low-tech, but enhance your life through its beauty and usefulness.”

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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