Finnish designer Kaj Franck is considered the conscience of Finnish design. He created objects with clear colours and simple shapes that are multi-functional and offer numerous combination possibilities. Kaj Franck created numerous classics out of glass and porcelain that are still produced by the Finnish company Iittala today.
Kaj Franck was born in 1911 in Vyborg, Finland. After studying arts and crafts, he initially worked as illustrator, interior architect and textile designer, before he made himself a name in the Finnish companies Arabia and Iittala. In 1950 Kaj Franck furthermore became artistic director of the Nuutajärvi glass factory. Franck mainly concentrated on the materials glass and porcelain. Famous glass designers such as Oiva Toikka and Heikki Orvola were some of his employees.
From 1960 to 1968, Kaj Franck was also head of the School of Design in Helsinki, where he reformed the curriculum and education. In 1973 he became arts professor. Through his work at the university, Kaj Franck became an influential teacher and his ideals spread through the design scene. Kaj Franck died in 1989.
He didn't find inspiration for his designs from his peers in Scandinavia, instead from the ideals of the German Bauhaus. With his simple and practical designs, he wanted to be "radical and social" and establish a new table culture for all people. In doing so, Franck went directly against European table etiquette of the time and its full tableware sets, which could only be used in specific situations and where every piece had just one, clearly defined purpose.
For Kaj Franck, a beautiful object was essential, functional, flawless and legitimised its existence only through its functionality. This motto guided Franck's mind and hand when he created products lacking any unnecessary decoration - objects which are today the beloved realisation of Scandinavian design aesthetics.
In his designs, he did away with anything superfluous, with only the essential remaining. A great example of this approach by Kaj Franck is his Teema tableware series (originally Kilta, Teema since 1981), which is still produced by Iittala today. At the time of its creation in 1952, Teema was a type of "anti-service" and absolutely novel. The more than 30 components in the tableware series can be freely combined and have multiple functions. Teema neither has nor ever had superfluous decoration.
Kaj Franck chose simple shapes and added to them with clear colours. The various pieces in Teema can be combined freely with each other regardless of their colour and can be used to many different ends. Thus every person has the possibility to put together their own crockery based entirely on their own wishes and needs. Like Teema, the Kartio glass collection arose in 1958 from the effort to combine simple shapes with clear colours.
Teema and Kartio are still made by Iittla today. Kaj Franck's designs have won numerous awards. In 1955 he received the Lunning award and in 1957 the Compasso d'Oro.Shortly after his death, the New York MoMA exhibited a retrospective on Kaj Franck in 1992.