Helping people through design

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Fjellberg Swerdlowe. Above: Swerdlowe showing the design process for a new project.

Up-and-coming designer Nicholas Fjellberg Swerdlowe uses design to solve everyday problems

Jess Larsen

Norwegian American Weekly Intern

Scandinavian design – well known for its functionality and minimalism — hit the international design scene in the 1950s. Characterized by sleek and modern looking designs, Scandinavian design as it was in the 50s is still alive and vibrant today.

Norwegian-American and the 2012 international winner of Design Sense, Nicholas Fjellberg Swerdlowe is an emerging designer exemplifying the functionality of Scandinavian design and its beauty in his work.

Son of a Russian-American father and Norwegian mother, Swerdlowe was born in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., and later moved to Weston, Conn., where he spent his young adult years growing up. Having strong ties to Norway, Swerdlowe’s mother took him and his brother to visit relatives during holiday breaks from school and taught him how to speak and use the language.

Swerdlowe found his interest in design at a young age. His father was an architect and, along with Swerdlowe’s mother, encouraged him to pursue his interests in design. As Swerdlowe said, “My parents have always encouraged me by providing art supplies and allowing me to paint anywhere and on anything.”

Swerdlowe took his talents to the Savannah College of Art and Design for college where he continued to study and express himself graduating in 2012 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Industrial Design.

While in college Swerdlowe had the opportunity to study for a summer at the International Summer School at the University of Oslo in Norway. Swerdlowe took two courses – History of Norway and Norwegian Level 2 – yet his fondest memories are those from outside the classroom.

“Some of the best memories where from nights out at Chateau Neuf (the student bar located at the Majorstuen stop on the T-bane), the international football tournament, cliff jumping at Bygdøy, summer concerts in the park, and hanging out downtown by the pier with my new friends.”

When asked what inspired him as a designer, Swerdlowe said “Problems. It’s amazing to me that after thousands of years of evolution, we still cannot produce products that are easy to use, simple, and sustainable. What motivates me are the challenges that people face in daily situations, whether it be as simple as serving guests cocktails or as complex as riding a bicycle home with a week’s worth of groceries.”

Swerdlowe’s efforts to create functional, simple, and sustainable products exemplify the important aspects of Scandinavian design and their efforts to help people. Swerdlowe himself stated that “Being Norwegian has put pressure on me to become a good designer” because “Norwegians have an incredible sense of product design and architecture.”

Swerdlowe’s favorite project to date has been the “Sense Space” which is “an adaptive play area designed to encourage muscle development, incidental learning, depth perception and textural exploration for young children with sensory disorders.” Swerdlowe’s inspiration for this project stemmed from his experience in high school as a volunteer teacher’s aid for children with learning as well as physical disabilities. Swerdlowe involved the community in this design project as well by involving families throughout the Savannah area.

Swerdlowe’s “Sense Space” design won first place in the Design Sense competition, which is an award for products that are designed for children with disabilities.

Swerdlowe is a young Norwegian-American and talented designer incorporating aesthetic appeal, usability, simplicity, and modernism into his designs. As Swerdlowe quoted one of his most favorite quotes “Good design is as little design as possible.”

To contact Swerdlowe and see his projects, visit or email him at nfs @

This article originally appeared in the July 13, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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