Certain things become so strongly associated with an era that they become timeless. This is certainly true of Nils Strinning’s shelf system, String, which was designed in 1949. It may seem strange that something as simple and humble as this little dainty light shelf with its thin side panels has become one of the twentieth century’s foremost design icons.
The reasons are several; the thin packaging is simple and cheap to transport, the shelf is easy to assemble, the shelves can be quickly re-positioned, shelves of various depths can be combined and books are held in place by the side panels, it is stable and can be extended in all directions. Whether the wall surface is large or small String is functional. It’s the side panel which gives String its character. Elegant and clean-limbed are the coloured threads, a slender ”ladder” ascending the wall, ingenious, variable, flexible… it’s not strange that post-war Europeans, who were thirsting for freedom, adored String.
If it hadn’t been for a competition announced by Sweden’s largest publishing house, Bonnier, in 1949 it would probably not have been set into production. Bonnier realised that if the Swedish people were to begin purchasing books they would have to have somewhere to keep them. The shelf was to be affordable, simple to transport and easy to assemble. Just such a shelf had existed in the thoughts of Nils Strinning. The competition became a reason to put thought into action and he won, of course, first prize.