Swedish architect-designer Nils "Nisse" Strinning (1917-2006) is best known for his minimalist and cost-effective String Bookshelf System and his versatile designs in plastic.
Born in Kramfors in 1917, Strinning studied architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm (KTH) from 1940 until 1947. As a student, he—along with the Swedish engineer Arne Lydmar—conceived a way of coating steel wire with plastic. Using this method, Strinning designed the Elfa Dish Rack (1946), which found worldwide success decades later. Today, the dish rack is produced by the Swedish storage company of the same name.
In 1949, Strinning and his wife Kajsa (b.1922) designed a bookshelf for a contest initiated by Bonnier, Sweden’s largest publishing house. The super-simple design consisted of two plastic-coated metal wire “ladders” and three shelves. Among the 194 designs submitted from around the world, the String Bookshelf was chosen as the winner. An immediate success—as contemporary today as it was almost 70 years ago—String is an affordable, lightweight, easy-to-transport, and flexible system that expands to accommodate growing book collections. One of Scandinavia's most iconic designs, it has received more than 15 prestigious national and international awards, including the Gold Medal at Milan’s Triennale in 1954, and was acquisitioned into the Swedish National Museum's design collection in 1979.
In 1952, Strinning founded both String Design AB and Swedish Design AB. The following year, String Plex was launched, along with a standalone shelving system, which Strinning is rumored to never have liked. In 1955, the String Shelf was exhibited at the H55 Helsingborg Exhibition. Easily reproduced, it was subjected to flagrant copywriting. In 1961, Sweden’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Strinning, and the shelf was patented.
Over the course of his career, Strinning and his wife designed a variety of plastic objects, such as the Vispi Bowl (1951), as well as other free-standing and wall-mounted shelves in various sizes, including the Kam Bookshelf (1968), which received the Excellent Swedish Design Award from Svensk Form in 1993.
Strinning passed away in 2006. His firm String Design AB has since moved headquarters to Malmö and continues to launch new products, including the String Office Range (2015), which received the German Design Award in 2016.
Images courtesy of String