Malmö-based design studio Swedish Ninja was founded by industrial designer Maria Gustavsson. Born and raised in the forests near Tranås, Sweden—more or less equidistant between the capital, Stockholm, and the southernmost point of the country—Gustavsson began her studies in 1998 at Karlstad University in Sweden, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Innovation and Design Engineering in 2001, before moving to Australia to study at the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane. She completed a masters in Industrial Design in 2004. After returning to Scandinavia, Gustavsson gained experience as a product designer at Pelican Copenhagen, MEJK Design in Malmö, and collaborating with Swedish design brand Stolab, for whom she designed the Greta chair. In 2007, she put her industry experience to use, launching her own studio located in Malmö’s iconic former shipyards.
Swedish Ninja garnered industry attention right off the bat with the XHIBIT Magazine Rack created for MITAB debuting at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2008. The studio was then included in the Salone Satellite exhibition in Milan in 2010. Under Gustavsson’s direction, the brand has expanded to collaborate with a select group of talented designers including Berlin-based Katrin Greiling; Hamburg-based Olga Bielawska; and emerging Malmö-based designer Jenny Nordberg, who designed the ethereal, glass Brick Candle Holders. Over the last decade, Swedish Ninja has exhibited at peak industry events like the Salone del Mobile, the London Design Festival, the London Design Fair, and Stockholm Design Week, amongst others.
The Swedish Design aesthetic is dominated more by an ethos and an approach to designing, rather than a particular visual style. Pieces like the Rufus Walter Sideboard by Gustavsson for Swedish Ninja combine a youthful yet refined colour palette, dynamically unexpected design, and traditionally opulent materials like the green marble top. Gustavsson always looks for strong design personalities when choosing her collaborators, and definitely gravitates towards contemporary classics with a twist. The studio was founded on the principles of traditional Scandinavian design, realised through an unexpected expression, creating brave and functional designs in heirloom quality.