For many people, design is not simply a matter of aesthetics–those with physical disabilities require a range of products designed specifically for their needs. However, there is no reason for these items to be any less attractive than “normal” products. Enter Swedish style.

Running through July 12 at the Triangle Gallery of Visual Arts, Design for Every Body: Swedish Design for an Active Life, offers an exhibition of products that are attractive as well as functional–just like the Swedes.

"It’s about how design can make life easier," says Pernilla Ãbrink, co-curator of the exhibit. "Challenging designers to think one step further in creating objects that will attract more people. You don’t have to point out disabled people as a group."

As the exhibit demonstrates, however, the lines between disabled and able-bodied are not always as clear they seem. From children disadvantaged in a world of larger adults to vanity’s detrimental effects on our well-being, all of us are disadvantaged at one time or another. As a result, many of the items on display are designed for everyday use by virtually everyone, with special attention still paid to the needs of the disabled.

With such a wide array of well-designed products, the exhibit’s success is hardly surprising.

"It was originally meant to be a one-time show in Sydney during the 2000 Paralympics," says Ãbrink. "But, after the show, the Swedish embassy wrote back, saying how pleased they were with the exhibition, and it grew from there."

Three years later, two concurrent shows have toured nine countries, showcasing a style of design that emphasizes a minimalist, highly functional approach.

While function is foremost in everything shown at the exhibit, many are witty, even whimsical creations. Thomas Bernstrand’s "do Swing" lamp, while designed with chandelier-swinging heroes in mind, can still be used to rise from a chair or bed. Saldo’s "Blind"–a beautifully patterned yellow fabric–is also a poetic Braille description of the colour yellow.

"Design gives freedom," reads the introduction to the exhibit’s program and, each in their own way, the products in the Design for Every Body exhibit exemplify this principle. And they look pretty spiffy while doing it too.

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