Creating the image

December 2010

The Month of Design and the opening of the 22nd international Biennial of Industrial Design are two highly anticipated and well-established events which this year, with their freshness and outward brilliance, have undoubtedly emphasised some of the new features of the design field.

Pipistrel Taurus electro, Ivo Boscarol and team (Gold medal). Photo: Archive Biennial of Industrial Design

The Month of Design caused considerable excitement in Slovenia when it began at the end of October, particularly with the interesting objects displayed in some of Ljubljana's parks and squares. The event was a useful challenge to the routinely self-sufficient manner in which we citizens generally accept the development of our city. In Ljubljana, a city which has changed greatly in recent years, and where, particularly along the banks of the Ljubljanica and in the Old Town, a number of brand-new urban spaces have burst into life, design has become an extremely topical business, since it involves a fundamental extension of architectural creativity that is regulating even the last details of the altered city. It would appear that in the journey from the grey, monotonous and half-ruined urban vistas of 30 years ago to today's Ljubljana, the exceptional beauty of which is acknowledged by even the most sceptical of foreign town planners, awareness of the importance of a well-designed urban environment has taken a giant leap, perhaps outstripping all the other awarenesses cultivated by today's modern citizen. Although we are far from being able to commend today's situation as excellent or even merely good, the present is light years ahead of that period half a century or so ago when it seemed that, from the design point of view, Ljubljana was practically on its deathbed. Of course, it is not all about the city and the outdoor environment: changes have also found their way into the interiors of houses, shops, bus and railway stations, our clothes and, last but not least, our general sense of life, on which design undoubtedly has an enormous influence.

Birdhouse, Metod Burgar (BIO Quality concept award). Photo: Archive Biennial of Industrial Design

This is why we are able to say that the history of design in Slovenia in the last 50 years is a kind of concentrate of the social and individual development undergone by Slovenian society. If we accept the principle that the appearance of a thing always reflects the structure of the community that creates it, this is in fact logical. And if at the same time we agree with the thesis that design is 'a field which includes several creative activities and significantly defines endeavours and activities within communication, architecture, engineering,' as Slovenian designers themselves state on their society's website, it is clear that today's human culture is to a large extent dependent on design, in other words on the activity of 'creating appearance', a typical or even essential characteristic of modern civilisation, which increasingly conflates appearance with the essence of a thing. Harvard professor and design theorist Robert Hayes recently stated that 'Fifteen years ago companies competed on price, now it's quality, tomorrow it's design.' This tallies well with the statement made at the formal opening of this year's Biennial of Industrial Design (BIO) by Janez Škrabec, the event's president, namely that design already represents a criterion for 70% of today's consumers. Global manufacturing enables price reductions, global technology ensures good technical quality. As a result, the criterion that remains when it comes to making products distinctive and attractive is, above all their design.

Text by Jože Osterman, Sinfo, full text » December 2010