THE REVOLUTION OF DIGNITY IN FEBRUARY 2014 STIRRED UP AN INCREDIBLE SURGE OF INTEREST AND LOVE FOR EVERYTHING UKRAINIAN INSIDE THE COUNTRY. THE DESIGN IS NO EXCEPTION.
There is a lot about this on the Internet, on social networks, items made by Ukrainian designers are presented in various creative spaces, at exhibitions, and in galleries. Over the past year, at least three Ukrainian designers received the prestigious Red Dot Award – Pavel Vetrov, Valery Kuznetsov and Ekaterina Kuznetsova, Ekaterina Sokolova, a group of Ukrainian designers exhibited their items at an exhibition in Verona. Being inside this “wildness”, one might get the impression that Ukrainian design appeared as a “category” in terms of marketing. But it wasn’t so. There is still no Ukrainian design, but this absolutely does not mean that there are no talented Ukrainian designers. And what is needed to make the phenomenon of Ukrainian design? After all, there is the category of “Italian design”, “Scandinavian design.” What is missing in our soup (or borsch)?
A bit of history. Italian design. Italian design has a special worldwide reputation. Special, regardless of whether it is about fashion, cars or furniture and home furnishings. What is so exceptional about Italian design? Why did Italy, not distinguished in the sense of design before the Second World War, became a country of recognizable style?
Poor, post-war Italy, one of the first countries to realize that it was necessary to provide people who were yearning for beauty and comfort with everything they needed. Then all the forces were focused on the development of industry in the country. It was during the post-war restoration of Italy that the notion of “Italian design” originated, which later became a brand. And already in the 50s, all of Europe and America was wearing Italian costumes and drinking coffee from Italian coffee machines by Gio Ponti. In the mid-60s, the organizers of the famous exhibition I SALONI, in order to support and promote the most advanced manufacturers making design products, decided to allocate an entire sector for the new direction, practically free of charge. The number of participants in this design sector was disproportionately smaller compared with the number of other companies. But from that moment, people started to speak about Italian design all over the world.
Newspapers were filled with headlines “It Turned out That It Was Not Enough for Italian Designers to Break Free From the Embrace of the Past. Passing the Present, They Immediately Jumped Into the Future”, “Italian Designers Create Not Just Furniture, They Look Deeper, Penetrating Into the Very Essence and Character of Things”, “Italians Challenge the Whole World. Their Furniture Is Surprising, Maybe Even Annoying, but Not Indifferent.”
One of the main reasons for the success of Italian design was the fact that manufacturers, for the most part, relied on designers and gave them free rein. Unseen forms, unusual materials and technologies – the manufacturers of other countries did not dare to do this.
So, to summarize the reasons for the birth of Italian design:
— social aspect: meeting the needs of people in aesthetics and comfort in impoverished post-war Italy;
— economic aspect: all forces have been thrown to the industry recovery;
— professional aspect: manufacturers have relied on designers and gave them complete freedom.
Scandinavian design. Quite a different story. The phenomenon of Scandinavian design, in contrast to Italian, affects primarily the sphere of everyday life and least of all fashion, cars and the sphere of high technologies, speaking about Scandinavian design, we mean the interior (including office one), furniture, tableware and so on. The Scandinavian design came from home and it lives at home. The roots of Scandinavian design, of course, grow from Finnish soil.
Finnish designers and architects Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto have made their invaluable contribution to today’s aesthetics of the subject-spatial environment. The Scandinavian attitude to the subject environment is special and it was it that created the face of Scandinavian design. Clean lines, respect for the material, uncompromising functionality, close attention to color and surface texture – this is what the glory of Scandinavian design is based on.
The geographical location and, as a result, the harsh climatic conditions, the scanty beauty of the northern nature formed the basis of the visual range of Scandinavian design: conciseness, the simplicity of form and design, love of wood, the desire to emphasize its warmth and reveal nature. Respect for metal, glass, preference for white for all other colors (coincides with the physical natural whiteness). Almost prayer worship of empty space (pure emptiness as the highest perfection), light, as a constructive material, builds space on an equal footing with concrete and wood because the light in the North is a great value.
Let’s summarize. The Nordic beauty of the Scandinavian nature, unique for Europe, plus the traditional Scandinavian crafts and the historical respect for the environment, formed the basis of the unique Scandinavian design.
If we metaphorically designate each of the categories (Italian design and Scandinavian design) in one word, Italian design is beauty, Scandinavian design is purity. Are there any conditions in Ukraine today so that Ukrainian design can appear as a category? Social, economic, professional, as in Italy, or unique natural and ethnographic, as in the Scandinavian countries? Unfortunately, I do not see them yet. There is a strong national spirit, a desire to surprise and do something special and different from everything else (consistent with my understanding of the culture code of design in Ukraine) – this is a unique component, but … that’s probably all. There is not even a hint of the economic aspect – the rapid development of economic potential, the introduction of modern and the development of new technologies. The professional aspect is also very poor – the national manufacturer for the most part is not aimed at creating its own unique product together with the designers (there are exceptions, but not many). It is much easier and cheaper not to bother, take some Italian product and make its visual copy (quality and comfort – mediocre) and we also made it beautifully and most importantly, cheaper than the Italians. My visit to KIF this year confirmed fears in this matter (again, with rare exceptions). For the development of Ukraine in the matter of design in the Scandinavian way, we generally have no prerequisites. Yes, we have a unique natural potential – our black soil, and there is traditional agriculture for Ukraine, and it may work (if a lot of things will be added), but this does not concern the design. This is another story.
What do we have to do? Don’t worry, don’t be sad and don’t grieve! And who said, or why we actually decided that Ukrainian design should appear as a category? There are three distinctive national design schools: Italian – beauty, German – functionalism, Scandinavian – purity. Other national schools as distinctive and vibrant simply do not exist. Of course, design exists in other countries, there are talented designers everywhere, but this is an international phenomenon. For example, the USA has the largest advanced economy, of course, there is design there and sometimes very good, but there is no American design as a category. Design should appear as an international phenomenon in Ukraine too. There are all prerequisites for this – talented Ukrainian designers with bright ideas (not many, but they are), separate manufacturers who want to produce their own unique design product, not copying like the others (few cases, but there are) – they will develop production culture and catch up with technologies and introduce new ones. And a strong national spirit (a unique phenomenon that appeared after the Maidan) is here to help us. This can greatly accelerate the process of the emergence of our own design product, which may well enter the global market – there will be little of it, but it will be. And Ukrainians will surely appear in international design teams working for the leading Italian (and non-Italian) factories for the production of various items for life. Absolutely no doubt. But it requires really a lot to do.
Can we do it?