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Beata Bochińska
Art historian, President of the Institute of Industrial Design (IWP)

Beata Bochińska 

Design — in search of added value 

mobile ball cover, for children’s play and rehabilitation, designed
by Barbara Lewandowska, photo: proj. arch.

Before our eyes, virtually all over the world, we could observe the disintegration of the previous social, economic and cultural order. In Poland, which escaped the absurdities of central planning only twenty years ago, global changes did not at first excite great interest, either of the public opinion, or of opinion-forming media. Occupied with ourselves and the struggle to get used to our new reality, we did not pay enough attention to the transformations that influenced the functioning of the modern world.
Yet these changes are forcing us to search for new added values. Those are the expectations of new, global clients – to whom we ourselves also belong – who now come from various cultures and societies. Anyone who does not understand this will not be able to provide them with appropriate, competitive products, either tangible or intangible. The Polish response to this search is to combine the tradition of design as a discipline which adds value to products with the modern “open product” concept.

Crossing borders
The technological revolution erased state borders from the map more effectively than issuing passports. As Thomas L. Friedman announced in his best-seller, the world has become “flat”. The Internet access has enabled millions of people in hundreds of cultures to move through space, without leaving home and almost at no cost. The world has accelerated, on a mass, unprecedented scale. People are learning about other cultures and models of behaviour, about which they previously had no idea. Strangers have started to communicate and, above all, to learn from each other. Lifestyles, where the key category is choice, have started to become similar. It is not family, the state or even religious groups which now shape the attitudes and values influencing our choices. The time of individual decisions has come. The use of different paradigms and the participation of individuals, both in the creation of goods and in their consumption, represent a fundamental change, whose consequences it is nowadays even difficult to foresee.


Origami lampshade
designed and produced by Kafti Design, photo: proj. arch.

Twenty years ago, when Poland was entering the world of authentic market relations, the global market had just started to transform on a scale compared to which the Industrial Revolution seems a marginal event. In our present-day reality the client becomes a co producer, traditional services disappear from the market, replaced by self-service, and access to knowledge is a key argument against exclusion from the social or market game. It is not the states or corporations, but rather the individuals who now create, produce and consume goods on a global scale, and fuel the development of entire societies. This fundamental change overturns all previous methods of work, management processes and business models. The interactive participation of end users necessitates the evolution of management methods of new products’ development and the logistics of supply, trade and customer relations. Today it is not the price but the added value which is the most important argument when making a choice, also because an increasing number of products is being made available free of charge (e.g. software).
This can be illustrated with the famous laptop for USD 100 designed by Yves Behar (presented at the Institute’s 2008/2009 exhibition). The laptop was made available to individual users (children) in many countries within a business model in which the institutions that ordered the project and product were non-profit organizations cooperating with the governments of individual countries. It was not the product itself, but the new model and the access to education that was the added value, which was the deciding factor in the purchase of laptops on a mass scale. A race for such new added values is about to begin. Today’s philosophy of customer relations management goes far beyond the traditional norm of service and focuses on offering the customers such benefits that will assure their long-term loyalty. For this to work in practice, a company should meet the customer’s individual requirements, and also offer him/her something more — added value which the customer does not expect. With the individualisation of the end user, virtually everything has to be designed anew, starting from customer behaviours, through services created for customers, to the new tangible products which will ebable access to these new services. This is what the new, more educated and engaged customers expects of us today — the design of interaction!

New values
Concepts such as ecology, energy saving, sustainable development and universal design are no longer treated as a costly extravagance accessible only to developed countries. They have become a necessity. Control of energy use by supranational organizations will cause a preference for products which ensure energy saving. Not only a pro-social attitude, but mainly economic calculation will convince producers to commission this type of design.
Demographic changes (the ageing of societies), migration to cities which offer a better quality of life, dwindling natural resources and the speed of consumer goods’ rotation have undermined current strategies of company and forced changes. This is where room for new design arises — innovative design, which adapts products to customer needs much better even, or perhaps especially, when the designer uses older technologies.
The search for “open products”, which leave room for interaction and have been adapted to the ongoing lifestyle changes, represents the new added value that the designer can offer. The added value of design is manifested in its ability to take into account the needs of customers who come from various cultures (without judging them), the application of technology, research and information, and the use of production capacity in the context of new needs. At the meeting point of cultures and for individual customers, products have to be designed in a different way, and today’s traditionally managed companies, where engineers mainly solve technical problems, are not prepared for this. The strength of innovation does not lie in technique, technology or logistics, but rather in the design of a new model of services and products, where the client is a participant in the creative process and a co-author of the product’s success on the market.

Added value... at IWP
What is design today? How do we define it? What are its contexts? Is Polish design innovative? Is it clear and acceptable to consumers outside our country, and does it still have a native touch which adopts our individual customs and promotes them around the world? In the “Added Value. World Design from Poland” exhibition, we try to answer these questions and discover the added value of Polish design. This exhibition, more than many political manifestos, displays our social beliefs. Design is primarily a message, and objects locked in the shape and form say more about the values we hold than politicians’ declarations or media commentaries. For many generations, Polish designers, going against the world and the reality surrounding them, have successively strived to realize their dream — create a utopian object which would be more beautiful, healthier and better adapted for the less able. The famous Kowalski’s wall unit, designed many years ago and presented not so long ago at IWP, is an excellent example of this aspiration, proving that designing on a mass scale, at an accessible price and with room left for individual needs was our typical method of solving design problems.

EC Engineering
design of exterior paint and interior of the14WE/P train (Pope Train), designed by Chojnacki Dominik,
produced by NEWAG SA, Nowy Sącz, photo: proj. arch.

Polish designers, who in recent years have very quickly became acquainted with market realities and mechanisms, tried not to neglect the most important elements of design: the balance between functionality, aesthetics and simplifying an increasingly complicated world. This is how designers in many fields are educated — they are to search for new, non-standard solutions, usually within the frames of available technology.
A sense of duty and advocacy on the part of the weaker and less affluent, resulting from values instilled by institutions which educated generations of Polish designers, has given Polish design an interesting, “democratic” character, which ensures that objects are accessible to everyone, treats the customer individually, is sparse in expression, makes life easier, and at the same time is thought through, creative and science-based. Social engagement, an education in aesthetics and an ideological wish for changes have resulted in a currently very sought-after combination of skills, which enable Poland to develop global design. Today the engagement of domestic industry and the intentional cooperation of the public sphere with designers can contribute to spreading this phenomenon on a mass scale. 

Patroni medialni
Patroni medialni
Innowacyjna Gospodarka Projekt jest współfinansowany przez Unię Europejską ze środków Europejskiego Funduszu Rozwoju Regionalnego w ramach Programu Operacyjnego Innowacyjna Gospodarka.