60th birthday

dr Agata Szydłowska

A short story of the Association of Industrial Designers

Designers tend to see themselves as Prometheans who improve the quality of life. However, the widely discussed design is usually the one that went wrong. We hear of a visual information system when it leads astray, or a new logo is uglier than its predecessor. Smoothly working and functional things are rarely talked about. An average user understands ‘design’ as additional aesthetic value, beautiful exterior covering the functionality.
In USA and later in Europe stylist-designers were creating attractive forms of everyday objects before the World War II. An automobile could be simple, cheap, and unexciting like Ford T. But it could also become a pink, smooth, adorned with chromed details or rocket-like fins object of desire and therefore boost the company’s income.
Nowadays ‘designer products’ or ‘design stores’ usually suggest spectacular, expensive, eye-pleasing objects that would impress guests or social media followers.

Tube amplifier Titania,
produced by Fezz Audio, 2022,
designed by Kabo&Pydo;

The Association of Industrial Designers was created in 1963, when the Polish design was taking its very first steps thanks to a few hard-working artists and graduates of artistic universities who started to cooperate with the industry. Pre-war traditions were appreciated but didn’t apply to mass production. Craftmanship was dominant and the industry needed to be built anew. Wanda Telakowska who founded the Institute of Design made it clear: in 1945 there was no Polish design yet.

“Wciąż jednak ważne jest przekonywanie nie tylko biznesu, lecz przede wszystkim instytucji publicznych o tym, że dobry dizajn działa na rzecz wspólnego dobra”

The first examples were more promethean than market oriented. Design pioneers perceived design as means to introduce beauty into lives of average citizens. They wanted to improve living and work conditions of the entire society. Introduction of modern, rational, and progressive designs into the industrial plants that used to copy old-fashioned, pre-war objects was of utmost importance. Despite of the hard work and ambitions of Telakowska and other authors of Polish design, the task was tough. The furniture stores were selling veneer sets, radios that looked like furniture pieces. Engineers were responsible for the cars’ exterior while designers created prototypes that rarely made it into production. Gradually, however, small design units appeared in the state-owned enterprises. Industry started slowly getting used to design, which was still associated with ‘visual’, purely aesthetic activity. Eventually design stopped being treated as a superficial styling, work of visual artists. It became a serious part of business accompanied by thorough ergonomical, psychological and social research thanks to the work of designers and social activists who founded the Association of Industrial Designers 60 years ago.

Wzmacniacz lampowy Titania
producent: Fezz Audio, rok 2022
projekt: Kabo & Pydo

projekt: Wojciech Wybieralski

Since 1963 almost everything has changed. Design is not only ‘industrial’- but it also often loses its traditional meaning and becomes a cosmopolitan ‘design’. The challenge lies not in the transition from craftsmanship into mass production. Convincing businesses and above all public institutions that a good design enhances common welfare constitutes the valid problem. What hasn’t changed during these 60 years is the sense of responsibility for the word that the designers of association co-create. Today designers need not only to enhance security and comfort of the users but also minimize the design’s impact on the environment and climate. Support of recycling and repair, prevention of aging and obsolescence of objects are highly needed. Recycled materials and reduction of packaging are welcome. Designers must strive to minimize consumption and waste. While in the 60s the stores were empty and people queued to buy a television, in the age of abundance designers have a contrary task. Limiting consumer goods doesn’t mean the end of design. Sharing, multi-functionality, using service instead of buying – these are design objectives. The experience of the Polish design pioneers that needed to cope in difficult times may become useful and inspirational.

Manewrowa lokomotywa z napędem wodorowym SM42/H2,
producent: PESA Bydgoszcz SA, rok 1996-2002
projekt: Bartosz Piotrowski (sylwetka zew.).
Krzysztof Nogowski (kabina wn.)