Autumn chill, industrial vibe and three floors of design from around the world. These are three of identification marks of Lodz Design Festival in Poland. If you are in the business, the Festival is one of the few occasions during the year to meet your design-related colleagues, all at once. Rather you like it or not: everybody is coming to Lodz at the beginning of October. A seasonal flue is no excuse. On the occasion of the 11th edition of Design Festival in Lodz, we interviewed its art director Michał Piernikowski. Among many things, we spoke about the possible career paths for young Polish designers and on the subject why being in love with design will never make you feel boring.
Anna Diduch: We are in the middle of the 11th edition of Lodz Design Festival: the place is boiling with energy, there are people visiting the exhibitions and there are new lectures starting each hour. That is probably the worst timing, but I wanted to ask you about routine. How often do you feel it?
Michał Piernikowski: Of course I do experience it. Probably mostly, after the each latest edition, when I need to sit down and think about planning. It seems am in front of the same task of filling the festival formula but after some time something magical happens and I get energized again. Among other things, new obstacles are what makes it interesting. Each year we work with different topics so the frame might be the same but simultaneously it is not. With time the formula of the festival itself – changes. It has to in order to survive. One of the aspects of making that happened lies in team management. Each team member tasks is to find something they feel passionate about and work with it during the next year. This way we keep the romance with design alive! For example right now we have few people who are crazy about workplaces and the changes in organisation of work in general.
AD: So in other words you are one of those few lucky people who may say that theirs work is their’ lifestyle.
MP: I suppose so, but like all kinds of things in life, there is a darker side to what I do. Programming is one thing but it must be followed with organisation efforts. Those combined make the stressful part. Working under the pressure of time, maintaining the compromises, keeping deadlines. So naturally I need to recharge my batteries and I do it by traveling to wilderness or exotic places (most recently I went to Asia) and by reading books.
AD: What kind of books?
MP: I do not mean to sound boring or I am not trying to say I am always working but majority of books I read are work related. And even if they are not I tend to interpret them through wide-design perspective. Seems like I cannot help myself! Also during my trips I always have my eyes open, I observe and analyse other cultures, manners and objects as well. I am keen to understand objects (like everyday objects) and their functionality in different cultures. That is also what the Festival in Lodz is about: the objects and their role from the sociological point of view and theirs role in building ties in society.
AD: I assume we both believe that design can change the world for better. What in your opinion, is the dark side of the moon here?
MP: I believe the aspect of making a change is the fundamental aspect of designing and modelling. Books such “Design for real world” or books on architecture make much more sense in explaining it rather than theoretical writings. In reality, “design” is a tool, it gives a power and like any other force can put a good or bad impact. The other thing is there is no natural distinction of “good” and “bad” in design. The context is what colours it with morality. One of the aspects I am most critical about is using professional skills to produce and sell more badly designed products. If a printer breaks after printing 3 thousand pages than it is nothing less than a designed situation of stimulating the market. Intentional product aging is a fact. What I feel is wrong about it is somehow a negation of customer-focused approach. The customer gets objectified. The only way to change that is to educate the users and help them to be more conscious.
AD: How you see the progress of business-design relationships in Poland?
MP: One of my favourite example is one designer … who was a finalist of our MakeMe! – a competition for young designers. After some time he returned as a finalist of Must Have competition, as a designer of a Polish company Cellfast, that produces garden equipment. Because of the collaboration with young designers, Cellfast is building its way up to a market leader in Poland and is trying its forces outside our country. Their equipment is well designed, is designed consciously, in a regard to elder’s needs for example. One would say that they are trying to follow Fiskar’s footsteps. But above all that lies just a good product.
It is a very desired scenario for us, this kind of a shift for a designer to get into a spotlight because of Make Me!, and to return in Must Have. Make Me! competition promotes young talents so they can catch companies’ eyes. Second competition – Must Have – rewards a good design-business cooperation’s. I am optimistic about the progress of business-design relationship in Poland, and I am not only speaking from our impact as a Festival here. Polish designers are getting deeper understanding of how to sell their products successfully. They are working collectively, they are trying to collaborate with bigger brands. This works both ways: Polish companies are getting more and more interested in well-designed products: objects or services. The awareness that good design is more valuable and attracts more clients is getting bigger. The example that supports this statement is a revival of Polish ceramics and glass. Huta Julia, Ćmielów or… – their market success and common awareness is “sponsored” by the fact that they are collaborating with designer. Their products are interesting, they are different and fresh. On the top of all that they care about quality.
AD: At the end could you please identify types of career paths that are out there for designers in nowadays’ Poland?
MP: I believe each path for each person is strictly individual but I see few basic ways for a Polish designer to grow. First would be a designer-maker, building his or hers personal brand. This would be a creator that makes everything on their own or collaborates with other small makers. The other path is to work for a company and be a specialist combined within the whole production process. Third way, when a designer becomes a star and kind of a celebrity. Here the variety of choices is wide: he or she can create art pieces, critical works or get mixed within advertising.