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Interview with Francisco Gomez Paz

Marinella Ferrara: What changes have taken place in the profession of the 3rd millennium young designer, in comparison with the past, with the 1960s? Do you think that the present production delocalization and market globalization can affect the traditional relationship between design and industry? In what way?

Francisco Gomez Paz: I reckon I am lucky to work with design oriented Italian firms, where the company structure still allows designers to discuss and to share the risks with the managers. In my daily life, I work in direct contact even with the supplying firms who are involved in the project process. These artisans, contracting producers or technology and material suppliers all have an important role in the project development, since by talking and working together with them, we are often able to find the perfect solution for any production problem. As it happened, for example, with the table Ovidio, for the firm Danese: the project was developed thanks to an artisan of Danese, who is an expert in plate bending technology. What happened was, we had thought of a possible solution and thanks to his skills, we found a good solution for the leg and its joint in the table top, thus transforming a graphical idea into a structural project. With the help of technology we devised a geometrical structure, highly characterised by corners and angles, which provides the table with shifting profiles as the observer’s point of view changes.

Nowadays a lot is changing. Companies and contractors are facing hard times because of the economical crisis. The delocalization is breaking that virtuous circle, (one of the strengths of Italian design), of which the artisan-supplier is the weakest link.

Because of the delocalization, designers are lacking a relationship with the matter. Therefore, we have to do something in order to get this necessary relationship back.  Verifying a project by means of a model and a prototype is really important. I remember that, when I was designing Omero, a curious magazine rack, produced by Driade, in order to check its shape and its respondency to the function (the magazines fit into place in between the rings), I made a first wooden prototype with a lathe. Now my studio is better furnished, it has a small laboratory where my colleagues and I make the models that allow us to verify the technical and formal solutions.

What changes have recently been introduced in your job thanks to the new digital, fast making and rapid prototyping technologies?

Nowadays, the rapid prototyping tools are indispensable for a designer. For example, not only did I buy for my studio the most common tools, but even a 3D printer and Arduino, an open source framework, so that we can make studio models or prototypes of some small details which are important for the project development. I often tell the story of Hope, a lamp system, born as a new interpretation of the Bohemian crystal chandelier that Paolo Rizzatto and I projected for Luceplan. While developing the project it was important to verify the device by which the lenses, arranged around the light source, refract light. The weekend before the definitive agreement to put into production Hope components, I made a prototype of the lens in my lab, which changed the original project, with a remarkable improvement of the Hope design. The prototype made by means of a numerically controlled milling cutter was able to convey the formal and visual idea of a ‘metacrystal’ sheet, ultra thin, light, transparent and shiny, with microprisms in the internal surface, that could catch and refract the light, while reproducing at the same time all the optical qualities of the fine and thick crystal. The Monday after, thanks to the physical model that I made, it was easy for the firm managers to understad my intent and change their minds about the productive technology to be adopted. The first prototype of Sinapse was made in my laboratory, too.

The actual revolution is, nowadays, the ability to find information and acquire knowledge easily. For instance, we bought the 3D printer for the studio and then we found a video online, with the instructions to modify some of its functions. We learnt quickly and after that we’ve been able to modify the printer according to our particular purposes. That access to information is made so easy today is very important.

When I lived in Argentina, Internet wasn’t so widespread. In an isolated place, where design was not a common activity, the lack of information was a problem for me.

Do you still believe in the role of the industry?

Yes, I really do. Even if today this role is being strained. Because of instability and the crisis in the economy many companies are afraid of investments.

Have there been any changes in the company requirements for the designers? Are there more responsibilities for a designer now?

Designers have always had big responsibilities towards the companies they work with and towards the ‘human beings’. I prefer this word rather than ‘customers’ or ‘market’. Because, in my opinion, a designer understands little of the market but can understand very well the human beings, their primary and secondary needs, and their relationship with an object in terms of how well it can perform its function.

In the past, though, there were wider margins for error. Today we are witnessing the collapse of a general system. Firms, at lest the ones I work with, put into production fewer products, while demanding more breadth.

We need to be more aware of what we’re doing and where we’re going. Both designers and firms, as parts of our society, share big responsibilities: that kind of responsibility which can make our species go further ahead, towards new paths. One of the projects that have made me more aware of mankind was the Solar Bottle projected with Alberto Meda. This low cost container, that is able to disinfect water for those people who are exposed to contaminated waters, made me think about mankind’s primary needs. But still, even today, after so many improvements, having sorted most of the technical aspects and having developed good ideas for the business model, the project hasn’t found a possibility for production.

What do you think about the various forms of self-production? Do you believe in the possibility of self-management (on the part of the designers) of part or the whole project-production-distribution-selling process? Do think that self-production can lead to an economic development, at least a local one?

I believe in a designer’s ability to manage some parts of the process. This can happen for small productions. To project and to make small productions is possible for a designer, is something belonging to his skills. To sell is not. Still, it is not so difficult to sell 3 or 4 pieces if you have contacts with the sellers, if go to the fairs or online. A lot of my colleagues are wondering whether they should try this way. Self-production can be a big revolution, a quick-start for young designers who want to go into the job. The concept of self-production becomes interesting if linked to the personalization of a product or to the return to the craftsmanship of some products, for some firms who work in a complementary way with the industry. But distribution is a world, which is very far from the designer’s. It is the missing link in this new vision of the self-producing system. When the distributors will notice this opportunity, new prospects will arise that may put the small firms into trouble.

What do you think about the financial capital penetration in the designing firms, with a new role for the management?

The penetration of financial capital may prove very risky for Italian design, which is characterised by the relationship with the people, by the dialogue; which has never based its logics on the business plan, on the stiff management of time and resources; and which has never looked so much at marketing but has instead worked on the ideas, often even on illusions. It’ll depend on to what extent the venture capital will want to go in the design management.

There is a lot of talk about the new artisan. Do you think he could be involved in design?

Artisans are responsible for most of Italy’s beauty. The world of craft is made of people who do not sleep because they want to do better. From people who work with their hands, to those who invest on new machinery, who work with circuits. A part of my work is like that of the artisan who works with his hands and mind. But also with technology, as I did with my lamp Nothing, a handicraft that uses new technologies. It is strange that in Italy there is no government policy that helps to strengthen an artisan’s work by means of the technological innovation. It’s a shame because, for the reasons that I just mentioned, most of our craftsmanship will disappear in a few years.

Design & Production Today

Within the specific outlook of Italian design, how has the relationship design-production evolved? What are the differences between the past and today?

These are some of the questions asked, that the section Close up of number 9 attempts to answer. For this purpose, we will present a brief chronicle of Italian design, focusing on the relationship design-industry since the  economic miracle years until today. In addition to the chronicle, there is a n interpretation of  the current events through the interview to 3 multi-awarded designers: Denis Santachiara, internationally notable for his approach to design taking inspiration from the communication and performance potentialities of technologies, promoter and author of the ‘technical and poetic neo design’ of the Eighties; Francisco Gomez Paz, Argentian living in Italy, where he works in cooperation with the greatest Italian design centred companies; and the young Odoardo Fioravanti awarded with the prize ‘Compasso d’Oro 2011’, with a promising career ahead.

Papairlines Inaugural Flight from Greece

Abstract: Vasso, Costas and Loukas created papairlines, a creative platform that focuses on exposing the methodologies and process behind all things designed. This article describes their initial steps through 'Once Upon A Sponge' project in order to showcase how creativity and teamwork can be used as assets to overcome budget constrains and lack of recourses. Based on the public’s response the project also illustrates the outreach of design in everyday life.

Summer of 2011 was a rather uncertain time in Greece. It was when Vasso and Costas had returned from abroad and started rediscovering the centre of Athens. Through their walks, observing people behaviors and everyday scenarios, they were wondering how design could intervene to create new opportunities. Loukas, still based in London, kept them in the loop with the latest and greatest design news from a location where creativity is already embedded as a tool in contemporary culture.

A few weeks later, all three met and started discussing ways to expose the new directions in design to the public. In the Greek scene where design is mostly connected with furniture and interior, there seemed to be plenty of space to start talking about new genres such as critical, service, innovation and experience design.

To make their ideas travel, they decided to create the first no-budget airline and called it Papairlines. Fleet made of paper and ideas ready to materialize, they set out to communicate the role of design as a catalyst for change in all aspects of our everyday lives. Sounds grand? Well actually, they are taking one step at a time. The airline concept is indicative of budget limitations but full of creative energy to spread a positive message. Paper planes carry a childhood reference, a time when all was possible and thinking was unbiased.

For their first initiative they developed and curated an exhibition where Greek and international designers would respond to a common brief; to create and construct unexpected functional objects made out of the iconic green-yellow kitchen sponge. The project was called ‘Once Upon A Sponge’. Not knowing what to expect in response, they trusted that designers would be intrigued and get creative. The designer submissions revealed that design thinking offers realistic answers to everyday situations, not just on form and function, but also on emotion, social behaviors and underlying meaning.

Papairlines had been invited to present the project in metamatic:taf, a gallery in Monastiraki, the heart of Athens, that doubles as a cultural and social space for Athenians and tourists alike. Baring in mind that papairlines crew had the expectation to produce a rich visual and emotional experience for the public and budget was limited, things got interesting.

On these grounds, papairlines set out to look for sponsors, volunteers, people in a mood to help and creative solutions for the whole setup. Unsurprisingly, sponsorships came easier in kind rather than cash, which made for an intricate exercise in resourcefulness. They ended up with 40 meters of uncut sponge, 1200 single kitchen sponges and 20 of so electrical appliances to play with. The uncut sponge turned into sofas and wall cladding, the kitchen sponges into ‘pixels’ for an interactive installation and appliances took center stage to become plinths. Whitewashed to retain a domestic and fun feel, the electric appliances, which were on their way to the recycling factory, made a one-month stop in the gallery space before being disassembled.

On the press and communication side of things, Papairlines teamed up with a music TV channel and an online portal, both of which promoted the exhibition on a regular basis. Papairlines developed a form of barter with parties interested to contribute, exchanging services without exchanging money, helping each other even in times where means are scarce.

‘Once Upon A Sponge’ was carefully crafted to offer visitors not only a complete experience but also food for thought. The exhibition identity, graphics and layout were developed holistically. The presented work, as a collection, highlighted the process behind design and the diversity of design thinking regardless of the material-based common origin. The exploration of material properties and manufacturing techniques offered visitors an insight on ‘how things are made’. In a wider sense, the project outcome illustrates how design can be used as a research tool to create new stories and scenarios around a specific constrain. Collectively, creative thinking generated a positive impression to the visitors, evident by the feedback received through social media and Check-in message board interactive installation pictures. A casual reading room with relevant literature was also at hand for anyone requiring more information on the theoretical background of the project.

The exhibition run from the 10th of May to 16th of June 2012 at metamatic:taf and was afterwards presented at the ‘Santorini Biennale of Arts’ during the summer. For the Biennale, the setup concept moved along the same lines, using found materials and available resources; fortunately a few cable reels did the job. The project was also presented in the international conference ‘Artist in Industry: the role of design in the digital age’ in Bucharest discussing how an object can tell a story, how creative thinking can contribute to solving everyday problems, whether constraints can act as a stepping stone for something new and if design today can take on a more active role.

‘Once Upon A Sponge’ was developed with a shoestring budget and plenty of love, gaining loads of friends and fans along the way. Its success and outreach not only comes to prove that one has to be resourceful, proactive and sometimes embrace uncertainty to make things happen, but also that design can be used as a creative and strategic tool forming an integral part of our everyday life.

Costas Bissas, Vasso Asfi and Loukas Angelou are papairlines co-director –

Start-up Design. A new way to enter the market according to the Israeli experience

Abstract: This article begins with Ely Rozenberg’s personal experience, that led him to move to Italy early in his design career. The thought on his experience leads to some considerations on the difficult integration of young designers in the work market and a look at what is currently characterizing design in Israel: the foundation of numerous design start-ups. Case histories presented can bring valuable advice to young designers.

In 1998, a year after my degree at Bezalel Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem, some circumstances in my life led me to Rome.
Beside a few personal items, I brought with me a ‘luminous thread’ that had then recently been invented and produced by Elam, an Israeli company. I was looking forward to applying this new invention to design and to exhibit it at FuoriSalone di Milano before other design stars could get hold of it. So, I invited two colleagues for this mission, Alessandro Bianchini and Michael Garelik, one Italian and the other Israeli, and together we started our self-production: from the luminous thread came out, above all, ambient lamps. We were convinced that we needed to go to Milan with a dozen of ready pieces in order to satisfy the requests of the market. One day, while I was exploring the window streets of design in Milan, I found a space in Via Solferino, two metres away from that of the Dutch group Droog Design (when they were at the top of their fame). We did some slides of the lamps, which I personally brought to the editorial offices of the main design magazines and we prepared hundreds of prints and illustrative cards.

The debut was a success, a lot of visitors, positive reactions, but without a term of comparison we did not realize it fully. One night – I remember – we kindly sent away two visitors because we were tired and wanted to go to dinner. On the way out I met a friend from Milan and she told me: «Do you know those two people who have just left your exhibition?» – «No, I don’t» – I answered. «They are Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana!» At that time I didn’t even know who they were. Actually, that week a lot of international design stars visited us, but we couldn’t recognize many of them.

During the exhibition we didn’t sell anything, we took all our stuff back with us and we were quite disappointed. But we collected a lot of journalists, gallery and shop owners’ names and little by little, during the next months, prestigious shops, such as Moss Gallery in New York, ordered the lamps and they started to appear on several magazines. Some time later, a famous firm contacted us with an offer: they wanted us to ‘give’ them one of our lamps, which would then enter their production. We made a quick calculation and it seemed that is was an offer we had to seize immediately, since marketing wasn’t our vocation and the sales barely covered the high costs of the exhibition in Milan. Selling the lamp to that firm would have allowed us to ‘be free’ to look for a new adventure. We came out of that experience aware that in order to charge again as small producers we had to find something really different from the products that already existed, if we wanted to justify our undertaking. And even with a winning idea we knew that in order to be a good producer, having a good design is not enough, in fact, design is only a small part of the organization, whereas communication, logistics and distribution are the big ‘problem’. A product is like a child. After you give birth to it (could be a painful delivery but soon it’s over anyway), you have to look after it for years, and in the meantime you have to think about how to help its growth in this world. Bearing this in mind, you do not feel free to have more ‘children’. My awareness made me really careful up to the present, keeping me from going into self-production again. Since then, many years have gone and I’ve had many other adventures and rewards – prestigious prizes and products that I designed have been ‘adopted’ by the world of production. Nonetheless, the pleasure of opening an exhibition, with innovative products, never seen before, in the heart of FuoriSalone di Milano and give out the price lists to curious and enthusiast shop owners, coming from all over the world, still tempts me. I couldn’t swear I don’t want to repeat this crazy adventure!


As for the term self-production, in Italy, I’ve always perceived it as a synonym of something not very serious, when uttered by professionals. None of them thinks it is a concrete and reliable thing. It has always been considered as a moment of fun for those young designers who try to show off and after 1 year or 2 disappear with their stand. The real world belongs to the eminent owners of family firms who have a true, recognized industrial production.
But, who can remember that the golden generation of Italian design numbers several designer-entrepreneurs who at the same time projected their products?
Just to mention some of them: Ernesto Gismondi with Artemide, Paolo Targetti with Targetti Sankey, Enrico Baleri with Baleri Italia, Gino Sarfatti with Arteluce, Riccardo Sarfatti and Paolo Rizzatto with Luceplan, Elio Martinelli with Martinelli Luce, till the most recent ones such as Ingo Maurer, Enzo Catellani with Catellani & Smith and many others. When does a self-producing designer start to be considered an entrepreneur? Where does the thin line between small range production, self-production and proper production stand?

Within the European panorama, I’d like to mention two design dissertation projects that have now become points of reference in their sector. They are,,, the last of which born in a school of art and design. The three of them gave birth to some successful start-ups, which would deserve a separate treatment.

What is a start-up?

From personal experience to the definition of a phenomenon, which is now very wide spread: the attempts to launch a new project, in other words, the start-ups.

Start-up refers to a starting company. In particular we are going to speak about design start-ups. A start-up is an organization with a business-plan that has the aim of growing. A design start-up as any other start-up has to have a starting business plan. This could consist of one’s own savings, private investors (angels), government funding (for example EU funding), crowd funding (such as that coming from a collection like Kick starter) or from family savings.

Unlike what is generally believed in design environment, the start-uppers (the founder of the start-up) are not always designers. Often there is a mixed organization with designers and people with different experiences, and sometimes none of the start-uppers is a designer.

Israel is the country with the highest percentage of start-ups in the world (one in 1844 citizens according to IMD’s World Competitiveness Yearbook, 2011). This spirit of the young entrepreneurs who bet on their own business instead of looking for a regular job, is also affecting the field of design.
The financial investments in the design start-ups in Israel have been low so far, if compared to the fields of Information Technology and biotechnologies. Nonetheless, the designers look for inspiration to the winning models of start-ups and get advice from the ‘castaways’ of the technological field, who try to produce their projects aiming at large consumption products.

The mosaic of the several realities in the world of design start-ups in Israel is manifold. I’ll try to give an idea of what it is by collecting the different reports that offer a picture of the various situations that one can encounter in this sector.

Ely Rozenberg is a design teacher in a number of schools, creator and co-editor of promisedesign

The pr-objects from the age of Adhocracy

Abstract: ‘Adhocracy' is the exhibition curated by Joseph Grima at the first Istanbul Design Biennial, but more that it is a concept, a tool, a tentative answer to the question of the evolving role of the practical design, the designer and the user-producer in our contemporary society.

In this article the ‘pr-ojects’ described provide some provocative answers to the following questions: Why are we talking about design in Istanbul? How does the open-source system and 3D printing change the production and authorship of objects? How does open-design empower the user? And thus, what are the social and political implications of networking and sharing knowledge of new technologies?

“… this world is carried by your hands. And men, Oh my men!”  (Hikmet, 1954, pp. 45-46)

1. Istanbul Design Biennial

In the so-called post-industrial or third industrial revolution era, as the Economist defined it last April, defining what design is today and what its role in the current context is, has become harder than ever.
Over these two years of preparation for what has become the core of the first Istanbul Design Biennial, promoted by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), it has been possible to activate a great many discussions with a range of individuals on both a local and international level.
With its vibrant energy, its multiplicity of activities, its contradictions and astonishing undefinable beauty, Istanbul is the embodiment of the general theme ‘Imperfection’ proposed by Dejan Sudijc.
Symposiums, workshops, parallel events and the two main exhibitions – ‘Musibet’ (from the Turkish for catastrophe) curated by Emre Arolat at the Istanbul Modern and ‘Adhocracy’ curated by Joseph Grima at the Galata Greek Elementary School – have tried to engage a wide range of people and to plunge them into an understanding of the chaos, the countless layers of the city, its multiple viewpoints as well as the blurring of boundaries among disciplines, the emergence of co-producers of information, objects, projects and initiatives that characterize the glocal arena of Istanbul.
This article will focus purely on the ‘Adhocracy’ exhibition curated by Joseph Grima and its international curatorial team made up of Elian Stefa, Ethal Baraona Pohl, Pelin Tan and Maurizio Bortolotti.
Starting from this exercise in co-operation, helps us to identify the common denominator of Adhocracy, but it does much more than this too.
Grima identifies the concept of adhocracy as opposed to bureaucracy, hierarchical economic systems and centralized political management. On the contrary ‘Adhocracy’ questions the limitations and rigidity of these systems and proposes alternative, hybrid bottom-up and top-down production practices.
Design is – once integrated with other disciplines – a way to propose new solutions and raise awareness on our rights. At the same time, the exhibition is conceived of as an open work in progress platform and aims to host seminars and to push forward discussions on some of the crucial issues of our contemporary society.

2. Process demonstration
In order to give you a general overview of the projects displayed in ‘Adhocracy’, and a better understand of them, and, at the same time, problematize the exhibition concept, I will summarise some of the requirements announced in the open call launched on the 14th of february 2012:

“We are looking for projects that:
– empower others through self-produced and collaborative design;
– experiment with innovative methodologies of manufacturing and production;
– are born from or rely on networks;
– push the boundaries of the open-source movement and their implications for everyday life;
– combine traditional techniques and know-how with new tools and technologies;
– have no author or too many authors to be counted
– challenge and push the boundaries of the accepted definition of design” (Grima, 2012, pp.88-89).

Therefore the exhibition itself moves very faraway from being the usual object-centred design exhibition and even when we do look at objects/machines or devices we do so in order to comprend the processes behind them and beyond to the actions which the user can easily learn from or contribute to. More than that these projects are central to the redefinition of the professional and cultural role of the designer today.
We can start by analysing the structure of the objects, as Jesse Howard demonstrates in Trasparent tools in which she proposes a set of household appliances – toaster, coffee grinder, vacuum cleaner – that users can produce, modify and repair by downloading a grid format containing plans for the single parts of the device from the OpenStructures system. At the same time this construction system aims to create a network of component user-producers in order to promote processes of co-creation.
Another project based on the sharing and social nature of Web 2.0 is the Open Source Ecology platform founded in 2003 by a group of activist farmers and scientists working in Ohio, who presented their Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), affordable equipment for the construction of over fifty OS industrial machines. On show in the exhibition is LifeTrac III, a low-cost and multipurpose open source tractor, which can be constructed in six days.
Open source projects are not only defining new methods of production and interaction among designers and users. As John Thackara’s (2011, pp. 44-45) argues “openness is more than a commercial and cultural issue. It’s a matter of survival”, as some of the Arduino-based devices show.
The cheap microcontroller board, created in 2005 at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, has spawned a wide range of interactive products to satisfy personal needs.
Tacit by Steve Hoefer, Grathio Labs, for example, is an easy to assemble Arduino-based, hand-mounted navigation device for the visually impaired that measures the distance between objects (from 2 m to 3.5 m) rapidly and translates that into pressure on the wrist.
We are all aware that Arduino should be taught in high schools, expecially after having seen Alarma Sismos, a seismograph built with a Arduino microprocessor, the personal invention of Sebastian Alegria, a 14-year-old Chilean boy, which sends out automatic twitter alerts on seismic activity.
Some of these projects reflect the important theme of the interaction between craft and digital production with 3D printers and, whether we like it or not, sooner or later, we will be surrounded by the latter.
Essentially this paradigm shift, which is not yet easily perceptible, implies that we (both designers and potential user/producers) have to try to come up with different ways of thinking about the design of things, which will lead us to a deeper understanding of their inner structures and raise our awareness also on their material composition.
According to Neri Oxman, professor of Media Art&Science and director of the MIT Media LAB, 3D printing is bringing about a revolution in design – equivalent to Gutenberg’s invention of the movable-type press – which will lead to greater democratization of information and production of objects.

The Belgian studio Unfold, in collaboration with Turkish ceramists such as Tulya Madra & Firat Aykaç of Santimetre and Mustafa Canyurt of Istanbul, presents the open-source 3D printing project Stratigraphic Manufactory, from which 3D produced objects in pottery (mainly bowls and vases) are exhibited in a mock-up of a traditional craft shop in the near-by district of Şişhane and displayed in cases facing the windows with the Artisan électronique workshop in the background. Here Unfold explores the tension between handicraft and digital clay products.

By Unfold once more, this time the production of 3D printed objects becomes Kiosk 2.0, a mobile cart that questions the immediacy, flexibility and accessibility of this kind of production in the realm of public space. By accessing an open-source database of scanned digital models Kiosk 2.0 allows users to print false copies of iconic design objects (such as Aalto’s vase) and customize them according to their preferences.
Another particularly interesting interdisciplinary project that connects 3D manufacturing technology, architecture, food design and public space is Street Food Printing by José Ramon Tramoyeres, Paco Morales, Luis Fraguada and Deniz Manisalı, who have started experimenting with Fused Deposition machine deposits (usually known for prototyping plastic) for food stamps, such as chocolate or cheese, in some of Morales’ avant-garde dishes.

This project was exhibited for the first time at the “Future in the Making” fair, curated once again by Joseph Grima, at the Salone del Mobile, but for this Biennial, the designers were invited to modify it to the city context and involve people outside the exhibition space as well. So the initial food printing project became the futuristic cart Street Food Printing.
In fact, if you walk out into the streets of Istanbul, you will notice and be overwhelmed by the lively activities and informal street trades that are taking place in the streets, like Ayşe E. Coşkun Orlandi (2007, pp. 150-153), for example, describing the Biscuit seller (Tahtakale in Turkish, and the craft-assembled pushchair adapted for selling biscuits) both of which are their projects.
Unfortunately this article has had to leave out many other inspiring projects, but two of them represent the historic reference points particularly well: one is Re-reading Giancarlo De Carlo by Autlab and the other is Proposta per un’autoproduzione (Propos al for an Auto-project) by Enzo Mari (1974).
In the first one, Autlab, a collective of Roman architects, lays claim to the present day value of De Carlo’s polyhedric ideas, such as the social responsibility of architects in involving citizens in the design process – the inhabitants of Terni in the Villaggio Matteotti project for example – and thus empowering them, or his reflections in the review Spazio e Società on society as a machine in which buildings, objects and people mutually interact in the making of everyday life.

On the other hand, Mari’s lesson comes from a set of sixteen basic pieces of furniture in wood and the exhibition catalogue entitled Proposta per un’Autoproduzione, which became a sort of manifesto and political statement for the self-producing, do-it-yourself movement, while at the same time criticising the passive role of the consumer which the design industry of the day imposed.

3. Conclusions

Returning to the physical location of the exhibition and its theme, I would like to close with a provocative remark. In 2004 Richard Florida argued that economic development is strongly related to the 3 Ts which are: technology, talent (creativity) and tolerance.
Today Istanbul is not yet a 3 Ts city, but Florida foresees that in 2050 it will become one of the leading metropolises in the world, alongside Mumbai and San Paolo, where hopefully more Adhocratic practices will challenge the country’s weighty bureaucracy and top-down decision making processes.
Finally I will borrow the ironic and provocative manifesto of the Trading Station project, by Post, the Liverpool-Istanbul based group of female artistes, which declares: “Sharing destroys ownership of a product. Share information”. Prophet Muhammed also said: “Whoever is asked about a knowledge that he knows about and then hides in and keeps it away, he will be bridled on the day of judgments with a bridle of fire.”

Teresita Scalco, Università Iuav di Venezia, Science of Design, currently visiting researcher at SALT, Istanbul

Acknowledgments: This paper would not have been possible without the inspiring conversation and ideas shared with Joseph Grima, Luis E. Fraguada, Pelin Tan, Canay Tunçer and Moira Valeri to whom I wish to thanks deeply.


Coşkun Orlandi, A. (2007). Spontaneous Design in Istanbul, in Abitare, n. 472. Milan, pp. 150-153.

Florida, R. L., (2005). Cities and the creative class. New York, NY, London, UK. Routledge.

Grima, J. (2012, edited by). Adhocracy, catalogue exhibition of the Istanbul Design Biennial,  vol.3, Istanbul: IKSV, pp. 88-89.

Hikmet, N. (1954), Of your hands and their lies, in ‘Poems’, trans. Ali Yunus, New York: Masses & Mainstream, pp. 45-46.

Thackara J. (2011). Into the Open. In van Abel B., Evers L., Klaassen R., Troxler P. (editors) Open design now. Why design cannot remain exclusive. Amsterdam, H: BIS Publishers, pp. 44-45.

Trading Station newspaper, issue 2, publieshed 7 September 2012, available on-line at Share!, Trading Station project by POST (n.d.). [Retrieved November, 10, 2012 from]

Editorial #09

PAD #9, the first issue in 2013, deals with matter very hot to young designers, researchers and design scholars: the evolution of design-production relationship.

In the digital era, the world travels at a very high, yet sometimes uneven, speed, and finance introduces turbulence shaking markets with unseen violence, while technology offers unbelievable opportunities of communicating and producing. How, in this context, does design practice and its relationship with production change? How does production innovate?

We put these questions to our network of correspondents throughout the Mediterranean world, and they came back proposing interesting cases, each peculiarly meaningful of a changing reality.

Many of them replied: Ely Rozenberg reports about the numerous start-ups phenomenon in Israel; Teresita Scalco about projects presented at the AdHocracy exhibition, recently held within the Istanbul Design Biennial, and their relationship with technologies; Gianni Di Matteo enters the discussion about the ‘adhocracy’ concept and its roots, telling about ‘adhocism’ as ‘the art of improvisation’ and the makers community in Africa, especially in Egypt; Ana Perković reports about design self-production in Croatia.

In the From section we also publish some interesting explorations, like: C. Bissas, V. Asfi and L. Angelou, from Greece, propose the Inaugural Flight of the papairlines sharing platform; the academic research taking place between Turkey and Italy, aimed at contributing to sustainable evolution of the agro-industrial system, which is, as known, one of the most important production systems for the development of the Mediterranean area and the whole world, as per directions of Horizon 2000, the EC tool supporting research and innovation in the 2014-2020 timeframe.

The Close Up sections offers a pragmatic reading of design-industry relationship in Italy, by means of a chronicle and three interviews to as many famous designers working in Italy, in order to understand the meaning of current situation and the re-emerging of self-production (more akin to design in Italian) phenomena.

The Reportage section, besides the usual appointment with Fabio’s eye, places some graphic and photographic readings of current events side by side with topics covered in the issue.

As a due comment, the answer to the questions we asked ourselves about the evolution of the design-production relationship comes mostly from the young design people. I say people because it’s a more and more numerous and global group, giving life to a digital and connected community, sharing tools, rules and values as well, informing social, collaboration and creative practices.

The world of internet and technologies, and their potential, is the preferred place by young people for experimenting, sharing open systems and co-working. This is perhaps such a difficult world to understand, for those who don’t live in it, but it-s the which will give a shape to the near future.

Young designers, self-producers, post-industrial craftsmen, makers, hacktivist, backyard inventors show an attitude to opening and sharing knowledge revealing a significant difference with recent traditions, in contrast to the design-firm world, which generated in Italy from the 80’s, after denying the ’68 ideologies.

Within project practice, young designers don’t restrict their competence to the aesthetical, morphological, typological and functional perspective of products, instead they open themselves to contaminations with different techniques, arts and disciplines. In this way, they carry on spontaneous processes of continuing experimentation rather than wait for the customer. This way if working in nowadays technological scenario stimulates the capability to redefine production strategies, as well as trigger self-organized and interactive processes, where the idea of process itself and the contribution of different skills become a new, flexible content, meeting to the needs of the preferred counterpart: society.

Young designers prove to drive change and innovation in all cases we’ve explored, although not always they are champions of entrepreneurship, enterprise or social-at-large development.Vision and design abilities is not enough anymore, management skills are required. And on this wish goes our greeting for the new year!

Cover photo: Studio mischer’traxler, Gradient Mashrabiya Sideboard. Photo © Fabio Gambina

Monkey business design Israel

Owner: Oded Friedland

Brand/ start up name: Monkey business design Israel Ltd

Product: ‪We focus on developing original, innovative, affordable gift items.‬ Our company handles development, production and distribution.

Type of organization: Family firm.

Partners: Oded Friedland (age 45), founder of Oded, industrial designer and Omri Friedland (age 47). ‪Oded is responsible for the creative side of things, and manages product development.‬ Omri studied economics in the Tel-Aviv University, worked in the music Industry in the UK for a decade and joined Oded as a full partner in 2002, taking over the business and financial sides of things, turning the struggling design studio into a thriving business.‬ Omri handles the international clients, finance and logistics.‬

When and how did the project originate?  Oded was founded in 1994, after graduating in Industrial design at the Bezalel Art and Design Academy, in Jerusalem where he is now teaching a course on Design Entrepreneurship.‬ The frustration of trying and failing to sell my designs and ideas to other companies, led me to a decision to try and do it myself.

How much did you invest to start the company? Step by step, I used funds that I brought in from design services to invest in developing and marketing my own products.‬

Who invested the money? ‪Mum & Dad‬

How far have you gone with the project?  ‪We have been in the business for almost 20 years, and have established the brand in the international design trade and society.‬

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product?  Each step is a development, but we have had several small leaps over the years related to products that generated growth, the first leap was Dolica in 1999, the second was the Doorganizer in 2005. Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up It’s a long and winding road, with many ups and downs, and over the years we had our motivation breakdowns, due to product failures or financial difficulties, but we always had the belief, the patience, the perseverance and the family back up, to make it work.‬

What is your advice for young design entrepreneurs?  I would recommend small beginnings, with the first products the learning curve is very steep, there are so many mistakes to be made and so much to learn even with the simplest of products, so before you step into deeper waters, tread some shallow ones.‬ I would also recommend a business partner to every creative individual, the creative energy collides with doing the business side of things, it is very difficult to do both, and most creative are bad at business, let someone else do the ‘dirty’ work for you.‬ What is your advice for young design entrepreneurs 
‪You must be very passionate for what you are doing, so choose territories that really interest you and that you enjoy working on hour by hour day by day, this is what will provide the energy and motivation to pass the difficult times.‬

Luka Knezevic Strika for Sinestezija

This year’s Festival Sinestezija continued to spread creative energy, this time exploring the ‘Exotica’ theme. This year’s fest outlasted the 2011’s by three days and the program included exhibitions, performances, workshops, multimedia shows, music concerts. It completely transformed the Old town of Herceg Novi into an  exotic playground, with guests from Montenegro and the whole region.

This photo reportage tells a story about Sinestezija 2012 viewed through the eyes of the official photographer of the festival Luka Knezevic Strika, who had lots of success in showing the true spirit of the festival, taking part in it and at the same time being absolutely invisible while catching these memorable moments. Known for his professional as well as his personal projects, he is a member of a photography collective called Belgrade Raw which explores Belgrade through photography. –

Walk on Map

Owner: Eli Jacobson, industrial designer.

Brand/ start up name: Walk on Map

Product: Flip-flops with city maps on them.

Type of organization: individual firm.

When and how did the project originate? I went back to Israel after a long stay in Milan. I opened a design studio dealing with project services. On the hundredth anniversary of Tel Aviv I wanted to create a product that mirrored the spirit of the city: its colours, rhythm and humour.

How much did you invest to start the company? 8000 Euros

Who invested the money? Myself

How far have you gone with the project? After its success in Tel Aviv I obtained the copyright to use the official map of New York, and started to export to the USA. At the moment I’m working on customer-made orders and on new projects.

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product? In the moment in which I had the idea I already knew it was doable and I started to look for suppliers and factories for the production.

Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up? No, there hasn’t.

What is your advice for young design entrepreneurs? You have to think about simple productions, never neglect marketing, branding and selling at the beginning. To have only a good idea is not enough. The success of your product depends on your ability to produce a finished product, distribute it and sell it at the right price.

Studio Ve

Owner: Shai Carmon (34 anni), Ben Klinger (28 anni), both gradued.

Brand/start up name: Studio Ve.

Product: We are a design studio. Our first project was a wall clock.

Type of organization: We deal with all the different phases of the process, from the idea, to the production, marketing and distribution. We set up a website for online shopping and we even delivery to the shops in Israel.

When and how did the project originate?  The idea was born during my design studies at HIT (Holon Institute of Technology). Shai did an MA in Mathematics and his dissertation was about, among other things, the Riemann Surface. The concept of the clock was inspired by Riemannian Manifold ( To explain this concept I use the example of a winding staircase. If we look from the side and we see a person climbing the stairs, it looks as if the person is going to the left and then to the right. But if we look from the top we can see the person walking in circles.

How much did you invest to start the company?  The first series containing 2000 pieces cost 12.000,00 euros, for the production of the plastic matrixes and the raw materials, of which we bought a huge amount in order to cut the costs.

Who invested the money?  We made a video and we collected some funds on, a platform for group funding. The video explains the concept and the reasons for investing in it. We got support from all over the world in exchange for a free clock. The funds collection lasted for a month and we got 29.000,00 euros from 650 web surfers, of which only 14 were from Israel. We advertised on 50 different sites. Kickstarter is only opened to those who have a fiscal position in the USA or in the UK. But there are other platforms such as indiegogo.

How far have you gone with the project?  Having already sold 2000 pieces, we are now working on the second edition. We sold a big stock to a US client who works in the field of gift items. We’re working on a new product in order to widen the clock series.

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product?  When we got the samples for plastic injection fro China, then we realized it was a real product. The duplication into thousands of pieces gives you a totally different feeling from the one-off or the limited edition.

Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up?  Luckily there weren’t any critical moments in which we would have liked to give up. When you work in pair, the project is split between the two and this makes the workload lighter during a crisis. There have been difficult moments though, when we didn’t know whether we would have managed to reach our goals but in the end everything went well, despite some delays.

What is your advice for young design entrepreneurs?  We only recommend to try and dare! This is the moment to make all your mistakes in order to learn and to not repeat them in the future.
manifold clock on kickstarter

Studio Itai Bar-On

Owner: Itai e Aharon Bar On

Brand/ start up name: Studio Itai Bar-On

Product: Coating, furniture and lighting systems made to measure, especially made of concrete.

Type of organization: Family firm.

Partners: CEO Aviram Bar On; assembling responsible: Idan Bar On

When and how did the project originate?  I had the idea while I was studying Industrial Design at university; it was my final dissertation project. My father owns a building company and we always had concrete sacks at the back of our house. During a course at the Shenkar College of Engineering & Design I used the concrete and fell in love with it. I liked to create a clash, a conceptual clash, between soft and hard.

How much did you invest to start the company? 60.000,00 Euros.

Who invested the money? The Keren Shemesh Fund for young entrepreneurs. Obviously I also put in my own savings and my father helped me, too.

How far have you gone with the project? With time and experience I got to know the matter in depth and I tried to push it beyond its performance limits. Recently I developed a special technology for curvy handicrafts in concrete mortar that I presented at the last Salone del Mobile di Milano, in the Ventura area.

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product? After a year of development and economical investment I felt I was ready to go out in the market as a designer with my products.

Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up? As we are a young firm and this is a difficult time, there are moments of crisis. But this is the destiny of those who choose to be independent. I would have never given up my project.

What is your advice for young design entrepreneurs? My advice to the young and ambitious entrepreneurs is to stay faithful to their ‘beliefs’ and never stop working hard. Never listen to those who try to demoralize you or who do not encourage you.


Owner: Nimrod Riccardo Sapir, Industrial Designer

Brand/start up name:  MYWAY EV LTD

Product: Electric Foldable Scooter.

Type of organization: Limited series production. We are working on a second edition of scooters.

Partners: Oran Walach, MBA in economics and marketing, and Mr. Dov Meirzon, mechanical engineer.

When and how did the project originate? After I was made redundant by a start-up that developed transformable stroller bicycle I had an idea for my own start-up. So I projected and electric bending scooter that can fit into a backpack. A year later, having not found any investors, I decided to start anyway by making a simple product, even simpler than the initial idea.

How much did you invest to start the company? About 310.000,00 euros, including the costs for the design patent and my salary. For the production of the first 100 pieces we used about  55.000,00 euros.

Who invested the money? My family, friends and I after obtaining bank loans.

How far have you gone with the project? We are working towards a turning point for production and mass distribution. We assemble the scooters and we market them in our exhibitory space.

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product? Never. I’m joking. 18 months ago, when the sales started.

Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up? Every other day, especially today. I can’t sleep at night, because I worry about work.

What is your advice for young design entrepreneurs? Do not invest too much, start small and verify that it works. The important thing is to have a flexible mind. Do not trust anybody; only trust yourselves. At the same time, do not fall in love with your idea. Never give up!

Guy Mishaly design studio

Owner: Guy Mishaly

Brand/start up name: Guy Mishaly design studio

Product: Blast chair by explosion.

When and how did the project originate? The studio was established 1 year ago, right after I graduated the product design studies at the Bezalel Academy of arts and design, in Jerusalem, Israel.
The studio focuses on designing furniture, light fixtures, and space for companies and private consumers.

Blast chairs by explosion was my graduation project at the Bezalel Institute.
The starting point to this project was how to navigate energy, creating by manipulating energy that is naturally used to harm and destroy.
Another goal was to invent a system that in the same way of use will always provide different results.
All of the above got me to this project, where I create basic boxes and cylinders from 1mm of steel sheet metal and by locating explosives (looks like electric cables, filled up with explosive material) around them in specific locations and pushing a button that detonates the explosive material, the metal rips and folds into a stool. No material disappears or blows away. The weight of the box before the explosion and the weight of the stool that comes out are the same. The box becomes a stool with seat and legs by the explosion itself and there is nothing done to it after. That’s the way it comes out. There will never be 2 stools that are identical.

How much did you invest to start the company? Getting into such a project required a beginning amount of 4000 Euros.

Who invested the money? Myself

How far have you gone with the project? Blast was made in a small series of 12 pieces.

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product? The research was the main part of the project. When the first chair came out by the correct recipe after months of negative results and dozens of explosions, that’s when

Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up?  I realized I reached the product-the goal I was aiming for.
 Sitting on the first chair made me realize that in the art & design world, there is no such thing as “not possible”.


Brand/start up name: Greenbo

Product: Innovative products for gardening. Our first product is a vase-flower box for balcony balustrades.

Type of organization: Design start-up. The company was born three years ago. It produces and markets its products in Israel and abroad.

The partners are: Maya Golan, a lawyer who deals with the legal sector and the sales; Meir Haklay, a Judo school manager, is responsible for the company development; Avi Youlus, engineer and lawyer, is responsible for the economic area; Roy Joulus, studied design at Ascola Meimeid College, has a BA in business economics, is responsible for the sales and marketing (35 years old).

When and how did the project originate? We started developing the idea in 2006. Then, in 2008 we left our jobs in the Hi-tech field. The idea originated from the wish to cultivate green in small flats in Tel Aviv, even in small balconies where there is no space for earth and vases. After many trials on the vase suspension, we put together two old flower boxes and set them astride on a balustrade with the help of a metallic rest, which became rusty though. It was right then that we got the idea of a strong plastic vase in a wide range of colours, one and twofold, which could be put astride any balustrade. So from a banal vase it became a design piece.

How much did you invest to start the company? Dozens of thousands of euros.

Who insteded the money? We invested our savings. I (Roy) collected my parents’ pension fund and we started some mortgages on our flats and then we obtained other loans. The Keren Shemesh fund for young innovative entrepreneurs really helped us, both as a mentor and with a loan.

How far have you gone with the project? We distribute to about 500 nursery gardens, design shops, flower shops and supermarket chains in Israel, Europe (Carrefour, Casino, Castorama), the United States (The Home Depot, Commerce Corporation), in Australia and Latin America we have distributors and agents.

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product? It happened when the first series came out, when we saw the products coming out of the matrixes and we started wrapping them, all night long. In that moment it was clear that the adventure had started.

Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up? There always are moments of crisis on the way. When the activity grows, the risk of losing everything rises, but we never considered giving up. The people working at Greenbo know how to deal with hardships. This awareness reinforced our association.

A handbook for young design entrepreneurs?

  1. The organizing phase is the longest and the most important. Here you have to understand if your enterprise is competitive, risky and how many resources it needs.
  2. Identify your weaknesses. You need to fill in these spaces with a partner who can complement your skills; otherwise you’ll have to face everything by yourselves with a big effort.
  3. Choose a subject you’re passionate about. Entrepreneurship requires many hours of our daily life. If you don’t like what you do you won’t be able to develop the activity in the course of time.
  4. An entrepreneur sacrifices a lot of his private life, a lot more than any employee. Nobody will do what you don’t do.
  5. Do not fall in love with your products. An objective point of view is the instrument, which allows us to learn from our mistakes and to mend them.
  6. The customer is always right. The company exists thanks to its customers. Keep in touch with your customers.
  7. Ask and learn from other people, because you don’t know everything. If you don’t become expert in your field, your clients will notice it and you’ll lose them.
  8. Find an organization to guide and assist you in the beginning. In Israel the Keren Shemesh fund is a non-profit organization providing professional support and loans to new companies.
  9. Try to grow an ‘elephant skin’ for the difficult moments, but stay humble and balanced even when things are going at full sail.
  10. The world is made of people, not products. Behind every activity there are the people. Develop contacts and create collaborations. A planted seed today will give its fruits tomorrow.

Anything else? In July 2012 Greenbo won the Red dot Award (product design winner). Moreover Greenbo also won the second YBI prize (The Prince’s Youth Business International), a contest founded by the Prince of Wales and Barclays bank for the young innovative firms.

Gaga & Design

Owner: Yaacov Kaufman, retired design professor at Bezalel Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem; Avi Bourla (over 50) furniture importer and owner of furniture shop Primitive in Tel Aviv.
Brand/start up name: Gaga & Design
Product: Contemporary furniture for interiors and exteriors.

Type of organization: Design start-up. The project studio is in Tel Aviv and the production in Indonesia. Yaacov Kaufman is one of the most famous Israeli designers. He collaborates with the main European furniture and lighting systems producers and he mentored several generations of young designers at Bezalel Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem.

When and how did the project originate?  We started developing our products in 2007. The first collection was exhibited in 2010. Our first customers were retailers such as Tollmanís in Israel or Pesch and Leptien 3 in Germany.

Who invested the money?  Self-funding

Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up? We’ll exhibit our new collection with the designers Tal Gur, Rami Tareef and Neil Nenner at the IMM fair in Cologne in January 2013. For us it’ll be the third participation to an international trade fair.


Owner: Gal Ben Arav, industrial designer laureato alla Bezalel Academy of Art & Design (34 anni).

Brand/ start up name: Freshdesign

Product: Sustainable urban furniture in limited series.

Type of organization: Individual firm.

When and how did the project originate? My production was born out of my final dissertation project. The bamboo bench was inspired by a historical photo of the place near which I grew up, the Híahula marsh. The marsh there used to be drained with big bamboo sheaves.

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product? At the beginning I used fresh green bamboo, and I realized that when the bamboo dries up its volume diminishes. Therefore the structure where the bench legs are joined with the bamboo became instable. In order to solve this problem I chose to use black dried bamboo, which besides making the bench more stable, it gives an elegant touch.

Earthquake proof table

Owner: Ido Bruno, professore di industrial design; Arthur Brutter, industrial designer.

Brand/start up name: Earthquake Proof Table

Product: We sell the rights to produce and market our tables both in Israel and in the world.

Type of organization: It’s a mixed structure, between a start-up and a development and marketing platform for a dissertation project for the industry.

When and how did the project originate?  Everything started at Bezalel Academy with a dissertation project by Arthur Brutter tutored by Professor Ido Bruno. After that, Ido and Arthur became partners in this project carried out in collaboration with Bezalel Laboratories L.t.d. The last has the right to sell the project in respect of the designer’s royalties.

How much did you invest to start the company? At the beginning the investment was quite low, 1.000,00/2.000,00 euros. But afterwards we needed thousands of euros for the patent.

Who invested the money? The Israeli producer and retailer ( invested thousands of euros to obtain an engineering assessment.

How far have you gone with the project? We are now at an advanced phase of negotiation with investors and distributors from all over the world.

When did you understand that the project had overcome the ideational phase and had become a product? At the end of the studies we had a contact with an Israeli producer who wanted to distribute our product in Israel, so we started adjusting the table to mass production.

Has there been a moment when you wanted to give up?  Actually our project proved already functional and able to save some lives since the beginning. What we found out later, was that it is not so important how good your idea is, because marketing is very difficult anyway. In our opinion the table must be sold to schools around the world, which means to state institutions, such as the Ministry of Education, etc. But we found out that a lot of these institutions often have to deal with obstacles and reasons that are against common sense. These situations have caused a lot of disappointment and moments of crisis, which however are part of any long development process (2 years for us). The important thing is to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What is your advice for young design entrepreneurs? The main thing, in my opinion, is to get experience. I suggest that every young designer should do the ‘acid test’ in the entrepreneurship: take a small idea and try to promote it professionally. Nowadays there are a lot of platforms for project development and funding collection, one of those will definitely help you to get some experience in every aspect linked to the entrepreneurship.

Design and Production in the Croatian Social Context

Abstract: From the historical point of view, there has never been a continious relationship between the Croatian production sector and Croatian product designers. The situation we are facing today is more positive at the moment. On one side we have the renewal of collaboration between designers and the most successfull industries on the domestic market, and on the other, there are some young talented individuals who self produce and whose products have already been widely recognized as neccessary and valuable.

Let’s bring to our minds the fact that the idea of the term design was first introduced to the Croatian language in the late 1960’s.

These years were marked by an intensive struggle to position the design practise in the real circumstances of mass production, with emphasis on the integration of artistic and technological skills into the production process.

In the meantime, many strong changes in the local political and social context happened, which influenced the Croatian production sector, which for this reasons couldn’t remain constant.

Apart from this, today we again have the chance to whitness the appearance of a new, more positive surrounding, characterized by the renewal of the relationship between the designer and the industry and also new thoughts on the role of the design practise in Croatian society.

In this context, on one side we can see the industry, announcing public contests, inviting designers to collaborate, and designers on the other side, responding quickly with successful solutions.

Speaking of domestic market in general, it could be described as a quiet little space, from the more “global” point of view, with two dominant production sectors – food and furniture industry.

It isn’t therefore surprising that the most successful examples of collaboration between designers and industry are deriving exactly from the previously mentioned sectors.

Here I will mention the company Kvadra which has accomplished a worldwide success, by launching new sofas and chairs, which they have developed with Croatian designers, for the domestic and foreign market.

On the other side, it is more and more evident that there is a growing number of young designers as self-producers. For them, this choice how to work, represents a huge challenge in trying to self-produce and self-promote. Very often they work completely alone, carrying all the costs of production and promotion.

A young Croatian product designer Ana Tevsic, who managed to promote her work successfully in the international London fair Tent, said that the most difficult problem she constantly faces is a lack of craftsmen or small companies who are willing to help her to develop ideas into prototypes and small series of products.

Matea Topic, also one of the Croatian successful young designers claimed that she has learnt with time to compromise between her wishes and actual possibilities, which can in fact result with some new discoveries, useful for further product development![1]

In addition, it is important to mention the great aid of social networks and web shops which help young designers to self-promote. Many of them, for instance, have their own Facebook fun pages as one of the most popular channels for self-promotion.

To conclude this short story, I could say that in Croatia we can also notice this growing social phenomenon of the appearance of young designer self-producers, working mostly in the local context.

This local context should be the greatest source of inspiration and possibilities for designers to contribute with new ideas to the material world. This is the area in which lies the opportunity to be unique and local. It is I think the best way to help the domestic design scene to survive in the global context.

Ana Perkovic is a lighting designer, researcher in industrial design and PAD’s correspondent from Croatia.

[1] Interview  with Mrs Ana Tevsic (product designer) and Mrs Matea Topic (product designer).


Margolin, V. & Vukic, F. (2009). Croatian design now/Hrvatski dizajn sad. Zagreb, HR:UPI-2M plus.

Vukic, F. (2003). Od oblikovanja do dizajna. Zagreb, HR: Meandar.

Food couture

Food Couture photo-collage exhibition was displayed within the “Agrindustrial 2012” congress’s exhibitions (26-28 April 2012, İzmir University of Economics). This exhibition showcases 23 works, including photographs drawn from some selected academic profiles. The exhibition has been brought together on the work of Dilek Himam’s designs, Argun Tanrıverdi’s photographs, Jörn Fröhlich’s visual display and concept designs, Şölen Kipöz’s and Gökhan Mura’s conceptual framework. 20 portrait photos of people with their distinctive food and fashion taste are represented with photo collages of customised and wearable food.  The eclectic designs made of the fresh and delicious parts of the fruits and vegetables push the limits towards sustaining the spectacle while presenting an attitude towards clothing. The dramatization of the portraits and the cultural codes help the construction of the design scenario.  The unpretentious and ecological second part consists of the clothes made of pieces of fruits and vegetables that are not used or thrown away. The imperfect deconstructive aesthetic created by using those materials, which actually help protecting the ecological balance when used correctly, points an attitude towards freedom and purification from fashionable clothes.

Agrindustrial Design

Abstract: The term “agrindustrial” was introduced in İzmir as the title of the 1st symposium in April 2005 for the first time, and anticipated the current lines of research as defined by the European Union. Today the issue of food and agriculture along with their related activities is one of the main subjects of scientific research, as defined in priority by Horizon 2020, the instrument of the European Commission to support research and innovation for the period 2014-2020. This article gives brief information about what has been done and experienced within the events based on the theme of 'design in agricultural industries' thus 'agrindustrial design'.

1st Agrindustrial Design Symposium

On 27-29 April 2005, Department of Industrial Design at the Izmir University of Economics organized “Agrindustrial Design: 1st International Product and Service Design Symposium and Exhibition on Agricultural Industries: Olive Oil, Wine and Design”.

Designers, producers, researchers, and educators studying specifically on agricultural and geographical identity based products and services, wine and olive oil in the first case, were aimed to be brought together to constitute an international information and design platform sharing economical and scientific values. For three days at the symposium, there were 3 keynote speakers, 36 paper presentations, 1 panel, 11 exhibitions, and 1 workshop with the participants from Turkey, Italy, Spain, Thailand, England, New Zealand and Brazil.

The keynotes of this first symposium were Prof. Ezio Manzini, Prof. Ken Friedman and Prof. Nihat Aktan.

The issues discussed within 36 paper presentations were as follows:

1) The role of design in agricultural industries to develop value-added products and services (a variety of papers was on value creation within strategic design, do-it-yourself, agro-tourism, label design, fashion design);

2) Developing distinct brand identity and reflecting the geographical identity to the products and the services of agricultural industries (a variety of papers was on creating new networks, branding, product innovation, agro-industry, agro-tourism and boutique shops; all of which discussed geographical identity within different agricultural products such as olive oil, wine, tea, and rakı -aniseed alcohol drink- from different geographies such as Australia, Thailand, Brazil and Turkey);

3) Sustainability and ecologically applied designs in agricultural products and services (a variety of papers was on food-system innovation, organic fashion concept, organic life concept, sustainability of olive oil mills, eco-design in wine industry);

4) Exporting strategies, retail sale and e-business in terms of contemporary marketing methods, and their relationships within design (a variety of papers was on logistics, marketing, development of different agricultural industries –including Aegean agricultural sector- such as dried tomatoes, textiles, and new hybrid corn fodder);

5) Legal arrangements, intellectual properties rights, and design (a variety of papers was on historical legal arrangements, industrial rights and design experiences on olive oil and wine sectors in Turkey).

At the closing panel; design, and agricultural products and services were evaluated with economical, academic and industrial points of views. The sectors of label, glass-bottle, packaging and food-drink gave messages to each other.

During the symposium, the universities and the companies exhibited their projects and products. The universities were Izmir University of Economics, Istanbul Technical University and Dokuz Eylul University within Industrial Design, Fashion Design and Textile Design Departments. The companies that made exhibitions were Elda Marketing and Commerce with Efe Rakı, TARİŞ with Tariş Olive Oil, Sevilen Wines, Yazgan Wines, Alvisual –Visual Communication Systems with ‘Aion Olive Oil’, Külahçıoğlu Wine Coolers, and Gusto Magazine. There was only one workshop, which was about brand development.

2nd Agrindustrial Design Congress

Seven years later, on 26-28 April 2012, ‘Agrindustrial Design: 2nd International Product and Service Design Congress and Exhibition on Agricultural Industries: Mediterranean, Food and Design’ was organized at the Izmir University of Economics.

The organization had the same structure of triple concepts with three institutions, three organizers, one for each concept: ‘Design’ was coordinated by Asst. Prof. Dr. A. Can Özcan from Izmir University of Economics, ‘Mediterranean Design’ was coordinated by Prof. Marinella Ferrara from Politecnico di Milano, and ‘Food’ was coordinated by Prof. K. Nazan Turhan from Mersin University (from MU in the beginning, from IUE at the end).

Besides Politecnico di Milano and Mersin University; other partner institutions of the congress were DESIS Turkey –Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability, ASD –Packaging Manufacturers Association in Turkey, ETMK –Industrial Designers Society of Turkey Izmir Branch, PAD Journal, ABADIR –Accademia di Belle Arti, and TETÖP –Industrial Design Students Platform of Turkey. The congress was supported by TÜBİTAK –The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey; and the sponsoring companies and other supporting institutions were Aegean Exporters Association, ÇAYKUR –General Directorate of Tea Enterprises, IZTO –Izmir Chamber of Commerce, Anavarza Honey Company, Pamukkale Wines, ELDA Marketing and Commerce, Zeytin İskelesi Olive Oil Company and Yörük Süt Milk Company.

From olive oil, wine and design to food, Mediterranean and design; the concepts were more challenging both in scale and identity within this second event. Design was not the focus and driving concept as in the first event, but one of the three mainstream issues with food and Mediterranean. The locality of the first event has been transformed into a more universal and immediate issues, and the term Agrindustrial Design has been developed silently in between two events to be a concept accepted by a wide range of parties from designers to researchers, from engineers to managers both in academic and professional circles.

Following the same aim of the first symposium and giving an emphasis on the importance of cultural and geographical identity on the creation of design, this second congress was defined as the intersection of design and food fields, which was geographically framed by the Mediterranean region. Based on the concepts of Mediterranean, food and design; papers, workshops and exhibitions were invited to the congress. For three days at the congress, there were 4 keynote speakers, 9 sessions including 24 paper presentations and the closing panel, 2 poster presentations, 13 exhibitions and 6 workshops with the participants from Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, South Africa, Croatia, Finland, United Kingdom and USA.

The keynotes of the congress were Emeritus Prof. Victor Margolin from University of Illinois at Chicago, Prof. Mahir Turhan from Mersin University, Prof. Anna Meroni from Politecnico di Milano, and Prof. Keshavan Niranjan from University of Reading. The issues discussed within 24 paper presentations and the closing panel were as follows:

1) Places, rituals and cultures of eating: Wine consumption spaces by means of socialization –Alaçatı; lighting design in the environment of food shopping, cooking and eating; eating habits and changing dining patterns;

2) A Fusion: Food and Design in History, Culture and Fashion: Food museums –some Italian examples; history of oriental tobacco history and its products; food display by means of fashion, design of promotional rakı glasses;

3) Designing for Food Industry: Production process of chips making; innovative composite material for smart packaging –cold storage of perishable products;

4) Sustainable Food and Food Pedagogy: Innovative system for the production of sun-dried vegetables; participatory design in children’s diet –strategies to design public services.

5) Strategies for Local Food & Design Scenarios I-II: Strategic design applied to terroirs –a Brazilian genuine local cheese; sustainable economy and slow city concept –Seferihisar; global network –two perspectives on the value chain within the case of two Portuguese companies; alternative design understanding within permaculture –Marmariç case;

6) Food and Packaging Design: New aesthetic trends in food packaging; Agrodesign –design and business in Western Almería, Spain; resilient products for small-scale farming in South Africa;

7) Spaces, Rituals, Cultures of Eating and Drinking (Turkish session): Global interior design trends and local rituals of eating and drinking; the effects of Mediterranean culture on Turkish interior eating spaces; space, culture and identity –the effects of Mediterranean culture;

8) From Local to Global: Cultural Processes, Strategies (Turkish session): Experience and packaging design of figs; eating culture as cultural heritage –slow foods of Cittàslow Seferihisar; development of the agricultural industry and the export – a proposal;

9) Closing Panel –DESIS Turkey: DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) is a global network with the aim to promote design-led sustainable social changes. In this panel, Prof. Dr. Özlem Er, the coordinator of the ITU DESIS Lab (Istanbul Technical University, Department of Industrial Product Design), shared former projects that were carried out in Turkey which are in line with DESIS aims and methods. In addition, the co-organizers of the congress shared their views about the event.

The poster presentations were about design for new sustainable products –food industry and catering services; and tasting, eating and consuming –food design departures in ethic, aesthetic and technology.

During the congress; designers, academics and researchers from different institutions and universities exhibited their projects and products. There were student projects about displaying food and fashion, sustainable products within ‘agrindustrial design’ concept, present and past of Turkish tea culture, cultural exchange between Tunisia and Italy regarding the food and dining culture, poster presentations and can-packaging that were from design departments of Izmir University of Economics, Istanbul Technical University and Istituto Statale d’Arte ‘Vincenzo Ragusa e Otama Kiyohara’. There were projects about intersection of food culture and fashionable clothing, creative potential of Slow Fashion Movement within the contemporary fashion movement, Marmariç permaculture project, instant granulated drink packaging and scaled tea packaging by academics and researchers from Izmir University of Economics, Mersin University and Mersin Chamber of Industry and Commerce. There were projects of designers about fish skin compositions, old Izmir t-shirts by Aynizm Company, and olive harvesting machine by Nesne EMT Company.

The workshops of the congress were about finding creative solutions for becoming extinct local seeds, permaculture philosophy as a new design perspective, dresses by used papers, exploring emotions connected to food for product development, design approach to the food lifecycle by means of digital platforms for socializing, unexpected combinations of simple and local ingredients. The participants were from Slow Food Urla organization, Servili Garden Farming and Education Centre, Aynizm Company, Aalto University, and Iuav University of Venice.

All these experiences covering almost seven years seemed to prove at least one thing that there won’t be another seven years to realize the 3rd Agrindustrial Design event.

Dr. Elif Kocabıyık, Izmir University of Economics, Department of Industrial Design

Asst. Prof. Dr. A. Can Özcan, Izmir University of Economics, Department of Industrial Design


Ferrara, M., Özcan, A.C. & Turhan, N. (2012). Agrindustrial Design 2012: Mediterranean, Food, Design. In Proceedings from 2nd International Product and Service Design Congress and Exhibition on Agricultural Industries: Mediterranean, Food and Design. Izmir University of Economics, TR: Izmir.

Özcan A.C., Kocabıyık, E. & Tuna Ultav, Z. (2006) (eds.). Proceedings from 1st International Product and Service Design Symposium and Exhibition on Agricultural Industries: Olive Oil, Wine and Design book. Izmir University of Economics, TR: Izmir.

Izmir University of Economics. (2005) 1st Agrindustrial Design Symposium. TR: Izmir University of Economics. Retrieved November, 2012, from http: //

Izmir University of Economics. (2012) 1st Agrindustrial Design Symposium. TR: Izmir University of Economics. Retrieved November, 2012, from http: //

Fabio’s eye 09

Preparing the issue n. 9 of PAD we asked Fabio Gambina for his intepretation of the Design & Production Today theme.
His shots are characterized by an evocative language in some cases, and a descriptive on in others, while exploring some production processes in microelectronics. This is a photographic story made of partially out of focus frames alternating between macro and micro views. The images tell about new places of work, new tools and ways ofproduction, thus remarking the signs of movement toward new ways of thinking and making the project.

Croatian design. people/places/events

Being a designer in Croatia has always been a personal and professional challenge for everybody who contributed to the establishment of design as a discipline and practice in the local context.
The appearance of the term “design“ in Croatian language dates from the early 1960’s in close relation to the industrial modernization and tendencies to bring together art’s creative potentials with the technology of mass production.
The second edition of the book The design encyclopedia (2004), written by the American design historian Mel Byars, for the first time includes three significant names in Croatian design history (Tomislav Krizman, Bogdan Budimirov and Bernardo Bernardi), whose work and efforts have been appreciated, mostly among members of social elite who recognized the importance of design as a strategic tool of economic progress.
In the beginning of 1980’s the Croatian designers association was founded as the main professional organization in the country and exists as such nowadays. It organizes lectures, workshops and exhibitions and it has its own gallery space in the city of Zagreb.
The first exhibition of Croatian design “Croatian design 01“ was held in 1999 was accompanied by the publication of The Yearbook of Croatian design 01 as well as the award of Croatian designers association. This initiative is still active and it is taking place every two years.
The interfaculty Graduate School of design was founded in the year 1989 by initiative of the members of the Croatian designers association and is a part of the Faculty of Architecture in the University of Zagreb.
By now, around 400 students have graduated in this institution and they mostly work in the advertising industry, although there are exceptions and examples of the successful projects in the field of product design and non-profit social activities.
In the past few years the School of design has been developing collaborations with different companies interested in improving their products and services to become more competitive in domestic market. One good example is project “Six views on the room“, which was accomplished through the collaboration with “Hrvatski interijeri” (Croatian interiors) company. The prototypes of furniture systems and accessory equipment for the hotel rooms have been developed and presented at the annual furniture fair “Ambienta“.
The School of design also encourages projects in the field of social activism. A good example for this is the „Extraordinary design workshop“, which was held twice in Croatia in order to promote the ideas of inclusive design. Together with the members of different organizations who work with people with disabilities, designers have been developing products and visual identities to improve the real market position of the partner organizations.
Another valuable initiative was the “Repair“ project supported by organization REAKTOR that promotes Croatian product design. Citizens of Zagreb were asked to bring all different kinds of personal objects to re-design.
Designers were invited to answer the challenge of adding a new values to products that could have been just thrown away and simply forgotten.
Today the School of design is organizing more and more new, encouraging activities for students to practice and improve their skills under the more realistic circumstances.
In the year of 2010, for the first time the Croatian designers association launched the event D day as an international design festival which promotes the work of young designers, students and professionals up to the age of 35. Through its rich program of presentations, workshops and lectures D day educates participants and audience about current design tendencies and the importance of implementation of design discipline into all spheres of Croatian society.

Watch the video
D-day, by the croatina designers association

Byars, M. (2004) The Design Enciclopedia. New York, US: The Museum of Modern Art. London, GB: Laurence King Publishing.

Margolin, V., Vukić, F. (2009) Croatian design now/Hrvatski dizajn sad. Zagreb, HR:UPI-2M plus.

Vukić, F. (1998) A century on Croatian design. Zagreb, HR: Meandar.

Design Bonanza

The Industrial Design department of the Bezalel Academy, one of the leading academies of its kind in the world, has been chosen among a select group of international academies to exhibit its works of design at the new, avant-garde Ventura Lambrate district during Milan Salone Internazionale del Mobile.
Design Bonanza expresses the experimental spirit of Bezalel as well as the creative research, which encourages the students to doubt and look for that which is new in the material, shape and idea, as tools for continued examination of the field of design. The term ‘Bonanza’ expresses the alchemic moment: a dream in which a new idea is born, the discovery of a treasure
Curators: Prof. Ezri Tarazi, Haim Parnas, Galit Shvo
Curators assistants: Odelia Lavie, Dan Hochberg & Roi Vaspi Yanai

Interview with Cheryl Buckley

  1. Marinella Ferrara: In your opinion, which was the contribution of Gender Studies to the history, to the criticism and to the practice of design?
    Cheryl Buckley: I think that the contribution of Gender Studies to the study of the history, criticism and practice of design has been profound. Dating from the early 1980s, this influenced historians, practitioners and theorists who developed ideas that had emerged from various academic contexts: art and design history, philosophy particularly post-structuralism, history.
  2. What is today the situation of Design Gender Studies and on which research are you working on?
    It is inconceivable today that those working in design history, theory and practice should not take account of gender. Since the 1980s there has been a plethora of work in numerous fields- of course in design, art, architecture, but also in studies of social identities more widely especially around sexuality, race, and latterly generation. Academics have come from a range of disciplines and I think one of the advantages of design as a field is that its is very permeable. By this I mean that over the last 30 years, it has drawn ideas, methods and approaches from other disciplines such as history, geography, politics, linguistics, pyschology, etc.
    As regards my work, I am currently co-writing a book (with Hazel Clark based at Parsons School of Design in New York) on Fashion and Everyday Lives in 20thC Britain and the USA. It will be published by Berg in 2013-14. This project is the first sustained investigation of fashion and everyday life on two of the world’s major fashion cities: London and New York. Typically fashion has been studied as an ‘exceptional’ rather than mundane aspect of visual and material culture with an emphasis on stylistic innovation, perpetual change, and distinctive youth cultures. Instead this project aims to unsettle the dominant views by understanding fashion as a manifestation of routine daily lives that remains with people over time. The project examines the ways in which the everyday use, appropriation, circulation, re-making and regular re-modelling of fashionable clothes by diverse social groups can be: anti-modern and non-progressive; exemplify continuity and tradition; responsive to regional and national subtleties as well as global ones; and disruptive of fashion’s structures and systems as well as its visual codes and norms of consumption. Whilst there remains a predominant interest in the fashion ‘syntaxes’ of the young, the novelty of the ‘look’, and the currency of the latest style- whether re-cycled, second-hand, revivalist, or new, this research investigates the vast swathe of fashionable dressing outside of these categories. This fashion comprises the ordinary and mundane practices of wearing that draws items from the personal wardrobe in a routine manner over time. This research aims to define a new theoretical and historiographical framework for the subject which moves beyond the dominant thesis regarding fashion’s relationship to modernity.
  3. In Anglo-Saxon Countries the attention to Gender Studies was much greater than it whose in Italy and in the countries of Southern Europe, especially in the design field. Why does it happen, in your opinion?
    I don’t have a clear understanding of why this should be particularly in the case of Italy with its strong engagement with design. The secular nature of Anglo-Saxon countries is probably a factor as too are the specific circumstances of history and politics. Italy, Greece and Spain, for example, had predominantly right-wing post-war political regimes; one could argue that these ideas of social justice – such as are embedded within feminist discourses- did not have the same currency in these contexts?
  4. Do you think that it would be possible and useful today, to launch a debate about relations between national cultures and gender, strictly regarding design, particularly in the Mediterranean countries, which actually are very different one from each other?
    Yes I think that an awareness of and sensitivity to national cultures is very important particularly in the light of the last question. My view is that a close understanding of the specific historical, political and social contexts of national cultures is vital. However articulating and defining ‘national cultures’ is challenging in a post-imperial, post-colonial world in which ‘national identities’ are complex and heterogeneous.
  5. PAD is committed to map the work of women designers and woman design entrepreneurs based in the Mediterranean countries. What would be your advice In this regard?
    I would think that to understand what has been done by others in different parts of the world is a very useful first step, and then to consider firstly how this can inform PAD’s objectives, secondly to identify how this is different or similar to the experiences of those in Mediterranean countries, thirdly to develop an action plan from this. I would consider extending your remit to include women consumers and users of design.

Cheryl Buckley is a design historian with an interest in the history of everyday things (fashion, architecture, domestic interiors and ceramics).
Since 2006 she has been Visiting Professor in Design History at Parsons, The New School for Design/Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York. In 2007 she was awarded a Chair in Design History at Northumbria University, Newcastle (UK)
and became Editorial Chair of the Journal of Design History in 2011.
Her research has dealt with the history of 20thC design. Her major books are: Designing Modern Britain, (Reaktion, 2007), Fashioning the Feminine, Representation and Women’s Fashion from the fin de siècle to the present day (I.B.Tauris, 2002) and Potters and Paintresses. Women Designers in the British Pottery Industry 1870-1959 (The Women’s Press,1991).
Cheryl Buckley has a particular interest in design history and gender with two essays that contributed to this particular debate: ‘Made in Patriarchy: Theories of Women and Design, A Re-Working’, in Design and Feminism: Re-Visioning Spaces, Places, and Everyday Things, ed. Joan Rothschild, USA: Rutgers University Press, 1999 and ‘Made in Patriarchy: Towards a feminist analysis of women and design, in Design Issues, Vol. III, No. 2, Fall 1986, pp.1-31.
She also has a long-standing research interest in the history of ceramics and the role of émigré designers in Britain and the USA (see forthcoming introduction and co-edited special issue (with Tobias Hochscherf),‘Transnationalism and Visual Culture in Britain: Émigrés and Migrants 1933 to 1956’, Visual Culture in Britain, vol.13, no.3, 2012, and book chapter ‘Authenticity, tradition and modernity: Marguerite Wildenhain and Ruth Duckworth, women émigré studio potters, 1936-1964’, in Entfernt: Frauen des Bauhauses während der NS-Zeit – Verfolgung und Exil, Women in Exile, volume 5, eds. Adriane Feustel, Inge Hansen-Schaberg, Wolfgang Thöner, text+kritik, Richard Boorberg +Verlag GmbH & Co KG, Munich, 2012). This research began with postgraduate research for a Master of Letters thesis that focused on the British furniture company and architectural practice, Isokon  (Isokon, exhibition catalogue, 1980), and it continued with research for a Doctorate on women in the British pottery industry. This led to various publications, notably the book Potters and Paintresses, and various articles and book chapters such as ‘Women and Modernism: A Case Study of Grete Marks (1899-1990)’ in Women Designing. Redefining Design in Britain between the Wars, eds. Jill Seddon and Suzette Worden, Brighton, 1994 and ‘Quietly Fine, Quietly Subversive: Women Ceramics Designers in Twentieth-century America’, Women Designers in the USA 1900-2000 Diversity and Difference, ed. Pat Kirkham, USA: Yale University Press, 2000).

The Mediterranean of Women. Evolutions and new Opportunities for Design in the Network Society

Abstract This article examines and documents the emergent phenomena, wich in the countries of southern Mediterranean coast manifest a grater awareness by women of their role in society. Those phenomena can be considered as the effects of convergent actions like investment plicies in education programa, promotion of artistic practices and the widespread use of social networking media, enables by ICT. We can note a growing tendency towards democracy that is expressed in various ways on artistic and productive activities by women. So much so that today a new Mediterranean can be told through observating of the women’s practices that are a clear reflection of the growth of talents, skills, ideas and projects. All the more so if we consider art and design, not only the mirror of social change, but also as an agent of socio-economic development.

Key words mediterranean design, gender study, social web, communication technologies, crowdfunding.

Only 15 months ago The Arab Spring proposed some democracy scene, that were unthinkable. Apparently, it seemed that the process towards democracy, that had started slowly, had suddenly sped, thus giving voice to bottom-up phenomena, to the needs of  minority and discriminated poor classes, to the demand for freedom and respect of human rights. Whereas on the other side, on the North side, the awareness of the decreasing Western influence was developing more and more, although such an influence was considered as a necessary condition for a more balanced relationship between the two parts.

The rebirth of North Africa had represented an incredible opportunity to reevaluate the social role of women. The events of those days, with protest marches, were characterized by a heavy participation of women asserting their rights, showing a great need for coming out and widening their limited horizons in the participation to the social, economical and cultural development of their countries.

Nowadays we are going through a period of regression. The expected change has occurred not according to the principles of democracy and reformation that had inspired the Arab Spring, but in relation to the success of the conservative Islamic parties. The scene is still confusing and the outcomes of the transitional process are even more uncertain. In general, the situation has been worsened by the Syrian question and the economical crisis spreading in the Euro-Mediterranean area.

Despite disenchantment, in this particular moment, it is crucial to talk about Mediterranean design. Above all if we consider design as that act of design culture that is the expression of social changes and of lifestyles. The designer’s attitude to ‘catch’ the meaning of changes and to turn them into plans and therefore in product/service shows that it’s possible to play a role in the transformation of society: leading the smallest and the most important social and behavioural changes to the system of objects, then to the dimension of every day makes any transformation concrete and comprehensible to common people, thus avoiding the arise of fears and social oppositions, but, most of all, avoiding the passive acceptance of the new [1]. Art and design are innovation factors and can become instruments for the social and economical development, if associated to production activities.

The above-mentioned theory has been shown by the history of fashion design, a developing sector in the South coast of the Mediterranean, that has involved a stance on the women role and on its interpretation, by claiming the dignity of the body and of the gender  in the visual communication. Design understands style, renovates expressive languages, signs and products, by promoting great changes in the daily life of women or showing its disapproval for some emerging positions. Often, who works in this sector is an avant-garde figure, but his creativity is not separated from what happens in common life, what can be observed on the street, what  happens in young and artistic fields.

In Europe, the periods of rapid social changes have provided artists with the opportunity to open new perspectives in fashion trends; such trends have encouraged important changes in the women’s role. Let’s take Coco Chanel, for example, who acted in the limits of fashion industry; she managed to create a new style, responding to the social changes that were occurring at that time.

Nevertheless, fashion also means social control, as it belongs to the group of mechanisms developed by every collectivity in order to avert the deviance from a certain kind of attitude. The social group holding the power exercises control on the ability of the citizen to conform to the social and civil prescriptions (Merton, 1983).

Even more crucial, at the moment, is to talk about the ‘The Mediterranean of Women’, by gathering information on professional and research activities of women operating in the area of creative, artistic, business, architecture and handcraft project [2].

To support this theory, we’ll refer to Griselda Pollock, the design protagonist of the Cultural Studies, who in the 1970s stated that a feminist approach is neither a side-issue nor a novel historical perspective – it is the main concern of contemporary history design… “we are involved in a contest for occupation of an ideologically strategic terrain” [3].

Despite the debate generated by the Design Cultural Studies in Anglo-Saxon countries, that has shaken all the certainties about historiographical methods, thus unmasking the ideologies laying behind the lack of valorisation of women designers and opening new ways to research,  such a theory has not been very successful in the Mediterranean countries. The reasons are the ones just mentioned by Cheryl Buckley during her interview, concerning the particular historical-political conditions of each country, that have blocked or inhibited the diffusion of ideas deviating from the official behaviour.

A rebuilding of the problems and motivations that have affected  the lack of valorisation of women’s role is essential in each of the Mediterranean countries, such as the one carried out by Cheryl Buckley. As it would be impossible to face such a wide subject here, we will state our theory through some statements.

1. “When women change, everything changes. And women in Muslim world are changing radically.”

The sentence of the famous feminist writer Naomi Wolf (2011) represents the starting point to state that, despite the barriers created by political issues and predominant ideologies, world is continuously evolving, sometimes with original elements that escape from stereotypes.

Among the predominant stereotypes in Western world about Muslim countries, the most popular are the ones concerning women, that are seen as veiled and victims, exotically silent, closed inside their strict gender roles.

Such a stereotype does no longer respond to reality. The participation of women to the manifestations of North Africa of last year is an evidence of this theory, together with the work of many Arab women involved in the art field. Education represents one of the most important changes occurred.

Among the countries of the South coast of the Mediterranean, Tunisia represents the most significant example of  a politics of investments in education (the highest investments in the world) that, started in 1956, has been successful so far. In 2000, about 92% of children from 6 to 12 years attended school. Thanks to this change, women in Tunisia represent a vital part of the qualified work force.

Two generations ago, only a little minority of élite daughters got university education. Nowadays. Women represent more than 50% of Egyptian university students and more than 60% in Iranian students (Esfandiari, 2003). Many investments on education have been done also in Israel and Palestine.

Another great change has occurred in the art field, where women belong to a developing artistic independent movement; also they are among the biggest patrons and collectors of Middle-East.

Currently, in the Arab world, there is a huge space for art, exhibitions and artists’ rewards: festivals, meetings, competitions, galleries, auction sales are organized more and more often and new museums, such as Abu Dhabi and Qatar (wanted by Sheik Mayassa Al Thani) have been opened. Finally, even Western world starts to get interested in this ‘stranger’.

Women find in art the ideal terrain to express themselves freely, to fight against stereotypes and to start a career on their own, even staying at home.

The true art is a crucial part in the dialogue with society and it can change it from the inside. Quoting the critic Lucy R. Lippard (1995): “women’s art is not a style … , it’s a system of values, a revolutionary approach and a lifestyle”.

Also in the Mediterranean, as in the Anglo-Saxon world, renovation originates from art and from acknowledgment  of women work and it belongs to the feminist movement. As we learned from history, after women’s education, it is difficult to stop the tendency towards democracy.

2. There is a link between the use of ICT and the tension towards democracy.

We have learned from media how crucial the role of ICT (telephone nets, cable TV, Internet and social network) was in the recent manifestations of North Africa, both for the diffusion of Western lifestyles and as an instrument of dissidents. It has led to the awareness of being part of the world, by encouraging the confrontation of Southern and Northern coasts populations with different identities and lifestyles.

Mobile phones has developed really quickly. And, although some surveys (carried out by teenagers) show that girls are less likely to be up to date with technological developments and communication technology items, nowadays, more and more women, who are interested in their interactive and aesthetic dimension, use technology to get in touch with people who are geographically distant (Virpi Oksman and Pirjo Rautiainen, 1997, p. 148) and to know better the different ‘faces’ of the world.

In the Middle East, women are very active in social networks, with a high participation, about 70%, of which 34% connecting at least 10 hours a week on their spare time (Qudoos, 2010)[4]. The desire to chat, share information and contents, talk about themselves on the web is increasing. Women have been among the first ones to use the net as a space for dissidence.

Sondès Ben Khalifa, journalist for Radio Tunisienne and blogger says: “New technologies have given women the strength to fight against men. They have helped them communicate, to express themselves quite openly. And all their efforts have turned into a virtual reaction that has become real” (Manfredi, 2011)[5].

Ehab el-Zelaky, Egyptian journalist of the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm has stated that “The manifestations of Maghreb have distant roots … since 2004 the voices of dissidents and of minorities on the net have risen, above all women voices…some bloggers have started to tell about their life experience, thus  uncovering taboos and reacting against solidarity among criminals”. On the internet Egyptian women have started to talk about female homosexuality and homely violence.

Social media, because of their technological nature, enable men and women to share their thoughts, understand differences, have a dialogue, express their needs, by means of different communication codes. Social networks encourage women to take part actively to the building of society, politics and culture in full consciousness.

As pointed out by Naomi Wolf (2011), women, if not trained to manage power, can have some difficulties in dealing with leadership and protest, traditionally conceived, because these involve a technique that is ‘unknown’ to women body, such as standing on a stage, under the search-lights or  challenging the crowds, actions that are usually associated to young activist men, holding a megaphone. Social networks, instead, and Facebook in particular with its interface, imitate the women attitude towards the social reality: in fact, they base their attitude on the relationships among people, according to links that are also instruments of dominance and control.

“On Facebook you can be a simple human being, but also a powerful leader, without having to be an authority or having to state your dominance, only by creating a great ‘we’.“(Wolf, 2011).

3. New technologies create new models, systems and projects.

Many professional women are experimenting new the ways towards self-affirmation and professional developments thanks to the communication system, that is more and more fluid and changeable, by creating new instruments and languages, opening new ways, thus starting a process of global personal interaction that is turning around the social web.

Let’s take for example the crowdfunding. This is a means to detect funds to be used for the start-up of projects and businesses that is based on the global cooperation through the Internet. The idea is not new at all: we still remember the ‘money collection’ usual among students or in the church for charity, or the so-called tontines, that is to say the modality of self-organised micro-credit very common among the women of North Africa in order to overcome the difficulty in reaching finance, as they cannot offer much in terms of guarantee. This practice is typical of all communities and associations created spontaneously for the mutual interest of all participants, by paying a very small share that raises a mutual fund that is regularly used to achieve initiatives and projects.

Nowadays the number of specialized crowdfunding platforms for technology businessmen, for journalism and also for creative professions and for arts (cinema, television, music, photography, etc.) is increasing.

This instrument is particularly efficient for all those projects that would never get the institutional and political support; these projects can be realized thanks to a fund collection among people that are interested in the project proposed on the platform. A real shared society is then created, besides classical economy, based on independent rules.

Iraqi photographer Tamara Abdul Hadi has presented on the crowdfunding  platform for journalists an interesting project: a real challenge to the western stereotype of all Arab men that are likely to be terrorists. She has taken some pictures of Arab men and has collected them in a presentation that portraits reality for different and unexplored points of view.

In Italy, Naba and Domus Academy design school, the latter being one of the most prestigious in the world, has started a cooperation with Eppela platform.

The first Arab crowdfounding portal will be launched on the 2nd July. The portal, called Aflamnah, aims at encouraging the proposal of projects for the Arab world in different fields: cinema, television, art, music, photography and fashion.

According to Vida Rizq, the main founder of Aflamnah, the initiative aims at changing the way of conceiving creativity in the region and hopes to encourage a new generation of  directors, software programmers, artists and designers to pursue their hobby and realize their ideas.

4. The Mediterranean will be told through the development of talents, competences and projects.

Marinella Ferrara, Politecnico di Milano, INDACO department.



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Manfredi, A. (2011, March 15th). Rete, blog e social media. Voci di donna dal web alla piazza. La Repubblica esteri. Extracted from

Merton, R.K. (1983). Teoria e struttura sociale. Bologna, IT: il Mulino.

Oksman, V. & Rautiainen, P. (1997). Il prolungamento della mano. Il rapporto di bambini e adolescenti col cellulare in Finlandia. In L. Fortunati, J. Katz, R. Riccini (Eds.), Corpo Futuro (pp. 144-154). Milano, IT: Franco Angeli.

Qudoos, M. (2010, giugno 14). Arab women score high in Internet use online. Khaleej Times online. Extracted from east_June452.xml&section=middleeast. Wolf, N. (2011). The Middle East Feminist Revolution [WWW page]. URL

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. In 2008, in occasion of the exhibition “Design and Elastic Mind” Paola Antonelli, curator of the design section of MOMA of New York, claimed that the role of design consists of “catching” the meaning of changes occurring in the fields of science, technology, social attitudes and turning them into projects concepts, by tracing the achievements back to the human dimension and to daily life. Therefore, one of the fundamental aims of design is to be between revolution and daily life and to help people understand changes.
  2. It has been done in other occasions. See: Ferrara, M. (2009). “Donne dal Mediterraneo”, Disegno Industriale-Industrial Design. 40. 34-39.
  3. Pollock, G., (1982). “Vision, Voice and Power: Feminist Art History and Marxism” Block 6. Estratto da: Buckley, C. (1986).”Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design” Design Issues, Vol. 3, N. 2 (Autumn, 1986), The MIT Press, p. 4. “Griselda Pollock has stated, a feminist approach is neither a side-issue nor a novel historical perspective – it is a central concern of contemporary design history. As she has pointed out, “we are involved in a contest for occupation of an ideologically strategic terrain.”
  4. Journalist for Khaleej Times, Mohammed Qudoos, reports the data related to a survey carried out by YouGovSiraj in April 2010, commissioned by, portal devoted to Arab women, created by Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC). The survey has been carried out in order to understand the evolution of behaviours in the women of Middle-East and to turn them into opportunities for a dialogue. It has pointed out that “Arab women are highly involved in the social networking space, with Facebook ranking as the leading social networking site among Arab women: 91 per cent in Lebanon, followed by 80 per cent in Egypt, 78 per cent in the UAE, 70 per cent in Jordan, 68 per cent in Kuwait and Qatar each, 66 per cent in Bahrain, 64 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 55 per cent in Oman, and 45 per cent 
in Syria.” Cfr. Qudoos, M. (2010).“Arab women score high in Internet use”, Khaleej Times online, 14 giugno 2010, online on east_June452.xml&section=middleeast.
  5. A. Manfredi, “Rete, blog e social media. Voci di donna dal web alla piazza”, La Repubblica, 15th March 2011, online on intervista_sondes_ben_khalifa-13634909/.

Design and Gender Studies

Speaking of women and design, it is important to recall the crucial role carried out by Gender Studies. Therefore, we asked a short interview to Cheryl Buckley, one of the main protagonists of design gender studies.

Besides, Cheryl Buckley’s article “Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design” extracted from Design Issues, Vol. 3, N. 2 (Autumn), The MIT Press, Cambridge1986, pp. 3-14, is here re-published, with the kind permission of MIT Press (

There follows a short report on Gender Studies[ref]Cultural Studies are the meeting point of the different contributions coming from numerous disciplines – social sciences, cultural anthropology, semiotic, aesthetic theories, history of science and communication techniques- that aim at establishing the right of difference: sexual, ethnic, racial, religious, geographic. Cultural Studies re-evaluate and express subcultures and focus on subjects that are considered marginal: sexuality, gender, media, social and cultural movements, interethnic relationships and popular culture.[/ref], originating from “a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to the study of socio-cultural meanings of gender identity” in order to dismount the established knowledge on historiographical methods, by unveiling the ideologies that led to the lack of women in history books and in order to define new research paths in design.

Design e Gender Studies

Born in North America between the 70s and the 80s within the Cultural Studies , Gender Studies started spreading in Western Europe during the 80s. They developed from a specific branch of the feminist thought and found basic ideas in post-structuralism and in French deconstructionism (above all Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida), in the studies on language and psychology (Jacques Lacan and, in a post-lacanian perspective, Julia Kristeva).

Gender Studies are not a branch of knowledge apart, but a modality of interpretation of the different aspects of human life, the formation of identity and of the relationship between the individual and society and the individual and culture. For this reason they can be applied to any branch of knowledge.

In the 70s and 80s the spreading of Gender Studies was characterized by a political activism purpose linked to the condition of the homosexuals and other ethic and linguistic minorities in relation to discrimination problems, racial and ethnic oppression, the development of post-colonial society and globalization.

Thanks to Gender Studies nowadays it can be affirmed that the idea of gender does not coincide with the sex (biological, physical and anatomical features), but sex and gender are interdependent dimensions, in the sense that the process of gender identity definition starts from the sex, Gender is not characterized by an innate behaviour or roles but it is a cultural idea that is built psychologically and socially; not even gender identity is innate and immutable, but constantly changing through time and space, because it mirrors social and cultural conventions in a specific place and time. Therefore, the relation between sex and gender varies according the geographical area, historical period and a people’s culture. The ideas of masculinity and femininity are relative, that is to say dynamic and they need to be historicized and contextualized. Any society defines which values are to be assigned to a gender identity.

Throughout their development Gender Studies followed the evolution of feminist theories in the western world, that, after a ‘radical’ phase (60s – 70s), went through a ‘cultural’ phase, and subsequently a post-modern and post-structuralist one that unlike the radical phase which denied the difference between men and women, worked towards the construction of a theory and a practice of gender equality, taking into account the social and cultural differences.

In the design branch, Gender Studies, flourished in the British countries, argue that women are almost totally invisible in the history of design, an idea already claimed in some art studies (Rubino, 1979[2] ; Parker and Pollock, 1981; Bukley, 1986).
Therefore, in the second half of the 80s and 90s, in concurrence with the post-structuralist phase of feminism, a research path began, involving many scholars who wanted to go back along the history of design again with the aim of revealing the presence and the contribution of women.

Drawing on the researchers that through a hard work, because of the lack of specific sources and bibliographies, revealed the women’s paths in the arts even with non-conventional methods, many studies identified the women who, working in the factories (from, wall-paper painters to ceramists, from weavers to stylists), within artistic movements and school such as the Bauhaus [3], significantly contributed to the history of design. The historical studies traced back their lives, they also analysed their gender, i.e. the set of behaviours, attitudes, expectations, expressive forms and social relations modes though which the individual and social gender identities are defined in relation to the geographical, social and cultural context.

Judy Attfield, Cheryl Buckley and Pat Kirkham’s work was fundamental; they are seen as the main theorists of Design Gender Studies, to them we owe not only a map of the women designers and artisans’ works and biographies, but above all they re-established the importance of these women’s role, and the specificity of female creativity and projectuality in the social contexts of design, thus marking the change from a women designer approach to a feminist approach, as Judy Attfield mantains (1989).
The feminist approach manifested the need to re-discuss the cultural paradigms of modern culture, that disregarded women’s activity in the public sphere of production and design, confining them instead to the private sphere of care and reproduction.

Cheryl Buckley (1985; 1986) noted that, despite many studies highlighted the women’s work, among the critics a gender prejudice still exists: the classical historiographical methods established hierarchies, gave priority to some types of design (industrial design), designers categories (the pioneers), different artistic movements and production types (industrial), that were meant to neglect women; they ascribed to the men the dominant functional areas, relating to the industrial production, and to the women the “decorative” area of design: the so-called decorative or applied arts (textile, pottery, etc.) often carried out in a private or domestic context, and therefore not recognized as design activities[4].

The Gender Studies critical approach on classical historiographical methods, that caused the absence or the discrimination of the women in the histories of design despite their presence, involved a radical dispute on the well-established cultural paradigms. That debate showed ‘the ideological reasons of the silence on women’ thus revealing the relation of dependence between patriarchy and capitalism in the Western world, and the skill of both of them in modelling and re-defining society in order to avoid potential processes of transformation (Buckley, 1986).

This change of perspective opened new perspectives for the analysis and the historical reading of material culture, aimed at overcoming conventions and stereotypes. Research provided the possibility to identify new historiographical methods and parameters (for assessing design objects, and defining design and a designer’s activity) in order to let the dimensions hidden or omitted by previous studies, come to the surface. Especially, Cheryl Buckley underlined the need to re-define and widen the borders of design, redrawing the relationships and the distinctions between the arts, craftsman and design, in order to write a more inclusive history of design than that produced by modern culture.

Also in the British cultural context of the 80s, some researchers investigating, from a feminine perspective, the role of design in the gender relationships, emerged. These include enquiries on adverts, art, visual design such as those of Ellen Lupton, and on large consumption products, of which they analyse the communicative signs and images.
The interest for this kind of studies went beyond the British world.
Researches highlighted the subordination of women in the consumerist society: that of consumers of products designed by men.

It was also analysed how the design affects the construction of a gender identity, and if subjected to stereotypes, it leads to gender discrimination.
The relationship between gender and everyday objects was analysed under different aspects: from their shape to the materials, from the colours to the finishing, all elements conveying messages on life-styles, the desires of the consumerists and by which the gender identity is defined (Martha Zarza, 2001).

In Italy there is an interesting study by Raimonda Riccini whi investigated the relationship between the promotion of domestic technologies and the female identity. After clothing, the domestic technologies and techniques are the first instruments by which the female body is structured. Riccini’s study aims at highlighting now, despite the positive aspect of introducing technology into housework, hidden behind the utopian perspectives of a higher comfort, new forms of subservience to work are hidden, more and more insidious. Technologies offered new lifestyles where, every time, the housework seems to de-materialize Instead, a drastic reassessment of the female body and its technique in housework is foreshadowed : “…the intelligent house is once again a male technical construction, in which the technological functions are decided by engineers and producers” (Riccini, 1997, p.164).

Marinella Ferrara, Politecnico di Milano, INDACO department.


Attfield, J. (1989). Form/female follows function/male: Feminist Critiques of Design. In J. A. Walker (ed.), Design History and the History of Design, London, UK: Pluto Press, pp. 199-225.

Buckley, C. (1986, autunno). Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design. Design Issues, Vol. 3, n. 2 pp. 3-14.

Pietroni, L. (2002, settembre). Donne e Design: il contributo dei Gender Studies. Op. cit., n. 115 pp. 15-35.

Pollock, G. with Parker R. (1981). Old Mistresses. Women, Art and Ideology, London UK: Routledge & Kegan.

Riccini, R. (1997). Identità femminili e tecnologie del quotidiano. In L. Fortunati, J. Katz, R. Riccini (a cura di), Corpo Futuro (pp. 155-166). Milano IT: Franco Angeli.

Rubino, L. (1979). Le spose del vento. La donna nelle arti e nel design degli ultimi cento anni, Verona, IT: Bertani Editore.

Trasforini, M. A. (2000, a cura di). Arte a parte: donne artiste fra margini e centro. Milano, IT: Franco Angeli.

Weltge, S. W. (1993). Bauhaus Textiles. London, UK: Thames & Hudson.

Zarza, M. P. (2001). Hair Removal Products: gendered objects under control of conventional conceptions of femininity and masculinity. Proceedings of the ICSID 2001. Seoul, Korea.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Old Mistresses: Donne, Arte e ideologia, gli inglesi studiosi esaminato il ruolo delle donne all’interno della storia dell’arte.
  2. In the 90s, Sigrid Wortmann Weltge addressed to the women’s work at the Bauhaus a study carried out from a female perspective. The study was published with the title Bauhaus Textiles – Women Artists and the Weaving Workshop.
  3. In fact, according to Judy Attfield, the history of design suffers from the theories of Modern Movement, that considers the shape-woman as originating from the function-man. Design is believed to be the product of professional designers, originating from industrial production through methods of work sharing. Handicraft given to women and made at home is not considered as adesign activity.

Carwan Gallery

Founded in Beirut in 2010 by architects Wakim Pascale and Nicolas Bellavance-LeCompt, The Carwan Gallery was born as the first pop-up gallery of the Middle East, which sets up and organizes exhibitions in the most representative design places on collections made in limited editions.
On the occasion of the ‘Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2012’, in Milan, in the area of Lambrate Ventura, the Carwan Gallery presented Contemporary Perspectives in Middle Eastern crafts. The exhibition showed furniture and objects created by the interaction between nine emerging designers and nine Middle Eastern artisans including Lindsey Adelman, Mischer’Traxler Studio, Nada Debs, Oeuffice, Paul Loebach, Philippe Malouin and Tamer Nakisci. The exhibits outline new perspectives in the field of design and craftsmanship possible thanks to a strong synergy between design methodologies of international designers and Middle Eastern craft technique applicable to high-quality materials such as silk, mother of pearl, solid wood, straw Vienna hand-braided, brass and wool.

TLV Express: a propulsive force typically Israeli

The group of Tel Aviv TLV Express stands for a specificity Israeli tracking their roots in a cultural and economic landscape closely associated with handicraft productions but lacking of a significant sector of export of industry. However, the university education system is focusing on laboratory activities so the fervent group self-produced handmade objects based on technology demonstrations and materials without limitations imposed by industrial production.

At the ‘Milano Fuori Salone 2012’ in the area of Ventura Lambrate, they exhibited a collection of one-off  items, products that cannot be reproduced serially to the high cost of production that would lead to the type of material used, processing, finishing or assembly, in which emerges the physical effort of those who made them.

Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design

This article extracted from Design Issues, Vol. 3, N. 2 (Autumn), The MIT Press, Cambridge 1986, pp. 3-14,  is here re-published, with the kind permission of MIT Press (

Women have been involved with design in a variety of ways – as practitioners, theorists, consumers, historians, and as objects of representation. Yet a survey of the literature of design history, theory, and practice would lead one to believe otherwise. Women’s interventions, both past and present, are consistently ignored[1]. Indeed, the omissions are so overwhelming, and the rare acknowledgment so cursory and marginalized, that one realizes these silences are not accidental and haphazard; rather, they are the direct consequence of specific historiographic methods.[2] These methods, which involve the selection, classification, and prioritization of types of design, categories of designers, distinct styles and movements, and different modes of production, are inherently biased against women and, in effect, serve to exclude them from history. To compound this omission, the few women who make it into the literature of design are accounted for within the framework of patriarchy; they are either defined by their gen- der as designers or users of feminine products, or they are subsumed under the name of their husband, lover, father, or brother.[3] The aim of this paper is to analyze the patriarchal context within which women interact with design and to examine the methods used by design historians to record that interaction. To a certain extent, this paper is also an attempt to pinpoint some of the key debates to have emerged in design history in Britain concerning the role of women and design. Most of these have taken feminist theory as their starting point. Feminist theory has been particularly useful in that it delineates the operation of patriarchy and the construction of the “feminine. “[4] It has shown how femininity is socially constructed and how sexuality and gender identity are acquired at conscious and unconscious levels in the family and through language acquisition. The work of feminist historians and art historians has also been important, especially the critiques of the discipline of history revealing the ideological reasons for the silence about women.[5] As Parker and Pollock have argued in their book Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology, “To discover the history of women and art is in part to account for the way art history is written. To expose its underlying values, its assumptions, its silences, and its prejudices is also to understand that the way women artists are recorded and described is crucial to’ the definition of art and the artist in our society. “[6] In their writings, feminist historians have challenged the centrality of individuals as agents of history and the focus on professional structures and modes of activity. Instead, they have pinpointed domestic labor and non-professional activities as crucial areas of women’s history, and they have located alternative information, such as oral sources, to counterbalance the great weight of “official” documentation. In recent years, a feminist approach to design history has been placed firmly on the agenda. Feminist design historians, theorists, and practitioners have attempted to coordinate their activities through teaching strategies, the organization of conferences, and in publications, because, as Griselda Pollock has stated, a feminist approach is neither a side-issue nor a novel historical perspective – it is a central concern of contemporary design history. As she has pointed out, “we are involved in a contest for occupation of an ideologically strategic terrain.”[7] Women designers Central to a feminist analysis of women’s role in design is an examination of patriarchy.[8] Patriarchy has circumscribed women’s opportunities to participate fully in all areas of society and, more specifically, in all sectors of design, through a variety of means – institutional, social, economic, psychological, and historical. The resulting female stereotypes delineate certain modes of behavior as being appropriate for women. Certain occupations and social roles are designated female, and a physical and intellectual ideal is created for women to aspire to. These stereotypes have had enormous impact on the physical spaces – whether at home or at work – which women occupy, their occupations, and their relationship with design. Design historians who examine women’s role in design must acknowledge that women in the past and women today are placed within the context of patriarchy, and that ideas about women’s design abilities and design needs originate in patriarchy. Recent debate within feminist history and theory has highlighted the dependent relationship between patriarchy and capitalism and the ability of both to reshape and reformulate society in order to overcome potentially transforming processes.[9] To what extent, then, does patriarchy form the framework for women’s role as designers? In a patriarchy, men’s activities are valued more highly than women’s. For example, industrial design has been given higher status than knitted textiles. The reasons for this valuation are complex. In an advanced industrial society in which culture is valued above nature, male roles are seen as being more cultural than natural; female roles are seen as the reverse of this. As a consequence of their biological capacity to reproduce and their roles within patriarchy of caring for and nurturing the family, women are seen as being close to nature. As Sherry Ortner has argued, “female is to male as nature is to culture. “[10] Even women designers, who through the design process transform nature into culture, are tied to their biology by patriarchal ideology, which defines their design skills as a product of their sex – as natural or innate. Women are considered to possess sex-specific skills that determine their design abilities; they are apparently dexterous, decorative, and meticulous. These skills mean that women are considered to be naturally suited to certain areas of design production, namely, the so-called decorative arts, including such work as jewelry, embroidery, graphic illustration, weaving, knitting, pottery, and dressmaking. Linking all these activities together is the notion that they are naturally female; the resulting design products are either worn by women or produced by them to fulfill essentially domestic tasks. Significantly, men can be the designers of clothes, textiles, or pottery, but first the design activities have to be redefined. Dressmaking, for example, has been seen as a “natural” area for women to work in. It is viewed as an obvious vehicle for their femininity, their desire to decorate, and their obsession with appearances. Fashion design, however, has been appropriated by male designers who have assumed the persona of genius – Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and, more recently, Karl Lagerfeld. Fashion as a design process is thought to transcend the sex-specific skills of dexterity, patience, and decorativeness associated with dressmaking. Instead, it involves creative imagination, and the aggressive business and marketing skills that are part of the male stereotype. This practice of defining women’s design skills in terms of their biology is reinforced by socially constructed notions of masculine and feminine, which assign different characteristics to male and female. Sonia Delaunay, the painter and designer, is noted by historians for her “instinctive” feeling for color, whereas her husband, Robert, is attributed as having formulated a color theory. Robert Delaunay embodies the male stereotype as logical and intellectual, Sonia embodies the female stereotype as instinctive and emotional. To compound this devaluation of women designers’ work, designs produced by women in the domestic environment (their natural space within a patriarchy) are seen to represent use-value rather than exchange-value. The designs produced by women in a domestic environment (embroidery, knitting, and applique) are used by the family in the home rather than exchanged for profit within the capitalist marketplace. At this point capitalism and patriarchy interact to devalue this type of design; essentially, it has been made in the wrong place – the home, and for the wrong market – the family.[11] So, one result of the interaction of patriarchy and design is the establishment of a hierarchy of value and skill based on sex. This is legitimized ideologically by dominant notions of femininity and materially by institutional practice. British art and design education at degree level, for example, reinforces this hierarchical and sexist split between male and female design activities. Because of sexism few women industrial design students survive to the end of their courses which are outside the female stereotype. They succeed well with fashion and textile courses which are considered to be suited to female abilities, but fare badly with industrial design, which is considered male.[12] Design historians play an important role in maintaining assumptions about the roles and abilities of women designers by their failure to acknowledge the governance of patriarchy and its operation historically. As a result, women’s design is ignored and unrepresented in the history books. Clearly, then, one of the main issues for historians to tackle, if they are to account adequately for the role of women designers, is patriarchy and its value systems. First, the terms by which inferior status is assigned to certain design activities must be analyzed and challenged. The ideological nature of terms such as feminine, delicate, and decorative should be acknowledged within the context of women’s design. Second, it is crucial that design historians recognize the patriarchal basis of the sexual division of labor, which attributes to women certain design skills on the basis of biology. Third, they must acknowledge that women and their designs fulfill a critical structuring role in design history in that they provide the negative to the male positive – they occupy the space left by men. If, for instance, historians describe men’s designs as bold, assertive, calculated, then women’s designs are described as weak, spontaneous, or lacking in rationale. Design historians, then, should recognize that “be- cause of the economic, social, and ideological effects of sexual difference in a western, patriarchal culture, women have spoken and acted from a different place within that society and culture. “[13] By their failure to acknowledge patriarchy, design historians ignore the real nature of women’s role in design, both for women designing outside of mainstream industrial design and for those few who have found employment within it. Both produce designs formed within patriarchy. Fourth, historians must take note of the value system which gives privilege to exchange-value over use-value, because at a very simple level, as Elizabeth Bird has pointed out, “the objects women produce have been consumed by being used, rather than preserved as a store of exchange-value. Pots get broken and textiles wear out.”[14] Historians must also beware of regarding the professional site of production more highly than the domestic site of production, because this inevitably leads to a focus on the value of design as it contributes to the capitalist system. This is problematic, irrespective of the sex of the designer, as it excludes an important area of design production from history. Finally, historians should heed Sheila Rowbotham’s point, in Hidden From History: “[U]nbiased history simply makes no declaration of its bias, which is deeply rooted in existing society reflecting the views of the people of influence. ” [15] Central to a feminist critique of design history is a redefinition of what constitutes design. To date, design historians have esteemed more highly and deemed more worthy of analysis the creators of mass-produced objects. Subsequently, they have argued that “design history … is a study of mass-produced objects. “[16] Feminists have challenged this definition as prejudging the nature of design by emphasizing only one mode of production and thereby excluding craft production. This challenge is complicated by the development of craft history as an academic discipline distinct from design history, although, to date, craft historians have not dealt adequately with women’s craftwork.[17] In fact, it has been dealt with in a cursory way and mirrors the approach of design historians by seizing upon a few famous names.[18] Arguably, if a feminist approach to women’s design production is to be articulated, it must cut across these exclusive definitions of design and craft to show that women used craft modes of production for specific reasons, not merely because they were biologically predisposed toward them. To exclude craft from design history is, in effect, to exclude from design history much of what women designed. For many women, craft modes of production were the only means of production available, because they had access neither to the factories of the new industrial system nor to the training offered by the new design schools. Indeed, craft allowed women an opportunity to express their creative and artistic skills outside of the male-dominated design profession. As a mode of production, it was easily adapted to the domestic setting and therefore compatible with traditional female roles.[19] Women as consumers and objects To date, most historical analysis has dealt solely with the role of women designers, even though women interact with design in a variety of ways. Feminist design historians have thereby adopted the methodologies of mainstream design history, which esteems the activities of designers and emphasizes their role as agents of history. (As I describe in the next section, there are serious problems inherent in this methodological technique.) Most important for this discussion is the point that design is a collective process involving groups of people beside the designer. In order to deter- mine the meaning of a given design at a specific historical moment, it is necessary to examine these other groups. Probably the most historically neglected group is the consumer; indeed, it can be no accident that the consumer is often perceived by design organizations, retailers, and advertisers to be female. Just as patriarchy informs the historian’s assumptions about women designers’ skills, so it defines the designer’s perceptions of women’s needs as consumers. Two basic ideas inform the designer’s assumptions about women consumers. First, women’s primary role is in domestic service to husband, children, and home; and second, domestic appliances make women’s lives easier. The first assumption stems from the central classification of patriarchy – the sexual division of labor. As Heidi Hartmann has argued, “the sexual division of labor is … the underpinning of sexual subcultures in which men and women experience life differently; it is the material base of male power which is exercised (in our society), not just in not doing housework and in securing superior employment, but psychologically as well.”[20] According to Hartmann, the sexual division of labor is not static, but in a state of flux, changing as required by economic, political, and social developments.[21] A relatively constant feature of the sexual division of labor, however, is the delineation of women’s role as housewives and as carers for the family. This role is basically the same one that the Victorian social critic John Ruskin identified and glorified in his writings.[22] As a result of this sexual division of labor, designers assume that women are the sole users of home appliances. Product advertising presents women as housewives who use domestic appliances and family-oriented products. When British advertisers make the rare representation of women driving motorcars, it is significant that they are not shown speeding along in a Porsche. Rather, they are shown parking their modest and c onvenient hatchback near the supermarket. Design historians have played their part in reinforcing women’s position in the sexual division of labor. In Reyner Banham’s well- known celebration of the first machine age, he identified two sexes – men and housewives. Banham defined the female sex as house- wives whose lives are transformed by “woman-controlled machinery,” such as vacuum cleaners.[23] Informing this paean to woman-controlled appliances is the belief that these products make women’s lives easier. Banham, like other historians and theorists of design, fails to acknowledge that designs take on different meanings for the consumer than those designated by the designer, the manufacturer, and the advertiser. Philippa Goodall has outlined the reasons for these shifts of meaning.[24] She cites the microwave oven and freezer as products designed ostensibly to lighten household chores but which have ultimately created more work. Both products have been widely introduced into the home under the pretext of convenience. The question, however, is convenience for whom – the housewife or the family? Convenience to the family means having rapid access to food at all times. To the housewife, this is not convenience. It is instead a duty, a duty to provide food at all times, even when the shops are shut or the market closed and most of the family has already eaten. Goodall argues that, “In numerous such ways women’s work is increased, the qualitative demands raised. The tyranny of the whiter-than- white-wash is now for many a daily event, rather than a weekly one. ‘Simplicity,’ ‘convenience,’ ‘serving the loved ones better’ are slogans motivating and directing our work as consumers and producers. “[25] Advertising serves to enforce the meaning of design as defined by the designer or manufacturer. It stereotypes women as mothers, cleaners, cooks, and nurses in order to define and direct the market. In effect, the category woman, as constituted in patriarchy, is appropriated by advertising. Woman is either the subject of patriarchal assumptions about women’s role and needs as consumers, or the object in sexist advertising. As Jane Root has argued in relation to representations of women in TV advertising, “Women are often made absurdly ecstatic by very simple products, as though a new brand of floor cleaner or deodorant really could make all the difference to a lifetime.”[26] Advertising creates both an ideal use for a product and an ideal user. The actuality of the use and user are unimportant when confronted with a powerful fantasy – the immaculate designer kitchen with superwoman in control, combining with ease the roles of careerist and perfect wife. Like television and cinema, advertising appropriates women’s bodies. Women are objects to be viewed; they are sexualized things whose status is determined by how they look. “These advertisements help to endorse the powerful male attitude that women are passive bodies to be endlessly looked at, waiting to have their sexual attractiveness matched with active male sexual desire. “[27] It is clear that analyses of patriarchy and the issue of gender are central to the debate concerning women’s role in design.[28] Historians should map out the operation of patriarchy and make gender as a social construct distinct from sex as a biological condition. Gender is embodied in historical and contemporary representations of women as consumers, objects, and designers; but it does not remain fixed, having changed historically. They must remember that as a consequence of patriarchy, the experiences of male and female designers and consumers have been quite different. Design historians should outline the way that patriarchal definitions of women’s roles and design needs, which have originated in the sexual division of labor, have shaped design in the past and present. A feminist critique of design history must confront the problem of patriarchy, at the same time addressing itself to the exclusion of women in the historiographic methods used by design historians. Though many of these methods are problematic for design history in general, not just a feminist design history, feminist intervention, as in other disciplines, has demarcated the basic ones. Rozsika Parker described them as “the rules of the game.”[29] The rules of the game Methodologically, the pivot of contemporary design history is the designer, whose central role has been legitimized by art historical precedent in which the figure of the artist is all-important. Some art historians, such as Nicos Hadjinicolaou, T. J. Clark, and Griselda Pollock, have done so; the last wrote, “The central figure of art historical discourse is the artist, who is presented as an ineffable ideal which complements the bourgeois myth of a universal, classless man . . . our general culture is furthermore permeated with ideas about the individual nature of creativity, how genius will always overcome social obstacles. “[30] Numerous biographies of designers have focused the production and meaning of design on the contribution of the individual. In this approach, design history mirrors art history in its role as attributor and authenticator. First, it attaches meaning to a name, thereby simplifying the historical process (by de-emphasizing production and consumption) and at the same time making the role of the individual all-important (by aiding and simplifying attribution). Second, as a direct consequence of this first strategy, historians have analyzed the design in terms of the designers’ ideas and intentions and in terms of the formal arrangement of elements (just as formalist art history analyzes a painting or sculpture), rather than as a social product. The design is thereby isolated from its material origins and function, and if it conforms to dominant definitions of “good” design, it and its designer are obvious candidates for the history books. At this point, the design has been firmly positioned within the confines of the individual designer’s oeuvre, aiding attribution and authentication of the design as art object and simplifying historical analysis.[31] The history of design is reduced to a history of the designer, and the design is seen to mean and represent what the designer identifies. Extraordinary designs are judged in terms of creativity and individual extraordinariness. This is problematic for women, because “creativity has been appropriated as an ideological component of masculinity, while femininity has been constructed as man’s and, therefore, the artist’s negative. “[32] The notion that the meaning of design objects is singular and is determined by the designer is simplistic, ignoring the fact that design is a process of representation. It represents political, economic, and cultural power and values within the different spaces occupied, through engagement with different subjects. Its meaning is therefore polysemic and involves the interaction of design and recipient. Designs, as cultural products, have meanings encoded in them which are decoded by producers, advertisers, and consumers according to their own cultural codes. “All these codes and subcodes are applied to the message in the light of general framework of cultural references; in other words, the way the message is read depends on the receiver’s own cultural codes.”[33] These cultural codes are not absolute and are not controlled by the designer’s intentions. Indeed, these intentions are constrained by the existing codes of form and representation, which shape cultural products. In effect, the designer has to use these to design. The dominant codes of design are both esthetic and social; the former “operate as mediating influences between ideology and particular works by interposing themselves as sets of rules and conventions which shape cultural products and which must be used by artists and cultural producers;”[34] the latter are governed by modes of production, circulation, and use within a specific social situation. The codes or signs by which design is understood and constituted, in an industrial, capitalist society such as our own, are the product of bourgeois, patriarchal ideology. This ideology seeks to obscure its codes by presenting its designs as neutral and ideology-free and the receiver of these codes as universally constituted, that is, the singular and unproblematic user or producer. “[T]he reluctance to declare its codes characterizes bourgeois society and the culture issuing from it; both demand signs which do not look like signs.”[35]This obscureness presents problems for the historian who attempts to take account of the designer or consumer as gendered individuals with specific class allegiances who then bring particular sets of meaning to designs. The focus on the designer as the person who assigns meaning to design is seriously challenged by developments in the fields of sociology, film studies, and linguistics, where debates on author- ship have arisen. These critiques have questioned the centrality of the author as a fixed point of meaning. As Roland Barthes put it, “A text’s unity lies not in its origins but in its destination . .. the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author. “[36] The centrality of the designer as the person who determines meaning in design is undermined by the complex nature of design development, production, and consumption, a process involving numerous people who precede the act of production, others who mediate between production and consumption, and those who use the design. The success or failure of a designer’s initial concept depends on the existence of agencies and organizations which can facilitate the development, manufacture, and retailing of a specific design for a distinct market. Design, then, is a collective process; its meaning can only be determined by an examination of the interaction of individuals, groups, and organizations within specific societal structures. The monograph, the primary method used by historians to focus on the designer, is an inadequate vehicle for exploring the complexity of design production and consumption. It is especially inadequate for feminist design historians in that the concentration on an individual designer excludes from the history books un- named, unattributed, or collectively produced design. Historical casualties of this exclusion are the numerous craft works produced by women in their own homes, often in collaboration with other women.[37] Nor can women’s relationship with design as consumers and as objects of representation figure in the construction of the monograph. The recent critiques of authorship have proved useful to feminist design historians by highlighting the inadequacy of the monograph as a method of analyzing design and by showing that designers do not design merely by courtesy of innate genius, but that they have been constituted in language, ideology, and social relations. The designer can usefully be considered as the first of many who will affix meaning to design.[38] From this discussion emerge two other important points for analyzing women’s relationship to design. First, women’s cultural codes are produced within the context of patriarchy. Their expectations, needs, and desires as both designers and consumers are constructed within a patriarchy which, as I have argued, pre- scribes a subservient and dependent role to women. The other side of that point is that the codes of design, as used by the designer, are produced within patriarchy to express the needs of the dominant group. They are, therefore, male codes. As Philippa Goodall has observed, “We live in a world designed by men. It is not for nothing that the expression ‘man-made’ refers to a vast range of objects that have been fashioned from physical material.”[39] In Making Space: Women and the Man-Made Environment, the Matrix group of feminist architects argue that male architects and planners design urban and domestic spaces using a language which defines women’s role according to patriarchal values: “[T]he physical patterning of this ‘natural’ setting contains many assumptions about women’s role outside the home. It leads, for instance, to housing layouts based on ‘rural’ meandering paths which imply that the journeys of women … are without presence …. The implication is that journeys that are not fast or in straight lines are not really going anywhere.”[40] Matrix point out that this patriarchal design language has implications for women training to be architects, as well as for those who use buildings. Women architects are expected to adopt values and codes of form and representation formulated within the context of patriarchy. They are expected to “acquire an outlook similar to that of middle-class males, the dominant group in the architectural profession. “[41] The second point is this: to legitimize this process of cultural coding, the language of design is presented as a universal truth. Exclusive definitions of good and bad design are constructed, based almost entirely on esthetics. These definitions serve to isolate design products from the material and ideological conditions of production and consumption. Inevitably, these definitions also serve the interests of the dominant group, which attempts to dis- guise its interests with the mask of universality. Design historians have played a central role in the acceptance and reiteration of these definitions of good design, presenting them as unproblematic. As Rosalind Coward explained, these are in fact “nothing other than the individual expression of general class taste and the particular ideas promoted in that class.”[42] Pierre Bourdieu has argued that taste is determined through specific social conditions, such as education level, social class, and gender.[43] He has shown that dominant groups retain their positions of power and enhance their status by specific mechanisms, one of which is to invent the “esthetic” category as a universal entity. The esthetic theory which informed these dominant notions of good design and good taste, and which legitimized the analysis of design as distinct objects, was modernism. The theory of modernism has had an enormous impact on design history by emphasizing both formal and technical innovation and experimentation as the significant features of design. Although designers now operate in a postmodernist context, many design historians unconsciously adopt modernist criteria when deciding what should enter the his- tory books. The concept of differentness is still privileged by historians, thus revealing the structural relationship between historians and the designs they promote within capitalism. Innovative and new designs have a crucial role to play in capitalist production, a system that demands greater production and consumption stimulated by designer-created difference and codified by design historians and theorists. The theory of modernism has had significant implications for historical evaluations of both mass-produced design, which is traditional in style, form, material, or production techniques, and for craft. These evaluations are largely nonexistent because design that is not innovative and experimental has rarely been analyzed by design historians.[44] Women’s design, which often falls under the label of traditional, has been especially ignored.[45] Another area of design associated with women to have fared badly in the hands of modernist design historians is fashion design, arguably the most extreme manifestation of modernism, in that throughout the twentieth century it has been continuously innovative and experimental. Like modernist art and design, its meaning is tied to that of its predecessors. It is therefore possible (though highly undesirable) to analyze fashion in purely formal terms, and here the problem lies. Unlike other modernist cultural forms, fashion makes no claims to represent universal truth and good taste.[46] Indeed, the converse is true, in that fashion subverts dominant notions of good design by eagerly accepting what was previously considered ugly. It undermines universal concepts of quality and taste, and it foregrounds the relativism in notions of beauty. Furthermore, fashion as an impo rtant area of design is trivialized because of its association with women. It is seen as a marginal design activity because it caters to women’s socially constructed needs and desires.[47] For these reasons, design historians have tended to avoid the study of fashion.[48] Women and design as a subject of study highlights a whole set of issues and problems that must be confronted by historians if a feminist design history is to be articulated. The desire for a feminist design history grows increasingly urgent as we acknowledge the paucity of histories of women and design that have taken proper account of patriarchal notions of women’s skills as designers, the stereotyped perceptions of women’s needs as consumers, and the exploitative representation of women’s bodies in advertising. It is crucial that these historical analyses of women and their relationship with design are based on feminism. Without recourse to feminist theory to delineate the operation of patriarchy, and to feminist history to map out women’s past, it is impossible to understand fully the way women interact with design and the way historians have recorded that interaction. Attempts to analyze women’s involvement in design that do not take issue with gender, the sexual division of labor, assumptions about femininity, and the hierarchy that exists in design, are doomed to failure.[49] Feminist design historians must advance on two fronts. First, we must analyze the material and ideological operation of patriarchy in relation to women and design. This effort must be combined with an examination of the relationship between capitalism (if we are discussing design in capitalist societies) and patriarchy at specific historical conjunctures to reveal how women’s role in design is defined. Second, we must critically assess “the rules of the game” to understand why design historians have excluded women from the history books, and then to enable us to develop a history that does not automatically exclude women. This history must acknowledge the various locales where design operated and the various groups involved with its production and consumption. It must reject the temptation to analyze the individual designer as sole determiner of meaning in design. Finally, historians must not lose sight of their central objective: To develop and expand the body of historical research which seeks to account for women’s relationship to design and then set this research firmly within a historical framework of feminist design.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. See, for example, Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of Modern Design: From William Morris to Walter Gropius (London: Pen- guin, 1975); Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (London: Architectural Press, 1975); Fiona MacCarthy, A History of British Design, 1830-1970 (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1979); Open Univer- sity, History of Architecture and Design 1890- 1939 (Milton Keynes: Open Uni- versity, 1975); John Heskett, Industrial Design (London: Thames and Hudson, 1980). In these basic textbooks of design history, two or three women are consis- tently mentioned. Some books, such as those forming the Open University series, acknowledge more women de- signers, although in all cases the work of the women who make it into the history books could be described as modernist. More recently, Adrian Forty has acknowledged a few more women in his book Objects of Desire: Design and Society 1750-1980 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1986). Some historians have been careful to declare their biases when analyzing a particular period. For exam- ple, Penny Sparke, in the preface to her book, An Introduction to Design and Culture in the Twentieth Century (London: Allen and Unwin, 1986), states, “I should also declare my bias where its subject matter is concerned. As I am dealing solely with the period after 1900, and with design in its most democratic sense, my main concern is with the relationship of design with mass-produc- tion industry” (p. xvi). She explains that she does not find craft or fashion irrelevant; indeed, she argues that they are extremely important. However, she focuses on specific areas of design and their relationship to one mode of production.
  2. Consider as an example the near silence about women’s involvement in the Bauhaus. Although women were trained and taught at the Bauhaus, the vast literature on the subject makes scant reference to their presence. (I include here Gillian Naylor’s recent updated version of her early book on the Bauhaus.) We know a great deal about Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Laszl6 Moholy-Nagy, Johannes Itten, and Wassily Kandinsky, but how much do we know about their female counterparts?
  3. The Irish-born designer Eileen Gray has been defined by her gender as a feminine designer. Unlike her contemporary Le Corbusier, her work has been consigned to the so-called decorative arts. It is only more recently that historians have noted her role in the European avantgarde as a modernist designer and architect. Margaret Macdonald and Louise Powell are examples of women designers whose work has been subsumed under their husband’s names. Louise Powell was a pottery designer at Josiah Wedgwood and Sons in the early twentieth century. She worked with her husband Alfred Powell, and, until recently, he alone was credited with their joint contribution to new design development at Wedgwood. Margaret Macdonald is another woman designer whose work has been ignored in the history books. When she is acknowledged, it is only to account for a decorative element in work produced by her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which debt is inconvenient to a historical analysis of Mackintosh as a fullfledged modernist. See, for example, Thomas Howarth, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Modern Movement (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977).
  4. See, for example, Kate Millet, Sexual Politics (London: Abacus, 1972); Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch (London: Granada, 1981);Juliet Mitchell, Psychoanalysis and Feminism (London: Penguin, 1975); Michele Barrett, Women’s Oppression Today: Problems in Marxist Feminist Analysis (London: Verso, 1980).
  5. See, for example, Sheila Rowbotham, Hidden From History (London: Pluto Press, 1980); Jill Liddington and Jill Norris, One Hand Tied Behind Us: The Rise of the Women’s Suffrage Movement (London: Virago, 1978); Judith L. Newton, Mary P. Ryan, and Judith R. Walkowitz, eds., Sex and Class in Women’s History (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983).
  6. Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock, Old Mistresses: Women, Art and Ideology (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981), 3.
  7. Griselda Pollock, “Vision, Voice and Power: Feminist Art History and Marx- ism,” Block 6 (1982): 5. Conferences have been organized on the theme of “Women and Design” at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1983; Leicester University, 1985; and Central School of Art and Design, London, 1986. Several papers have been published from these conferences, including Cheryl Buckley, “Women Designers in the North Staffordshire Pottery Industry,” Woman’s Art Journal (Fall 1984/ Winter 1985): 11-15; Anthea Callen, “The Sexual Division of Labour in the Arts and Crafts Movement,” Woman’s Art Journal (Fall 1984/Winter 1985): 1-6; Lynne Walker, “The Entry of Women into the Architectural Profession in Britain,” Woman’s Art Journal (Spring/ Summer 1986): 13-18. See also issues of Feminist Art News that concentrate on Women and Design: Textiles and Fash- ion in Vol. 1, No. 9 and Design in Vol. 2, No. 3. One can also consult Tag Gronberg and Judy Attfield, eds. A Resource Book on Women Working in Design (London: The London Institute, Central School of Art and Design, 1986). The editors of this book were the organizers of the Cen- tral School’s 1986 “Women and Design” conference.
  8. Patriarchy as a concept has been defined by various feminist theorists. An early definition is found in Millet, Sexual Politics, 25: “Our society … is a patriarchy. The fact is evident at once if one recalls that the military, industry, technology, universities, science, political offices, finances – in short, every avenue of power within society, including the coercive force of the police, is in entirely male hands.” The central problem with this definition of patriarchy is that it is a universal and trans-historical form of oppression that is being described. It presents specific problems for a Marxist feminist approach located in historical analysis. Sheila Rowbotham has argued in her essay “The Trouble with Patriarchy,” New Statesman 98 (1979): 970, that this “implies a universal form of oppression which returns us to biology.” A useful definition of patriarchy that attempts to overcome this problem of universal oppression is outlined by Griselda Pollock: “patriarchy does not refer to the static, oppressive domination of one sex over another, but a web of psycho-social relationships which institute a socially significant difference on the axis of sex, which is so deeply located in our very sense of lived, sexual identity that it appears to us as natural and unalterable,” in “Vision, Voice and Power,” 10.
  9. This debate is especially useful for the development of a feminist approach to design history and design practice within Western capitalist countries. (This paper does not aim to examine manifestations of patriarchy in non-capitalist countries, nor does it aim to examine design history and practice in those countries.) For useful discussions of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism, see, for example, Heidi Hartmann, “Capitalism, Patriarchy and Job Segregation by Sex,” in Martha Blaxall and Barbara Regan, Women and the Workplace: The Implications of Occupational Segregation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 137-169. Also, Rowbotham, “The Trouble with Patriar- chy,” 970-971.
  10. Sherry B. Ortner, “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” Feminist Studies 2 (Fall 1972): 5-31.
  11. See Parker and Pollock, Old Mistresses, 68-71, for an interesting account of how women’s domestic designs can be upgraded to fine art status by dissociating them from home production and the gender of the maker.
  12. Fewer than one percent of industrial designers working in Britain today are women. From research carried out by the Design Innovation Group, Open University, Milton Keynes, Britain, from 1979 onward.
  13. Parker and Pollock, Old Mistresses, 49.
  14. Elizabeth Bird, “Threading the Beads: Women Designers and the Glasgow Style 1890-1920,” unpublished conference paper, 1983.
  15. Rowbotham, Hidden From History, xvii.
  16. Attributed to Penny Sparke in Anne Massey’s review of the 1983 Women in Design conference at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in Design History Society Newsletter 20 (January 1984): 8. This view has been reinforced by Stephen Bayley, director of the Boilerhouse project at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and is quoted by Judy Attfield in “Feminist Designs on Design History,” Feminist Art News 2 (No. 3): 22. More recently, Clive Dilnot has addressed the issue of the diversity of meanings of design and the designer. See “The State of Design History, Part I: Mapping the Field,” Design Issues I/1 (Spring 1984): 4-23, and “The State of Design History, Part II: Problems and Possibilities,” Design Issues 1/2 (Fall 1984): 3-20.
  17. In his discussion of craft history, Philip Wood does not consider the issue of gender. See Philip Wood, “Defining Craft History,” Design History Society News- letter 24 (February 1985): 27-31.
  18. This can be seen in two ways. First, Edward Lucie-Smith, in his survey book The Story of Craft (London: Phaidon, 1981) makes few references to women beyond the usual handful, for example, Vanessa Bell, Marion Dorn, Elizabeth Fritsch, Jessie Newberry. Second, some craft historians, like their colleagues in design history, have written monographs of major women craftpersons. For example, see Margot Coatts, A Weaver’s Life: Ethel Mairet 1872-1952 (London: Crafts Council, 1983). Although such a monograph is informative and provides a much needed account of the work of an important woman craftworker, as I explain later, the monograph is a problematic vehicle for writing design or craft history.
  19. This is especially true of textiles (knitted, woven, quilted, appliqued, and embroidered). Some women, however, such as Katherine Pleydell Bouverie and Norah Bradon (contemporaries of Michael Cardew and Bernard Leach in the British studio pottery movement) or Jessie Newberry and May Morris, developed craft modes of production for philosophical reasons. These women had the financial independence, social background, and educational training to do so.
  20. Heidi Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Toward a More Progressive Union,” in Lydia Sargent, Women and Revolution. The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism (London: Pluto Press, 1981), 16.
  21. A good illustration of this process of flux can be seen during wartime when female labor is required to meet the shortages resulting from male conscription. Women are employed in work normally considered the preserve of men, for example engineering, ship-building, munitions. In peacetime this process is reversed, and women are encouraged back into the traditional female roles of housewives and mothers as prescribed by patriarchy.
  22. For example, John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, (London: Collins, 1913). More recently, successive British governments have reiterated the importance of the woman’s role in the preservation of the family. For example, the Conservative party social services spokesman, Patrick Jenkin, told the Conservative annual conference in 1977, “the pressure on young wives to go out to work devalues motherhood itself …. Parenthood is a very skilled task indeed, and it must be our aim to restore it to the place of hon- our it deserves.” Quoted from Anna Coote and Beatrix Campbell, Sweet Freedom: The Struggle for Women’s Liberation (London: Picador, 1982), 85. 23) Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, 10.
  23. Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, 10.
  24. Philippa Goodall, “Design and Gender,” Block 9 (1983): 50-61.
  25. Goodall, “Design and Gender”, 53.
  26. Jane Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality (London: Pandora Press, 1984), 55.
  27. Root, Pictures of Women: Sexuality, 68.
  28. See Millet, Sexual Politics, 29-31, for discussion of gender.
  29. Quoted by Pollock in “Vision, Voice and Power,” 5.
  30. Pollock, “Vision, Voice and Power,” 3.
  31. Note the saleroom prices of design objects, especially the “classics,” such as furniture by Charles R. Mackintosh or pottery by Keith Murray.
  32. Pollock, ‘Vision, Voice and Power,” 4.
  33. Janet Wolff, The Social Production of Art (London: Macmillan, 1981), 109.
  34. Wolff, The Social Production of Art, 64-65.
  35. Roland Barthes, “Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives,” Image, Music, Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 116.
  36. Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” Image, Music, Text, 148.
  37. This type of craftwork is still produced by women today; note particularly the production of knitted textiles in Britain.
  38. Here I do not intend to deny the possibility of an autonomous realm of creativity; rather, I want to suggest that the designers’ meanings are combined with a series of meanings gained from the interaction of the design with other groups and agencies. To understand design at a specific historical moment requires rather more from the historian than an analysis of what the designer thought.
  39. Goodall, “Design and Gender,” 50.
  40. Matrix, Making Space: Women and the Man-Made Environment (Lond on: Pluto Press, 1984), 47.
  41. Matrix, Making Space, 11.
  42. Rosalind Coward, Female Desire: Women’s Sexuality Today (London: Virago, 1984), 65.
  43. See, for example, Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The Aristocracy of Culture,” Media, Culture and Society 2 (1980): 225-254; also, Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979).
  44. This type of historical account does exist at the level of doctoral theses. Unfortunately, they rarely seem to get published. More recently, there is some evidence that things are changing, for example Fran Hannah’s book Ceramics (London: Bell and Hyman, 1986).
  45. Consider, for example, the work of the women designers at Josiah Wedgwood and Sons in the 1920s and 1930s. These designers produced work ranging in its style of decoration and shape from traditional to moderne. Most historians have given these designers little acknowledgment in the history books, choosing instead to concentrate on the formally and technically innovative work of the designer Keith Murray, whose work fits neatly into a modernist analysis of pottery design.
  46. This point must be qualified in that several designers – notably Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld – have declared themselves to be uninterested in fashion and more interested in “classic” style. See the Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog, Yves Saint Laurent (New York, 1983), 17. The implications of this are clear: These designers are distancing themselves from the transitory nature of fashion and are instead aligning themselves with universal style and good taste.
  47. See Elizabeth Wilson, Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity (London: Virago, 1985), for a full discussion of these issues.
  48. Note that fashion design is not included in any of the basic surveys of nineteenth and twentieth-century design history, even though it is undoubtedly the product of social, technical, political, and cultural developments which parallel other areas of design.
  49. See Isabelle Anscombe, A Woman’s Touch. Women in Design from 1860 to the Present Day (London: Virago, 1984). This is an example of such an account. See my review in Art History. Journal of the Association of Art Historians Vol. 9, No. 3 (September 1986): 400-403.

A soap story

The background of the Story

The soap story, Köpüköpük (Bubble Bubble), is the practical research of a master thesis. It is a thesis which is rooted from discourses such as ‘sustainable localization’, ‘slow living’, ‘management of community power’ etc. It is a thesis that aims to support the idea that women are a major group critically important to achieving sustainable development.
With this background, in Turkey, 2011, an experimental design project is held between a local women community and a design researcher with the motivation of supporting women’s production by consulting strategic / communication design for the creation of more sustainable product/service solutions while creating a new operational area for the designer.

How the Story Began
The story has begun with the field trip to Cittaslow Seferihisar in search of a community for a collaborative design project. The reason why this county is particularly selected for such research is that, with the subscription to Cittaslow Network, in a short while the local government and community engaged to act for the change towards sustainability, the slow philosophy has been highly internalized by the citizens and especially local women are encouraged to participate in local bazaars as producers with items of domestic production such as local homemade food products and handcrafts for the benefit of their social equity and local economy as well (Figure 1).

However, the research outcomes exposed a gap in the existing situation; while some women producers had strong product concepts that were offering sustainable product solutions such as non-toxic cotton villager baby dolls or objects/accessories made out of re-used materials, a major part of the women that were producing ordinary knitting and sewing-works were lacking product innovation to offer sustainable and profitable solutions. Following this outcome, an agreement for a design collaboration has been done with Ulamış Woman Labor House as a facility where women come together to produce and improve their skills and can benefit from such design collaboration.

The Story

Köpüköpük is a product-service system design idea, created during the workshops held with Ulamış Woman Labor House with the aim of finding innovative product/service ideas that are sustainable and profitable. Briefly, the idea aims at diffusing the use of local liquid olive oil soap that will be produced by the local women and consumed by the local community in public places such as schools, government buildings etc. The main objectives of the proposed idea are;

• Empowering the local women community for sustainable local production.
• Using local olive oil resources efficiently for local needs.
• Creating awareness against the harmful effects of mainstream cleaning products in the society.

The Process
To reach the idea Köpüköpük, five workshops have been held with the woman labor house (Figure 2). The first meeting, Workshop 0, has been a step for the integration to the community. With this aim, the meeting has been held with a sincere attitude that even the religious ceremony that they repeat on Fridays has been participated. Later, the abilities and capabilities of the women for production have been discussed, it is discovered that a workshop for the production of natural olive oil soap has already been held by the government. Accordingly, natural olive oil soap with its strong link to sustainability and its relation to local resources has been decided as the product to be worked on.

The next two workshops have been held for the development of product concepts. At this stage, product concepts have been generated by sharing ideas and the most promising four concepts have been visualized by the designer (Figure 3). The details of the product concepts and their evaluation regarding social and environmental sustainability concerns can be found in Figure 4.
After the decision for the final product concept, the last two workshops have been held for the experimentation of the product.

The Design Plan
Firstly, the product that is offered in Köpüköpük product-service system is the liquefied version of natural olive oil soap (Figure 5). The motivation to liquefy the product is the common use of liquid soap in public areas. The technique being used for the liquefaction is that the solid soaps which are produced by women beforehand are being grinded, water is being added and the mixture is being left for homogenization for a night.

To continue with the consumption scenario, the product reaches the user in the lavatories of public area and the soap dispenser is the medium to deliver the message of the project (Figure 6). The stickers on dispensers are used to highlight the labor of local women and the need for the use of non-toxic cleaning alternatives. Here, an alternative design for the soap dispenser has not been developed with the aim of proposing a more feasible solution to the local government.

As the story is a product-service idea, inside the content of the thesis, the design plan is constructed with the tools of product-system design, such as system map, interaction storyboard board and stakeholders motivation matrix. However, here only the interaction storyboard will be presented to depict the system in a horizontal timeline. In the storyboard, the roles of the actors for the implementation of the system are explained (Figure 7).

To conclude, the story as an example of the collaborative design approach between a local women community and designer can create the background for a further study that focuses on the management of the local women community power. In that sense, such studies on the labour force of local women communities can be contributory for developing local economies especially in low in-come contexts where social equity has to be provided, while leading to generation of eco-efficient products/service solutions to local problems.

Eda KÖSE, MDes, İzmir University of Economics
Asst. Prof. Dr. Mine OVACIK DÖRTBAŞ, Izmir University of Economics

Fabio’s Eye

This is a photographic tour telling the story of the 51st Salone del Mobile of Milan. Flows, sensations, signs, behaviours, characters and shapes make the sense of the project, photographer Fabio Gambina has followed for years since the birth of PAD. Shots also express the vitality spread every year by this event, which calls not only specialists from all over the world. This proves design to be one of the leading fields characterizing our daily lives as well as Italian talent.

Communication design for gender cultures

The portrayal of women in the media mirrors an image which in the last few years especially has been the object of study, reflection, analysis as well as the centre of attention for the media themselves. This attention has decisively turned the spotlight back on the dignity of women and its defense, addressing the issue in all its urgency. The production of condemning videos[1], the creation and activities of associations working in this direction[2], the studies and operations carried out in academia, and the setting up of networks and research structures among universities[3] are all parts of a comprehensive task that society as a whole must fulfil.

DCxCG[4], the Communication Design group of Politecnico di Milano, operates within this framework. This group has chosen to direct their energy towards the responsibility that communication design must take on as well as towards the potentialities peculiar to this discipline which we now have a duty to steer in the right direction in order to give our contribution and take an active part in the visual construction of our social environment.

It is a responsibility that CD can carry out in two ways. Firstly through their own power of self-reflection which aims at claiming joint responsibility in the production of a stream of images painting our daily life, through reflection on the use of their own expressive registers , their rhetorical models and the tools that the theories of direction and staging provide designers with. This is the contribution that the visual Cultures can offer in terms of criticism and complex methodological approaches which would support those historically developed by the Social Sciences and represented by Gender Studies. Secondly through their own design work, through a communication program geered towards the production of sensitizing instances and the elaboration of artifacts for their diffusion.

At the core of this research effort lies the issue of women stereotypes in society, achieved through forms of representation which distort their roles in public and private life.

In other words, one must study the socially determined relationship between the stereotyping of female identity and the system of production, distribution and consumption of images through the digital and analogic media. Gender stereotypes, as we know, can be defined as a coherent and inflexible set of socially transmitted common beliefs of what are considered or should be considered the physical and psychological characteristics and the typical activities of the sexes[5]. They are built out of an individual and/or collective process of categorization or simplification of reality: a quality or behaviour is associated to a gender through the filter of subjective experiences or intentions. This cognitive mechanism produces order and simplicity in a world made up of differences and complex social relations but, conversely, it can become “a branding tool necessary to maintain order in the state of a world which feels threatened”[6] producing prejudices and warped perceptions of reality.

In this context, the observation of the universe of images portraying women produced and presented through the media highlights the importance of this phenomenon. In particular if we bear in mind that language, meaning verbal and visual language, “as a system which mirrors social reality while creating and producing it, becomes the place where subjectivity is born and takes shape since a subject can only express itself through language and language cannot exist without an object giving life to it”[7].

So this highly significant environment where innumerable images intermingle and layer, where communicative actions and verbal and visual languages spread, becomes the place, the universe of images in which subjectivity takes form and where the creation of our social dimension is achieved through the visual. The diffusion of gender stereotypes is conveyed by a set of images which can act upon their target as a rhetorical instrument of manipulation and can contribute to the visual construction of social issues creating reference models as structures of social interaction[8].

The system showing the woman’s body in the media is certainly a diversified system in which the female body is deprived of its dignity, which can become the object of condemnation and which is withdrawn from the viewer only after its communicative significance has been irreversibly transferred to the semiosphere[9], but also where apparently harmless images coexist. In this second case the images reinforce the roles, attributes, references, etc… and subtly and silently concur in defining the everyday model of women, thus contributing in sustaining the stereotype. The Resolution of the European Parliament[10] has assigned the role of these images in particular to advertising and marketing, placing on them no small responsibility since they not only reflect culture but they also help to create it. Explicit reference is made to the impact that marketing and advertising can have on equality between men and women and to the fallout of discriminatory and/or degrading messages based on gender or gender stereotypes, in any form. They represent an obstacle for an equal, modern society and contribute from the child’s early years of socialization to gender discrimination which reinforces the existence of inequality between men and women throughout his or her life.

This is an issue that Communication Design in all its expressions cannot afford to ignore.

Valeria Bucchetti, professor at Politecnico di Milano, INDACO department

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. See especially Lorella Zanardo and Marco Malfi Chindemi’s video “Il corpo delle donne”.
  2. Among these DonneInQuota and Amiche di ABCD deserve special attentino.
  3. It is a network connecting the seven Universities of Milan and in which design disciplines are for the first time involved through the participation of the area of Communication Design of Politecnico of Milan.
  4. DCxCG, Design della Comunicazione per le Culture di Genere, (Communication Design for Gender Cultures) advanced by Giovanni Baule – and by the authors of this txt – that involved research group of Communication Design area of Politecnico of Milan.
  5. cfr. Dyer, 1993, The Matter of Images. Essays on Representation, Routledge, London.
  6. P. Montefusco, “Il macho e la checca. Modelli iconografici dell’omosessualità”, il verri, n. 4-5 (dicembre), 1997.
  7. M. S. Sapegno, “Decenni di riflessioni e di impegno: bilancio e prospettive”, in : M. S. Sapegno (a cura di), Che genere di lingua? Sessismo e potere discriminatorio delle parole, Carocci, 2010, Roma.
  8. Cfr. W.J.T. Mitchell, 2008.
  9. We are referring in particular to those campaigns which make a sexist use of the female body and the withdrawal of which has been required. See, for example, the following headlines: “Montami a costo zero”, “E tu dove glielo metteresti”, “Fidati te la do gratis”.
  10. European Parliament Resolution of 3 September 2008 on the impact of marketing and advertising on equality between men and women (2008/2038(INI)).

The Arabic Alphabet in the Words of Women

When spoken discourse becomes text, words somehow become an object, with their won tridimensionality, unfolding over three axes: the linguistic, the iconic and the symbolic one. Speaking about the work for the Olivetti logotype, designed by Walter Ballmer, recently passed away, Franco Lattes Fortini adds: “not simply a word any longer, but a word object, in fact a word-person, which is the expression of an identity” (Fiorentino, 2009, p. 24). Going on from the typographic to the calligraphic script, in 1949, Madhia Omar basically affirmed the same in Arabic Calligraphy: an Element of Inspiration in Abstract Art, claiming that the letters carry a meaning per se and that they have their own personality, which is dependent on the artist, his imagination, his vision (Rovere, 2010).

Madhia Omar, the first Arabic female artist who had a personal exhibition in Washington D.C., USA, born in Iraq and a pioneer of the calligraphic art, she contributed in cutting the strong link between the Arabic language and the Koran and played a fundamental role in the return of the Arabic alphabet in the arts, thus freeing it from the mannerisms of the classical calligraphic art [1] .
During the ‘50s, among the artists of Arabic origin who worked both in the West and in their own countries, a need for an art that could be Arabic and modern at the same time arose, based on the aesthetic potential of the Islamic calligraphy. The classical Carmina Figurata, Apollinaire’s calligrams, the break of the linearity of writing in XX century European avanguards, or the experimentations of Poesia Concreta and contemporary typography were known by the young Arabic artists, who put together the western contaminations with their Arabic-Islamic School of Calligraphy [2] .
Once removed the burden of the sacredness of the Arabic language and released the alphabet from the yoke of the classical calligraphy stylistic features (Rovere, 2010, p. 65), the Islamic calligraphic shapes, that had so far stood up against the serialized printed characters, and generally speaking, the Arabic alphabet overflew on any kind of media and device, from photography to video art, to computer graphics to the point of becoming three-dimensional.

In the works of Shahrzad Changalvaee, a young Iranian photographer, who studied as a graphic designer, some people randomly chosen are filmed , at sunset, while holding in their hands one of these three words, made of flexiglass, glowing with little lights: ‘I’, the geography of the mind; ‘Body’, the geography of the flesh; ‘Motherland’, the geography of the place where we live.
The alphabet then is transformed into any kind of fashion object or piece of furnishing, not necessarily “religious”, taking on more and more secular and aesthetic shapes [3].
Calligraphy is also adopted as an instrument of fight against the westernization of society or as an instrument of emancipation, as well as the veil that has become, for the women, both a symbol of a struggle for identity against the Imperialist Capitalism, and the emblem of a denied self.
Identity has to be denied even in women’s first names, so well represented in the work of the Saudi artist Manal Al Dowayan [4] entitled Esmi (My Name is) (2o11), an installation made of big rosaries hanging in space, on the beads of which, different women from Saudi Arabia wrote their names, those names that the men either inside the family or in public find offensive or shameful to pronounce, those names given up by the women in order not to offend their family members.
Women hidden behind the filigree of an embroidered fabric or made into shadows by chiseled –wooden mashrabiyyas (the old screens of the Arabic architecture), revived by the Egyptian artist Susan Efuna, inlaid with sentence or single words such as Ana – ‘I’ (10 x Ana, 2007) repeated 10 times or Hulm – ‘Dream’ (Hulm, 2009); a desperate craving for freedom, a sexy message to the observer, but also, possibly, a subtle revenge of somebody preparing to sabotage any project of pleasure, looking without being seen, well aware of the fact that being unable to control one’s sexuality and self-doubting lead the men to demand that the women hide themselves behind a screen and keep their eyes down.
But the so-called “modesty of the Arabic women is in fact a war strategy” warns Fatema Mernissi (2000, p. 13), and precisely these women, active and ready for the struggle (not Ingre, Matisse, Delcroix or Picasso’s naked and passive odalisques) are represented in Women of Allah (1993-97) the first work by Shirin Neshat [5].
Neshat, born in Quazvin, Iran, “a huge country in between the Arab and the Asian world, but belonging to none of them” (Petrillo, 2008, p. 9), got herself photographed in black and white with a rifle glimpsing those parts of a woman’s body that the Islamic law does not allow to uncover, on her face, hands and feet one can read the verse of poets such as, Forough Farokhzad and Tahereh Saffarzadeh, revivng the absurdities of society: woman and man, the individual and society, sexuality and submission. In Heshat’s opinion ‘the written words are the voice of the photo, a voice breaking the silence of the woman portrayed’, a voice that wants to stay away from bias, both the Eastern and the Western world’s ones; that shows and tells what cannot be shown and told, still without infringing and Islamic woman’s body’s codes, taking us away from the patency of such speeches on not very well known cultures.
The juxtaposition of weapons and the female body represents violence as a symbol of the stereotyped image of Islam by the western world, but also “the female body as a militant body, making choices, seen as a fighting body”, a body veiled with Pharsi words (where the Arabic characters predominate), written with henna, the herb with which the Arabic women make their tattoos.
A similar symbolic short-fuse, between henna, an instrument of beauty and seduction and calligraphy, the sacred art, historically a prerogative of men, is produced by Lalla Essaydi, a Moroccan artist of birth, and American of adoption, in her series of photos Harem and Les Femmes du Maroc, that quotes Eugène Delacroix’s Les Femmes d’Algiers.
Lalla Essaydi’s women, sisters, cousins and relatives, every year gather at their house in Morocco, a XVI century building, to spend some weeks together, in one special room of the house, a room which was once to be used only by men; the space is covered with a white cloth and the artist starts transcribing on the canvas, on the walls, on the women themselves, who will end up merging into the endless stream of words, the free flow of the conversations going on throughout the day.
The former men’s room in the harem, thus becomes the room of the women, once odalisques, a Turkish word, not an Arabic one, that has a spatial connotation, oda means room, woman/room, that contains/is contained, a slave and a servant, ğāriyya in Arabic, in the room.
It is precisely the violent expulsion of unsaid words, kept inside for too long by many women, that the American artist with Pakistani origins, Simeen Ishaque Farhat decided to stage; in Quatre Générations de Femmes (1997), other generations of women can be seen, together with English and French texts, camouflaged in little miniatures, among the silk-screened arabesques of the geometrically patterned majolica tiles, in the rooms decorated by the French-Algerian artist, residing in London, Zineb Sedira.
In another of her video-installations, Autobiographical Patterns (1996), Zineb Sedira films herself while writing her autobiography on her hand’s breadth and back, in French, Arabic and English, swapping from the left to the right the sense of the Arabic text, thus dissolving her multifold identities in the mix of words that cannot disentangle the knot of a life lived in a brand new universe in Allah in the West (Kepel, 1996).

The same discourse is revisited by Ghada Amer, an Egyptian artist, grown up in France, who moved to New York. In her works she interweaves on monochrome canvases the interior, rather than social, conflict, between the liberal aspect of the acquired western culture and the oppressive integralism of an unacceptable interpretation of Islam – hers are meditations on the spoken and the written word, eroticism, or on the condition of women; they are philosophical enquiries, studies of semiotics and language philosophy.
Ghada Amer links sewing to painting, because since the start, she wanted to paint without paint, which is a language created by men, using a female tool instead, so as to transform the act of painting.
In Barbie Loves Ken, Ken Loves Barbie (1995-2004), Ghada Amer completely embroiders two tracksuits, a male and a female one, with the sentence providing the title to this work, that by the calligraphic repetition of the sentence “Barbie Loves Ken, Ken Loves Barbie” underline a still raw relationship, a childish one, between two visions of the world. Looking at the work in detail one can notice that the threads are not cut, but only brought outwards with the knots. “Amer takes outwards what usually lays inwards, she turns the batin (what is hidden) into the zahir (what is visible)” (Rovere, 2010, p. 73).
What Ghada Amer defines as double inference, and other artists in their secular spirituality experiment with their works, seems to be the result of a (artistic) life hanging between the experimentations on simultaneous, non-linear, reading and the Arabic essence of writing itself, khatt al-yad, literally “the line of the hand”. Everything happens then on an ideal horizontal line, from which tops and curls are drawn upwards and downwards (Mandel, 2007), Thus allowing to keep at the same time the letter (zâhir) and its hidden meaning (bâtin), the values of the external world, materialistic and visible and those of the inner one, intimate and spiritual.

The most dramatic and up-to-date representation of these concepts is perhaps contained in the work Smell by the Tunisian artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke, described by Timo Kaabi Linke, who organized together with Khadija Hamdi “Contemporary Carthage 2012”[6] , with these words: “The fresh smell of jasmine flowers was missing in those days, because jasmine does not blossom before May and the real smell of revolution came from the cars and houses combustion. A year later people keep walking the streets of Tunisia protesting for freedom and human rights. Now, the protest is not addressed to an autocratic regime but to the retrograde salafi movements, that represent the extreme wing of the Islam in Northern Africa. Their ‘flag’ with the white calligraphy of Shahada, the Muslim faith, on a black background, has become the new symbol for the political repression. Smell consists of embroidered jasmine flowers sewn on a black cloth representing the Islamic faith. As the repression goes on, the flowers wither and the smell of jasmine fades away”.


On 1 June, the 10th edition of “Printemps des Arts” was opened at the Palais Abdellia in the Tunis suburb of  La Marsa. Contemporary works from Tunisian and foreign artists were displayed for 10 days of exhibitions, but this year the closing ceremony was characterised by violence. The artistic community in La Marsa was accused by Islamist extremists of exhibiting works deemed to be morally offensive and “un-Islamic”. On 10 June, in the night, the ultra-conservatives succeeded in invading Palais Abdellia and they burned and destroyed a number of artworks considered “blasphemous”. Other groups across the country attacked police posts, union headquarters, and other art galleries. The Minister of Religious Affairs has suspended from service Sheikh Houcine Laâbidi, Imam at Zitouna Mosque, he said, during Friday prayers, which the artists were “infidels” and had to be put to death.


Fiorentino, C. C. (2009, gennaio). Storia di una firma: carattere Olivetti | Historia de una firma: caractere Olivetti. I+DISEÑO. Revista Internacional de Investigaciòn, Desarollo e Innovacion del Diseño: teoria, estetica, historia y proyectos,1, 21-26. ISSN: 1889-4333X.

Mandel, G. (2007). Otto lezioni all’Accademia di Brera Arte islamica, Arte Buddhista, Arte dell’Africa nera. Milano, IT: Arcipelago Edizioni.

Mernissi, F. (2000). L’harem e l’Occidente. Firenze, IT: Giunti p. 13.

Kepel, G. (1996). A ovest di Allah. Sofri, G. (Ed). Palermo, IT: Sellerio Editore.

Petrillo, P. L. (2008). Iran. Bologna, IT: il Mulino, p. 9

Rovere, C. (2010). I gesti dell’alfabeto. Artiste arabe contemporanee dalla tradizione al design. In De Cecco, E. (Ed). Arte-mondo. Storia dell’arte, storie dell’arte (p. 65, p. 73). Milano, IT: Postmedia Books.

Caraffini, F. (1998, novembre). Shirin Neshat. Virus, 14. Estratto da

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. This scaling work seems to unveil itself in At the Concert (1948), where Madiha Omar inks in a paper and then scrapes off the surface with the scratchboard technique to let the white background emerge.
  2. The results of these artistic developments are well represented in the permanent collection of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, recently shown in Rome at the exhibition “Riflessioni dal Cielo, Meditazioni in Terra: Arte Moderna Calligrafica del Mondo Arabo”, Mercati di Traiano Museo dei Fori Imperiali, 22 march/10 june 2012.
    In the Arabic Calligraphic School, so far not thoroughly analysed and classified, there are two themes: the Holy, of religious nature, is expressed through quotations from the Koran or classical moral proverbs; the Profane, of secular nature, is divided into the socio-political, the literary and decorative theme. The socio-political theme, new for the Arab world, introduces elements of social critique in the artistic aesthetics or conveys nationalistic messages. The literary subjects of the calligraphic works are modeled on the classical and modern literature or on poetry, the main means of artistic expression for the Arabians, since pre-Islamic times, that becomes the base of any work of art, be it a painting, etch, sculpture or pottery. The decorative theme, instead, revisits the aesthetic configuration of the Arabic characters in such an abstract way as to become a graphical element of the composition. Analyzing the panorama of the calligraphic works, we find three styles: pure calligraphy (from which the Neoclassical, the Classical and the Modern style, the Calligraffiti and Calligrafia Freeform originated), in which only the letters are drawn, where every single letter of the alphabet has its meaning, even if isolated from the rest. Abstract Calligraphy (from two currents sprang out: the Readable Writing and the Pseudowriting) in which the artist manipulates the visible, aesthetic aspect of the Arabic letters, taking away from the characters both the shape and the meaning. Calligraphic combinations (giving life to the central and marginal Calligraphy), where the calligraphy and other elements are mixed together to create a work of art: the Arabic writing is part of the composition, but the rest is made of figurative and painted pictures or revealing symbols.
  3. With regard to the Arabic typography one needs to bear in mind the fundamental work of divulgation by Huda Smitshuijzen Abi Farès, a graphic designer who studied at Yale University of Art and at the Rhode Island School of Design, specialized in bilingual typographic design and research, writer (Arabic typography. A comprehensive sourcebook, Saqi Books, Londra, 2001), creator of Khatt Foundation, a centre for Arabic typography fonde in Amsterdam in 2004, that guides the talent of many young designers.
  4. “Simply Words?” Is the title of a collective exhibition held in Lucerna, in Switzerland, at AB GALLERY, from 5th February to 10th March 2012, where Manal Al Dowayan, with Simeen Farhat, Farideh Lashai and Claudia Meyer, exhibited some of recent works. The Swiss gallery AB with premises in Zurich and Lucerna, has been focusing for a long time on cultural exchanges between Switzerland, Europe and the Islamic world. “Simply Words?” Initially meant to start ameditation on the universal nature of the word and the power of art to overcome the cultural and linguistic barriers.
  5. An Iranian photographer and video artist who studied and grew up in America, she won the Leone d’Argento in Venice as best director for the film Women without Men (2009).
  6. “Cartagine Contemporary 2012”: “Chkoun Ahna. Sur la piste de l’histoire”, National Museum of Carthage, Tunisia,12 May/15 July 2012

Mallorcan Design and flowering almond trees

Ametlla + was founded in 2010 in Palma de Mallorca with the aim of designing and creating products derived from Mallorcan almonds.
Designed products must be the final result of extensive research in order to achieve balance between good food and healthy diet. This is the philosophy of this company founded by five partners with very different backgrounds.

The protagonist of this story are:

  • Gemma Bes Padrós degree in Nutrition at King’s College London and a diploma in Dietetics and Nutrition, clinical experience, journalist and writer;
  • Dolca Feliu Aymar, psychology degree, Master in Business Administration, an expert in management groups;
  • Bàrbara Flaquer, training in interior design and product design at the Eina School of Barcelona, and at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya;
  • Maria del Mar Socias Camacho, BA in Humanities, and expert in mediation and vocational guidance;
  • Catalina Cañellas, expert in the management of tourist services.

We believe that people behind any project are central to its success. In our case the variety and complementary nature of our personal and professional experiences work together to make our team our greatest strengths: we combine the ability to negotiate, networking skills, creativity and market knowledge.
In order to achieve our aims we set out to design a range of products which deliver not only quality and exceptional taste, but also remind us of the old flavors so typical of Mallorca, so that these are discovered or re-discovered at home.
Ametlla + is the product of this philosophy; it recovers the almond as a base and as a raw material used to promote and maintain traditional recipes left to us by our ancestors. Another benefit of the Ametlla + products is that they bring traditional flavours to our kitchen, flavours which were only achieved by searching quality ingredients and spending long periods of time in front of the stove, which we have now applied to modern day cooking habits and styles.

Project objectives

We could say that the main motivation for our project is an ongoing love for our tradition and culture. This project was born with the intention of transforming an autochthonous product, the Mallorcan Almond, which we believe has a great deal of potential within the current market.
We are extremely concerned with the way almond trees and almonds themselves are currently being neglected. Nowadays few people consider them a profitable product, and trees are being increasingly abandoned. It is a vicious cycle; less almonds are collected, which in turn means that the trees also flower less.
Winter is the almond blossom season in Mallorca. The island’s landscapes are covered in white and pink flowers from the beginning of January until the end of February, which make for a great tourist attraction. But there is much more to the almond blossom than what meets our eyes; it marks the beginning of the fruit production stage of trees, it precedes the almond with qualities and flavor that outstands them as unique quality products.
When it came to defining our product, we wanted to obtain something which could be recommended for celiacs, vegetarians, children, the elderly and people with cardiovascular diseases. It had to be a 100% natural product, without additives and rich in nutritional benefits, bearing in mind that fat contained in almonds can substitute any added oil and therefore reduce calories and fats. We were also concerned by the lack of traditional cuisine in daily diets of modern days families.
These are some of the many reasons why we have decided to turn the Mallorcan Almond into a superior condiment which stands for quality, expectation and innovation.
We want to create new eating habits when it comes to the Mallorcan Almond; new textures and different flavours. In fact, what we really want to do is turn the almond into a gourmet product which is able to respond to the requirements of daily meals, contributes with an exceptional flavor and simplifies the whole preparation and cooking process as well.
From this perspective we began our research in order to design a gastronomic product which would reintroduce the Mallorcan Almond into the Balearic economy.


Firstly we carried out detailed research on the Mallorcan Almond, and discovered that there are 50 different species of almond in Mallorca. We started with our slightly romantic childhood memories, which in turn reminded us of traditional household economy systems and collecting almonds. In any case, what is design if not an activity which plays with emotions certain things arise?
As for the design process we started by conducting a hermeneutic study of traditional Balearic recipes which turned out to be very revealing; we discovered that the older the recipe, the more almonds featured as an ingredient for the dish. It was also interesting to see the great variety of ingredients combined with almonds, and we made note of these.
Once we had a list of all the featured ingredients, we were faced with the following questions:

  • What do we do with them?
  • What does this recipe analysis show us?
  • Why are traditional recipes no longer used?
  • Why have they been relegated to grandmothers and restaurants?

The answer was obvious and immediate through our own personal experience: lack of time!
At this stage we included users as a central part of our research.
The question became quite different: How do we break down the amount of time and effort needed in these recipes?
We may have ingredients, but that is not enough; we need to incorporate added value: something more, if we want to be useful. We needed something that would cover the process involved in the recipe, in other words all the ingredients need to come ready made, precooked.
We came to the conclusion that the added value was to slow-cook all the ingredients on a low temperature and so end up with a product which we could use as a substitute for the basic products we needed to start most of these recipes (such as chopped onion, garlic and tomato). Not only would we save ourselves time, but the final dish would be tastier and healthier as the natural oils contained within the almond allow you not to add any oils or fats, and at the same time, the almond would act as a link between the rest of the ingredients and bring coherence to the flavours.
While we were collecting this information about the sector and identifying products we discovered that there is a great lack of information related to gourmet condiments. This fact made it quite difficult for us to conduct our study, as the sector has certain very specific characteristics, which include:

  • This is a sector which is changing rapidly.
  • It is very strongly influenced by developments achieved through Research and Development programmes carried out by companies and universities.
  • It is strongly influenced by modern eating habits which suggest that people cook less and less and that there is a demand for fresh and readymade products which last longer, and which are able to conserve their traditional flavours and textures.
  • The development of new products is strictly limited by country legislations and by the long term effects which the product could cause when consumed by humans.

Today condiments are available on the market, such as the various gourmet salts which have been launched over recent years. We did not want to limit ourselves producing a condiment using only almonds.
We were looking for ways to help end users and to make their lives easier: people are becoming increasingly busy at work and in their personal and family lives and that is how we came up with a preparation which, amongst other things, results in less shopping time. With Ametlla + all you have to do is buy meat or fish and the Ametlla + itself. We don´t need to worry about onions or tomatoes, chopping or peeling, or even buying vegetables.
Many people avoid the kitchen just to avoid the necessary work, and this is causing the gradual disappearing of our grandmothers’ recipes. But, if you tell the consumer that they can cook a traditional Mallorcan dish, such as Escaldums, in less than 45 minutes, without any chopping and barely any prep at all, and without having to buy long lists of ingredients, people become very interested and Ametlla + becomes a stimulus for recreating old fashioned dishes in an innovative and fast way, as well as turning the dish into a healthy and tasty meal. It is as easy as browning the meat, adding the stock or water and Ametlla +.
Apart from researching the product opportunity and its potential within the high end food market, another reason for conducting this research was to establish some marketing strategies for the product, to fix prices, think about distribution processes and promotion. We decided that the marketing strategies must be in accordance with and based on the company’s design philosophy. therefore we are targeting a consumer who likes to eat and live well but who doesn’t have a lot of free time to do things like cooking.

The future

The Ametlla + product range currently features three tins of condiments: the blue tin is recommended for fish, pasta and vegetables; the green tin is recommended for meats, pulses and stews; and the red one for desserts, sweets and salads.
We have also launched a range of bags and aprons which are sold as original gift items.
Ametlla + has so far benefited by a very positive initial response, both in the islands and in the German market. The three types of Ametlla +, the aprons, bags and oil are the first in a forthcoming series of different exciting products and projects. The next project we would like to promote is one involving tourists attraction to the island during almond blossom season, thereby extending the current tourist season. We believe that, by promoting to tourists visiting the island further knowledge of the local agricultural scenery, we can add values prompting high quality tourism, whereby a visit to the almond groves could be complemented by a gastronomic route with guided explanations about traditional customs on the island.
Since Japan and the Jerte Valley have become internationally renowned for their cherry blossoms, why can’t the same thing happen for us here with the almond blossoms?
At the same time, we are already working on new products, such as almond oil; an extremely tasty product, as well as small Mallorcan almonds toasted on a log fire and mixed with different ingredients such as rosemary and tomato, cheese, curry and even banana.
Almond is the thread which connects gastronomy with tourism, economy with ecology and agriculture with industry and commerce.

Bàrbara Flaquer, designer, co-founder of Ametlla +

(Women’s) Design Will Save the (Arab) World

From little puddings to the cardiac defibrillator. Women artisans/designers and entrepreneurs in the Arab world: this could be the title for a conference on the theme of female creativity in northern African countries. The point of reference, here, being the beautiful exhibition organized by Anty Pansera and Tiziana Occleppo, entitled: From laces to motorbikes. Women artisan/artists and designers in XX century Italy (Pansera, Occleppo, 2002), promoted by Unione Donne Italiane di Ferrara for the 10th edition of “Biennale Donna”.

The comparison helps us to highlight some differences, similarities and even some paradoxes.

Nowadays, Egyptian women are trying hard to found the Union of Egyptian Women, in order to follow Huda Shaarawi’s footprints, the woman who in May 1923, back to Cairo, after attending an International Feminist Movement conference in Rome, while getting off the train, took off her veil, thus challenging the dominant male chauvinist culture.
We wonder whether, when Huda Shaarawi put up the emporium where the girls from the poor areas of Cairo learnt the art of sewing and embroidering, she knew about Aemilia Ars merletti e ricami (1900-1935). However, the art of lace embroidering was born in the Mediterranean coasts. The great textile legacy of the Middle East is well known and it is still conveyed and renewed by such events as the recent” Fashion Week Tunis” in Carthage, which started a debate on religious themes, because of the brightly coloured dresses (not welcomed by the Salafi), the bushy beards sprayed with silver and gold by the designer Salah Barka and Ahmed Talfit’s models who provocatively wore either nude look or niqab that has recently started covering women’s faces through the streets of Egypt.

From northern African fashion to jewellery handicrafts, where male and female roles are neatly separated: men create whereas women put together; at least until the first half of the 60s, when Azza Fahmy, a young woman from a wealthy bourgeois family in High Egypt, who had previously moved to Cairo to study and get a degree in Fashion Design, managed to get in Khan El-Khalili’s old suk as the first woman trainee, thus giving up a respectable job in the public administration to become a hand worker.
Nowadays, Azza Fahmy’s company produces more than 4 million dollar annual sales and gives work to 170 employees who make about 11.000 handicrafts a year, worn by international stars and distributed all over the Middle East and in the UK. Having entrusted the company to her daughter, Fatma Ghali, Azza Fahmi has recently co-funded the “Nubre” project with the EU, promoting workshops for Egyptian and European students and she is also planning to build the Azza Family Design Institute in partnership with Alchimia (School of Contemporary Jewellery, Florence).

The idea (often a female one) of fostering applied arts for ethical, pedagogical or social purposes, is a constant theme both in the West and in the East, often reoccurring in the course of time. Sarah Beydoun, while working on her MA dissertation in Social Studies in 2000, met the women from the female prison in Baabda, near Beirut, and quickly switched from research to entrepreneurship, pushed by her own social commitment. Those women needed support (they were mostly charged with the accusation of prostitution) and Sarah convinced them to make some bags to be sold in the markets, in order to earn the money which would allow them a proper legal assistance and, once out of prison, to face the isolation and the social stigma.
Sarah’s Bag is the name of a company that gives work to 150 women, some of them still convicts, some others already out of prison, now manage the specialized departments or cut and sew in different regions of the country, but all of them earn a regular salary above the minimum legal threshold.
Over time, Sarah’s bags, with their Arabic/Retro/Pop charme, obtained by putting together bits of velvet, damask brocade, old recycled tapestries, beads and sequins, have conquered the Gulf, America and Europe, even Queen Rania of Jordan.
Beirut, a city full of contrasts, lively, cosmopolitan and unpredictable, can adapt itself to any kind of experiment, in the arts, in fashion and design, to the point of giving it an extraordinary prominence in the media, like it happened with the success of Bokja sofas, a phenomenal brand, a mixture of art, craftsmanship and design, created in 1999 by two women, who became designers by chance: Hoda Baroudi, formerly a journalist, fond of old tapestries and fabrics, and Maria Hibri, an economist who was passionate about antiques and handicrafts.
There are two Lebanons: one is noisy and brightly colorful, and one is more intimate, thoughtful and shy. Nada Debs, the new icon of middle eastern design, perfectly represents Beirut’s soul. The style of her project is well summarized by the logo with her name, blending the Japanese calligraphic tradition with the Arabic one. Nada Debs loves playing with contrasts, both in the choice of materials and in the style of her furniture, meeting both the local and the international market tastes, thanks to the clever and innovative mix of the Arabic tradition seductive patterns with the minimalistic Japanese austerity. Born in Lebanon but grown up in Kobe, Nada Debs studied Interior Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design in the US; in 2000 she started her activity in London, and later, back in Beirut, she founded the brand named after herself.

Another Lebanese designer, with an eclectic education, (a degree in Film Directing at Esra in Paris and an MA in Product Design and Design Direction at Domus Academy in Milan in 1997), is Karen Chekerdjian who worked in Italy with Edra. Back in Beirut in 2001, Karen, not being able to use sophisticated technologies or materials and counting only on the great tradition of the local craftsmanship, had to deal with and often fight against the traditional vision of her collaborators, sculptors, carver masters, artisans very skilled in blowing glass or working brass, but very far from her cosmopolitan and contemporary mentality. In 2010 she opened her emporium in Beirut’s port industrial area, which has now become a refined centre for design, where her and other designer’s products can be found, together with fabrics, books and a selection of the best Italian food.

Also from Beirut and from the food sector, Hala Audi Beydoun, an English teacher, turned her passion for patisserie into an innovative adventure. With a well cared image Beydoun’s Cocoa & Co. has conquered international customers all over the Middle East, Europe and North America. Cocoa & Co. cookies are little pieces of art, a bit of Gaudì, a bit of baroque, Pop Art and Keith Haring, there is one for every festivity and celebration, but on Husband Cookies, ignoring the polemics, she keeps writing mottos on current news and political slogans.

From Lebanon and its dramatic experience of the civil war, to Egypt which is now going through tensions with no predictable solution. In 2007, the Financial Times spoke about Shahira H. Fahmy,
the first Egyptian woman designer to be hosted at Salone Satellite in Milan. With a BA and an MA degree in Architecture at the School of Engineering in Cairo, Shahira Fahmy, slightly over 30 in 2005, founded her studio, with other young architects and professionals, expert in different fields, such as landscape and urban architecture, interior and product design. Among the people who made the project for Designopolis, a huge shopping centre, near Cairo, entirely dedicated to design, Shahira H. Fahmy, one of the most interesting architects in the Middle East, was awarded several prizes for design and architecture, the last of which in October 2011 at “Andermatt Swiss Alps Design Competition”.

Also Dina El Khachab and Hedayat Islam operate in the fields both of architecture and design. Dina El Khachab got two degrees, in Architecture and in Interior Architecture at McGill University in Montreal. Hedayat Islam, a graduate in Political Sciences in Cairo and in Interior Design at New York School, she owns an MA in Islamic Art and Architecture. The two women started their project studio Eklego Design in 2000. In 2001 there were already more than 80 projects by Eklego all over Egypt; in 2005 the first Eklego showroom was born in Cairo, followed by Designopolis Shop and Heliopolis Shop, where several international brands are distributed, together with Eklego furniture and furnishings, some of which sprang out from the collaboration with other women designers and entrepreneurs.

Egypt has already been showing interest towards design for a while. In June 2010 in Cairo, along old El Muiz street, the event “+20 Egypt Design” took place.
Paola Navone was asked to put the local masters together with some international brands and handicrafts, creating a fascinating mix of tradition and innovation. In the prophetic press release one could read: “Cairo is changing and the main promoters of this change are the young Egyptians”. A few months later the Mubarak era came to an end.
“Design will save the (Arab) world”, writes the Jordan Ahmad Humeid, founder of Redesign Arabia, in his manifesto/call for the creative designers of his country. Probably that challenge should have a female focus, as there is a large number of Arabic women who are conquering the international scene of design.
Samar Habayeb, born in Amman in 1984, is the young manager and head of projects at Silsal, a pottery company, founded 20 years ago by her mother Reem and Rula Atalla, in order to preserve the local art of pottery. Samar, a graduate in Architecture and Economics at Tufts University, Massachusetts and an MA in Pottery at Cardiff School of Art & Design in Wales, went back to Amman to manage Silsal and give it an innovative twist, making the collection larger with a new line of furnishings. Thanks to her, nowadays, Silsal pottery can be found in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and she has gained the praise of several international customers and the attention of the media.

A different approach is that of Sahar Madanat Haddad, a freelance designer who claims that design is only innovative if it creates a correct balance between science and art. The aim of Sahar Madanat, who got a degree in Industrial Design at the California State University in Long Beach in 2004, is that of starting a company which can contribute to the development of the culture of projects in Jordania. Winner, in April, of the “Hand Made Objects Design Contest award”, promoted by UNESCO and Alhoush, the award which Sahar is most proud of, is that received last year at
“A’Design Awards” in Milan, for the project Heart Aid, a portable cardiac defibrillator for old people, which can improve the chances of surviving of 50-74%.

In conclusion, let us make a notation at the end this non-exhaustive review on the projects made by women in the Arab countries: on the one hand, there are many Arabic women working and designing nowadays; on the other, the Italian designers/entrepreneurs are very few, or at least they were until the half of the last century. In the Atlante del design italiano 1940/1980 (Pansera, Grasso, 1980) there are only six profiles of women, and 20 years later, in Design del XX secolo (Fiell, 2000) the international women profiles are not even 20 out of 200 names; 10 years or so later the situation barely changed. The famous Egyptian writer and activist Nawal El Saadawi, during the last International Women’s Day, with regard to her country, claimed: ‘We have women who are more patriarchal than men, socialists who are better capitalists than the leaders of the extreme right, and atheists who are more fanatic than the fundamentalists’. This is a claim that somehow applies also to our country.


Grassi, A. & Pansera, A. (1980). Atlante del design italiano 1940 – 1980. Milano, IT: Fabbri Editori.

Fiell C. & Fiell P. (2000). Design del XX secolo. Colonia, DE: Taschen

Pansera, A. & Occleppo, T. (Ed.). (2002). Dal merletto alla motocicletta. Artigiane/artiste e designer nell’Italia del Novecento. Milano, IT: Silvana Editoriale.

Editorial #08

A new cycle starts for PAD with issue n. 8.

Having mainly devoted the first seven issues to the evolution of design in the countries of the Mediterranean area, and having obtained a major nod with the inception in the ADI Index, PAD starts afresh. With issue 8, it changes its acronym in Pages on Arts & Design and dons a new package. While the journal’s focus is still on design in the Mediterranean countries, it relies on a new ‘diffuse’ network of collaborators and writers at large who will shed light on the hot issues emerging in the design field, particularly in the Maghreb and Mashrek regions.

The title inaugurating PAD’s new cycle is The Mediterranean of Women.

The design activities that women are involved in – their surveys, thoughts and words – in the Mediterranean area are the aspects forming the central theme of this issue. While it is far from easy to approach, the editorial committee considered, and still considers in its current lineup, that such theme is worth the effort.

Indeed, PAD had announced its intention to explore women’s creativity and design capabilities in the countries of the Mediterranean area as early as 2008. Issues n. 4 and n. 5 presented female designers who developed a wide range of activities (from textile to furniture designs, from jewelry to graphic design) in various regions of the area. Their work illustrated how, in the countries of the Southern as well as the Northern coast of the Mediterranean basin, the arts and crafts production typical of the Mediterranean tradition flourishes alongside expressions of full-fledged modernity, developed by women with great passion and pride.

Designers, artisans, artists, photographers, film-makers, women who have been able to integrate their creative abilities in their professional activity thus becoming agents of transformation and models for future generations. Well aware of their rights, these women challenge the stereotypes forced on them by their cultures by choosing difficult trajectories of integration and empowerment in the profession and in society. They are well-determined to question and challenge themselves, and to be an active part of the Mediterranean communities’ economical, social, and cultural development.

The issue’s first article is (Women’s) design will save the (Arab) world by Gianni di Matteo – an adaption in the female of “Design will save the (arab) world”, the provocation Ahmad Humeid – the Jordan architect and founder of Redesign Arabia, proposed in the manifesto/appeal addressed to the creative communities in his country. The article presents a good number of Arab women striving to conquer center stage in the international design scene.

The following articles present projects developed by women in various fields: agro-industrial design for the Ametlla+ design built in the Island of Mallorca explained by its author, designer Barbara Flaquer; social design for the Master dissertation of Turkish designer Eda Kose; contemporary art and use of calligraphy in the works of Arab artists who voice the words and thoughts of women and the contradictions of world and society ; academic research applied to the study of female stereotypes recurring in advertising and marketing.

This last article, by Valeria Bucchetti, is the connection introducing a focus section about the evolution of Gender Studies in the Western world. This section starts with an interview with Cheryl Buckley, a historian of British design who, while analyzing the work of female ceramists in the Midlands from 1870 through 1955, has developed a theory according to which patriarchal society is responsible for erasing women from the history of design. With permission from MIT Press, we publish Cheryl Buckley’s article Made in Patriarchy: Toward a Feminist Analysis of Women and Design, printed in Design Issues vol. III, N. 2 in 1986. We propose both the original version and the Italian translation hoping to renew interest in an issue that so far has failed to make an impact in the Mediterranean countries.

As usual, the main section is complemented by additional features.

This issue includes photographic reportages, among other things, about the Milan Furniture Fair and a report on the thriving design scene in Croatia.

The issue is completed by news from the Mediterranean presenting the numerous events that will enliven the new scene of design in the next few weeks and months.

Finally, I hope that arts and design will fill our readers’ summer and urge them to write to propose topics they care about, and recommend emerging ideas and new projects that embrace the cultural, technical, social and economical innovation the Mediterranean region so clearly needs.


Cover photo: © Fabio Gambina, Palermo, June 2012

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Mediterranean between space and time / Aurore Martignoni

The link between these shots is a metaphor of coexistence of the forms of time. In front of us, past, present and future occur simultaneously, each in their original form. The forms are numerous and their interpretation becomes the theme of this photographic research. The objective focuses on seemingly insignificant details but if we dig deep into these details they show how the Mediterranean society is changing.There is, in fact, a co-existence of what appears impossible to coexist: the forms of time exist side to side, one into the other one, each with its own character and peculiarities.That ‘s what I wanted to tell through my pictures: the Mediterranean is intentionally represented both as a place and as a moment. Because Mediterranean is synonymous of cultures, traditions, languages, religions and people, all different between them. But at the same time it is a meeting of the opposites. A union. I also investigated time in its landscape and mentality transformations. The Mediterranean areas are more and more crowded and its coastlines assaulted by constructions in progress. In these new Mediterranean scenarios traces of the past always coexist. With a few shots I tried to make past, present and future coexisting, showing the evolution of design culture in the Mediterranean. The project begins with a ghostly vision of Hvar (Croatia), it is the only picture that shows human figure, which is the engine of all transformations; then it goes to Greece where the bottle of Coca-Cola becomes an object of design and is quite indistinguishable from the typical architecture; always in Greece I attend the “wild-new” construction on the coast that were harsh in the past; the photo-project continues with the coexistence of ancient and modern architecture; and to conclude a culinary tradition that, from my point of view becomes a highly aesthetic gesture.

Born in Belgium in 1979, she graduated in journalism at the University of Brussels (ULB). Aurore Martignoni has quickly become interested in image and its meanings while studying journalism as well as during her partnerships with press and television. The passion for photography has quickly turned into practice that enriched her work. With a “reportage” style she expresses herself relying on a artistical development but always puts the documentary rigor in the foreground. She lives in Bologna and worked all over the world. She now collaborates with “Tam Tam” image agency from Milan and with the Tuscany Photographic Workshop (
“Photography for me is the way of communication that I mostly use to convey emotions. I think that it is the best human attitude to communicate with others. Photography speaks to the eyes but above all to the minds”.

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Sabra made in Israel / Orit Freilich

An x ray of a prickly pear plant (fico d’india, tipicaly mediterrenean flora. in hebrew called “sabra” that is also meen a person that is an israeli native.
The plant is shown in a x ray photo with pins inserted in to it. in this case the prikly pear is not pungy or pricly as the thorns are directed inside. The metafora of the israelis as the prickly pear plant is willing to describe israelis as thorny on the surface but soft inside. Here the thorns are inverted from outside to inside willing to give a different image of the israeli native. The work is exposed in a lighting box with aluminiom frame. 2009

I studied fashion at Shenkar College of Engineering and design in Israel and at Margrethe Skolen for fashion and design, Copenhagen. Since 1987 to present I teach at the fashion design department at Shenkar. Alongside, I began developing an independent work criticizing the fashion industry which I was a part of.. I studied at the Midrasha school of art. I finished MA in Middlesax University, London. My main work is Xraying and scanning of objects as a way of searching further metaphysical presence in their representation.

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Fermate il mondo… voglio scendere! / Delia Emmulo

In face of the violent ambitions of the men who are never tired to build monumental cement monsters and spectacular buildings that spoil the beauty of the Creation, nature is weak and helpless, alone on a world filled with too high ambitions.
But she doesn’t surrender and, conscious of her ineffable value, perseveres in her role as a source of life, as an essential pillar for every life, and continues to leave indelible marks of her charm everywhere, changing and acquiring a variety of forms.

Born in Partinico in 1986, graduate in Industrial Design (Faculty of Architecture of Palermo).

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Mediterranean Dream / Bettina Piccinini

Analogic black and white film converted into a digital photograph – printing on forex – 100×70 cm – data 2009 – “Mediterranean Dream” is a stolen shot. The context a natural “stage”, the Mediterranean sea. Like a little nowadays Ulisse who shall have to carry out a journey through life, this kid represents the future that stretches out into a vision, a possibility, with the only real existing potential: himself. Whether he leaves, whether he waits for an arrival.

Born in 1975-Piacenza. Study: secondary Art School, New Fine Art Accademy in Milan(NABA).1999-2004 art director in Lowe Pirella Milan. Actually art director and designer freelance. Awards: 2009 “Les cravates par Hermès” International design contest – shortlisted. 1998 “Sulle ruote del tempo da Leonardo al 2000” Poster for exhibition of Bertone, Giugiaro, Pininfarina, Zagato prototypes – creativity prize, Venice. 1991 “European school day competition” EU Poster -Jury’s special prize-Bruxelles.

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Underneath the sun / Ana Perković

As we were walking one sunny afternoon, he suddenly stopped and said: “You know, when I was little, I observed the world around me much better… I remember I could see amazing things, always when my mother would take me for a walk. Then my eyes were constantly directed upwards, while I was watching her face and listening to her stories. In this “upper world“ I have seen a lot of windows and very soon became fascinated with colourful jalousines, fantasizing about who is hiding behind… I was so curious about life…”. It happened again one of these days…, sunny and beautiful, as if it was calling you: “Come out and enjoy!!!” I decided to take a walk to the old town. It was impossible to avoid crowd and very soon I got tired… But I went on and suddenly found myself in Vestibul. I was there thousands of times, but that day for the first time I’ve spontaneously, subconsciously raised my head up. In a second, I remembered what he told me and felt enormous blessing. I saw us in this two windows, illuminated by the sunlight… I realized I was happy, I’ve learnt to see…

Born in Karlovac, Croatia, in 1983. Graduate from Industrial design at School of design, University of Zagreb, Croatia in 2008. From 2008, she was employed as lighting designer at company Ortoforma.

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Torri dell’Acqua / Francesca Speranza

International Design Contest 2010


The romantic vision of communicating vessels that connect the land to sea in search of a constant balance. Photographic survey on water towers between Puglia and Calabria, built by the first ‘900 to solve the water shortage. Fascinating and varied presence located throughout the area that hold water, as simple as indispensable resource for then redistribute the land, imposing buildings which, with their communicating vessels, seem to strike a balance between land and sea.

Dimensions: 30 X 30 cm. Materials: lambda print. Technical realization: digital photography.

Born in Cisternino (BR), Italy, in 1978, Francesca Speranza is an artist and a photographer. Ms. Speranza graduated from IED in Rome in 2001 as an Interior Designer and from the Academy of Fine Arts in Lecce as a Decorator in 2007. Since then, Francesca Speranza has matured her passion for photography, tied up in an intimate connection with the territory and its people. She loves strong contrasts both in the choice of subjects and in the chromatic tones of her images. Ms. Speranza participates in many shows and events as an artist, and occasionally as a curator.

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Metro project / Alice Pedroletti

International Design Contest 2010


The project was born as a visual-linguistic proposal. The goal is to carry out and achieve free, unrestrained communication through a 1 km installation of pictures, where each image draws on the meaning of the entire piece. They are not only single entities but part of a whole. Most of the images will be produced with the purpose of creating free, open dialogue. As if each one of them was a word that when put together with other ones forms a train of thought or a story being told. The physical movement of the viewer passing in front of the fixed images, as opposed to viewers’ non-movement in relation to the subject (as in video), allows for the spectators to participate actively: free to live, to create or to understand what they find presented in front of their eyes. Attention is not focused only on the meaning of the images but rather on the user-installation relationship. The human being-environment relationship is at the center of photographic research. Through the images the theme of death, invasion, remains and pollution of human beings in the territory is dealt with. It is a presence-not presence that appears through the narration. The objects we create or abandon in order to celebrate the memory of people end up resembling nature itself. Our continuous returning to the earth really strikes me: in all cases nature predominates, reclaiming everything with extreme elegance and power. We surround ourselves with memories and objects to not feel so alone or maybe to feel just as powerful and able to dominate what comes from it and where we will return to eventually. In writing 1 km of images I’m building a process similar to how a book is created: aspects are many and varied and must be described in long visual sentences. So I started making different footages to then arrive at just one big piece for the installation.

I’m a conceptual visual artist. I use photography and installation. My art research is based on the relationship between human being, environment, emotions and time. “Images as ways to understand and express reality”: the fusion between people, objects and places
and the flat perspectives in my photographs, they help me to build a still-reality where emotions are cold and perfect. Single images, where a single story can be discovered, or sequences of images where a concept can be well-explained. I try to use photography to communicate, as a language. I’ve made work and personal experiences traveling around (USA, France, Great Britain) working as self-taught photographer or on assignments.
I’m born and grown-up in Milan where I still live and work as photographer and visual artist.
I’ve worked also, for five years and after a EU special degree, as production assistant of cultural events especially to practice languages that I’ve studied at school (English, Spanish, French) and to
understand how is working with different people in different life situations.

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Mediterranean Fun / Ali Zogheib

International Design Contest 2010

Third Prize

To capture the moment and freeze the Mediterranean time. Bordering 3 continents “in the middle of earth” as named in latin, the Mediterranean sea is known as being the carving ground for most ancient human civilization. It has by far had the most influence on human history and world cultures and heritage. It has provided man with trade routes, occupations, food, salt, purple dye for trade, transport means, but mostly cultural and historical connections. This sea has been present for thousands of years, yet one can imagine that some activities along its coast have never changed, and were not affected by all the cultural and civilizations’ exchange throughout the years. I can imagine youngsters diving into the Mediterranean sea today, thousands of years ago, or a thousand year to come; in the eyes of the beholder it will always be the same jump, into the same sea.

The picture was taken in Lebanon, at the coast of Tyr, a very ancient city on the Mediterranean, best known for its Tyrian purple dye or the imperial dye produced by the Phoenicians.The picture was taken with a Sony Alpha 700 DSLR camera with a 75-300 mm zoom lens, at 140 mm, 1/500 sec, F13, ISO 200The picture was cropped and divided into three sections laid on one sheet to tell a never ending story, that of a great sea.

Studied Computer and Communication Engineering at the American University of Beirut. Amateur photographer.

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Crossroads / Massimiliano Gatti

International Design Contest 2010

Second Prize

Today, more than ever, humanity finds itself at a crossroads. A road leads to absolute despair, and the other to total extinction. We pray God to give us the wisdom to make the correct choice. (Woody Allen)

The crossroads is a metaphor for the dilemma that leads to a choice between two paths, two directions between two decisions. The cataloging of the work “Crossroads” tells it all this, but in a broader and more ambitious sense: each intersection, immortalized in an unspecified Middle East and somehow archetypal, signifies the crucial point during a journey through history of a momentous date: September 11, 2001. A date that marks a before and after in world history, a watershed date that has suspended the inertia of the time and place in front of a human choice, and social policy has become detached from the collective: the whole Western world found himself having to call into question his relationship with the Arab world has always been complicated and conflicted, mutual misunderstanding and hostility substantial. “Crossroads” is not strictly work on communication, but on the communicability, a communication potential: each crossing is a symbol of a point of no return from which is facing two ways: the continuous supply of a climate of hatred and tension, or a drive towards a progressive cultural openness that would result from the clash at the meeting.
15 photographs 2009/2010, 40×50 cm, Fine art injet print on Dibond.

Massimiliano Gatti is born in Italy in 1981. In 2006 he graduated in Pharmacy and worked in scientiic research for the University of Granada (Spain). In 2008 he graduated in photography at the CFP Bauer in Milan and collaborated with the photographer Paola De Pietri. In 2010, after his first personal exhibition “From zero to hero” at the Rojo gallery in Milan he followed his photographic research in a project of artist residence in Stills, Scotland’s centre for photography, in Edinburgh (Scotland). He works as photographer in the archaeological mission in Qatna (Tell Mishrifeh, Siria). He lives and works between Milan, Damascus and Edinburgh.

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Triple View Upward -Triplice visione verso l’alto / Vito Antonio Guglielmini

International Design Contest 2010

First Prize

Agrigento, Sicily, Italy. This release sets in relationship three different levels of life-evolution-geometry. The first one, that where my feet lean during the shot, it refers to the Valle dei Templi, delineated from a structure of great value and to centuries of thriving culture. A second level reveals an abandoned farm from ‘800, place of country life, situated in relief (for place and time) to the ancient Akragas. Aloft, the messy architecture of the contemporary sets on two hills. Parallelism stridents to the contrast.

Vito Antonio Guglielmini borns in Puglia in 1979. Photographer and filmmaker. In 2002 it begins the collaboration with the RAI (Italian Television) and cinema. In 2007 it creates the project VAG (exp), a search of fascinating visions through expressive means like videography, music, photo, painting. He realized for tv, spot, videoclip and short films. He lives and works between Rome and Todi (Italy).

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Marea Nera Propaganda / Ryts Monet (Enrico De Napoli)

The project it has been presented in juncture of Fondazione Claudio Buziol residency programme. The theme of the works of art realized refer to the colossal and terrific oil disaster occurred in Mexico Gulf on 20 April 2010, which involved the explosion of an offshore platform near Venice, Louisiana. The start of the calamity has coincided exactly with the beginning of the artists’ residences and it has last entirely for the three-month period of them. The endeavour of the artist, in this case, was to spread propaganda poster – as a form of guerrilla marketing – creating for the Black Tide event many images with an ironic language to evoke the consequences of BP’s oil disaster. Hence, Ryts Monet, covered Venice with recycled posters of a car wash belonging to a famous oil multinational company. So, a rich photographic documentation shows the deed and its consequences in the city.
Afterward, The British Petroleum oil venture, responsible of Luisiana disaster, has said some months ago: quickly we will start to drill the well depths of the Mediterranean Sea, not far from the coast of Sicily.


My artist name is Ryts Monet, I’m living end working in Venice. I was born in Bari on May 5th 1982, I’m graduated at IUAV University of Venice in Visual Comunications and Multimedia in 2011. I’m intrested in contemporary art, graphic deisign and silkscreen.

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Onde|Waves / Luca Pantorno

Mediterraneity is harmony of simple shapes, curvilinear, that creates elementary but complex universes. It’s empty’s wideness, it’s optic full of images, big elements or mosaic’s of little things. These are the main themes in this project. I’ve choose to represent Mediterranean identity through a set of illustrations that refers to the mediterraneity concept. With the single letters of the word “mediterraneo” it’s possible to make, indeed, a lot of words, very significant for the main theme and the goal of this project, like nido (nest), eterno (eternal), enorme (huge), mete (aims), remare (to row), ondate (waves). The words I’ve choose underline twice the belonging to the concept, not only in a physical and grammatical way, but even the figurative one, that is in the collective and historical imagination of the peoples that live that places, and lived in it, helping to increase the cultural vaues. In this way, it happens a sort of a game, between material and immaterial, that takes the observer to wonder and to get a sense of the meaning that those words have to the Mediterranean people. Onde (waves) it’s the name of the project, Mediterranean sea’s waves, indeed, the sea that connects physically and symbolically, the lands but even people and their cultures.
Graphically speaking, it’s solved by curvilinear signs, waves in fact, that links different letters inside the word “mediterraneo” making different words. Clearly linked to Giovanni Pintori, exactly to a work of him, 1953, to the promotion of “Olivetti Lettera 22”. The connection is not random, Giovanni Pintori, in fact was born in Sardinia. The posters which have different formats could have the following dimensions: besides a series of declination of those posters are thought to do brochure, about to communication, events scheduled by the development program.

Degree in Industrial Design, University of Palermo (2008/09). Study Design of visual communications and multimedia IUAV University of Venice. He has participated in advanced training course in “Brand dei sistemi territoriali” at the Politecnico di Milano.