Polish Design, a Model to Refresh European Identity

In the days when Europe is called to rethink its identity through the vote for the European Parliament, we wonder if design could be able to suggest positive models for a new virtuous cycle. Indeed, isn’t design a metalanguage that has always strived for a totalizing influence? And in the midst of the crisis that Europe seems to experience, is it able to engage the users with inspiring attitudes?

The old continent is at the crossroad of multiple legacies. If we were to discard the most authoritative design tradition becoming too international and anonymous (Italy), a leading but trendy language (Dutch), a trustworthy manufacturing tradition that’s not properly heart-warming (Germany), nevertheless, a significant benchmark could be found in a minor player that has recently demonstrated a great potential and renewed energy. That’s how Polish design is seen nowadays: a great source of new talents; a festival, the Lodz’s one, that succeeded to impose itself in the dense calendar of design weeks; and an industry which is ready to respond to the needs of one of the first European gross national products in terms of growth.

How did this notoriety begin? Oskar Zieta, leading designer, contributed indisputably to attract the spotlights to Poland. His great ability combines the capacity to develop a technical innovation and translate it into a significant transformation of forms and affordances. Zieta’s masterpiece Plopp Stool, a true icon of the ’00 history of design, is the result of a patented technology that inflates a 2d metal sheet into a 3d volume.

Beyond the influence of its most renowned designers, the contemporary Polish design system has shown the capacity to build a network of competitive players, but also to update its cultural heritage with vitality and genuineness, rather than wallow in nostalgia-oriented stereotypes. The “Polish Job” exhibition, on show at the latest Salone del Mobile of Milan, brilliantly highlighted this approach: the show offered three keys of interpretation – locality, nostalgia, innovation – that could be interconnected and juxtaposed on one single project, demonstrating the ability to go beyond a simple re-release and transforming local dimension into an appealing and original offer. A look at the future, that of “Polish Job”, whose value goes beyond the boundaries of design, able to instil optimism, and inspire a new rejuvenation.

Giulia Zappa