Zgraf 11: This used to be the future


I can remember planning for leisure

living in peace and freedom from fear

Science that promised to make us a new world

religion and prejudice disappear

I can remember when this was the future

where it was gonna be at back then

Now religion and nuclear energy have united

to threaten. Oh God! Amen.

                        Pet Shop Boys: This used to be the future

                        [Neil Tennant-Chris Lowe, 2009]

The title of this year’s Zgraf theme is taken from the Pet Shop Boys song recorded with Philip Oakey of The Human League and released as a bonus track on their tenth studio album Yes. The title, sound and the lyrics of the song This used to be the future, in the Pet Shop Boys characteristic manner simultaneously refer to the early days of electro pop and represent sharp political commentary. So can we not just as electro pop and SF fans but also as designers and citizens, sigh, “this used to be the future”.

How did we envisage the future and what became of that? Where did those visions go awry? Or better still, can we today even think of different futures, or can we just envisage a bleaker version of what we already have?

In the mid 70s, at the time when Zgraf was first established design – precisely: the ideology of industrial design – was closely linked to the modernist project. The link was not just through industrial modernization but also through the projection of the new, of the future, through imagining a different world in the future. Turning to the future and imagining this new world of harmony and wellbeing, designers formed and greatly influenced this own period.

Without sounding nostalgic for better times gone by, in the early development period of design – from Bauhaus to Tschichold’s Die Neue Typographie, from Buckminster Fuller to the Ulm Hochschule für Gestaltung, works of Thomas Maldonado or Victor Papanek, Ken Garland‘s First Things First manifesto and antidesign – theoreticians and practitioners have been emphasizing social aspects and meaning of design. They designed objects of our material civilisation and sought to direct existing society towards a positive future. Design was regarded as a device for social progress, not just to raise productivity and sales. It was a means aimed at humanising our environment. How to create a better, more just society? Of course we can assert that designers dreamt while politicians and merchants chose ultimate paths and limits of development. None the less the dreams were important, they were ambitious and understood the role (and responsibility) of today’s generations for the future.

Progress is today perceived just as the increase of volume and speed (the number of sold objects, memory and CPU power, number of users…) and utopia is perceived only in a pejorative sense – as a lie, illusion or fantasy. The concept of social progress is replaced with rhetoric of austerity, privation, painful cuts and belt-tightening. In a world where costs of bank and investment fund bailouts fall onto the impoverished middle class, which cannot live on credit card debts anymore (as Papanek succintly formulated “to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, in order to impress others who don’t care”), there is still a tendency to perceive design just as an incentive for consumption, for boosting product competitiveness. This is done without much consideration about social conditions and real social costs and the effects of production. The popular term “sustainable design” is often used, but shouldn’t all design be “sustainable”? Various environmental movements that are (rightfully) against excessive packaging and planned obsolescence also usually evoke sentimental longing for the preservation of the natural and original. At the same time they forget that what they call “natural resources” are not simply natural, they are always the product of human invention, technology and culture. Just two centuries ago oil was not perceived as a resource at all. And who knows what surrounds us now that we perceive as invaluable, unexploitable or even as waste but will turn out, for better or worse (for example the privatisation of water sources), to be a valuable future resource. The role of design and designers, their ethics and political awareness here becomes extremely important.

The post utopian focus on pragmatic reality and the obsession with the past, either real or invented, is visible in different spheres of contemporary social life and it is not strictly limited to the field of design. It is, for instance, visible in the preservation of the so-called heritage and nostalgic exploitation of cultural memory. Theoreticians of politics and culture regard this global obsession with memory, remembrance, recollections and fixation on collecting the shards of history as characteristic phenomenon of the so-called post-communist condition. Post-socialism is – not just in Eastern European former socialist countries, but globally – turned to past, forensics, searching for culprits and judging. This in part explains the ideology of the global entertainment industry that has been in the past two decades obsessed with forensic TV serials. Classical tough policemen and rugged detectives are replaced by police analysts, geeks who use hi-tech scientific means to reveal perpetrators of long forgotten crimes (CSI, Bones, Numbers). This dominant forensic model tries to regulate everything with new restrictions and new legislation – starting from some really trivial and bizarre excesses of political correctness and culture of complaint, all way up to war crimes accusation of excessive shelling (implying there exists an acceptable, normal amount of shelling of civilian targets). The judiciary process at the same time relies ever more on scientific methods. As Renata Salecl points out, nowadays every condition calls for a pathological explanation. Thus psychology, psychiatry, genetics and neuroscience are employed to “explain”, to give “expert opinions” for every psychological phenomena or behaviour, which leads to the proliferation of diseases, syndromes and pathological states. This transforms the traditional notion of judicial proceedings – the judgment of a particular act in particular social circumstances – as a place for continuous negotiations about social values and norms, into an almost mechanical process of deliberation based on “scientific evidence”, which often turn out to be less scientific and certain than we are led to believe by the popular media imagination.

Observing the fall of the Berlin wall, the end of the Cold War and the triumph of western liberal democracies, in 1989 Francis Fukuyama proclaimed the end of history. In political sense he obviously was not right, but the cultural industry behaves as if he was. In cultural production after postmodernism and the invention of sampler everything seems to be based on sampling, taking over ready made formulae and strip mining the cultural codes of the past. With all her meat dresses and shock tactics Lady Gaga is hardly something more than a New Madonna, although even Madonna rarely moved beyond the realm already defined by David Bowie. New reproduction technologies spawned reissues. Instead of encouraging new names, cultural and music experiments and geographically-cultural expansion of pop music (which ended in the market niche of world music), the media industry is dedicated to the exploitation of the already known, to recycling cultural history at too high a prices and lamenting its own vulnerability from the P2P file-sharing.

How can we reinvent the future? Well, we have to turn away from forensic discourse and nostalgic digging through the past towards a political discourse that is by definition turned to the future.

But that future was exciting

science fiction made fact

now all we have to look forward to

is a sort of suicide pact


Was it the dear old future

that created the problems we face?

How do we deal with the fallout

of the age we used to call space?[i]

In the 1970s postmodernism strived to free us from the dogmas and deviations of high modernist ideology of the so-called International Style and the technocratic notion of progress. Today, however, it seems that postmodernism with its righteous intensions has thrown out not only the dirty bath water of modernism but with it also the baby. Today designers continue to talk about projects and planning, but what they really mean is pragmatically solving commissioned tasks. There is no global project or a comprehensive theory of modernization in this new interconnected world.

Today, after 9/11, amidst a long lasting economic crisis and a global wave of political protests that are crushing the last pieces of global political order established by the Cold War (Egypt, Libya), we not only face consequences of climate change and natural disasters – like the earthquakes in Haiti or Japan which clearly show social aspects of “natural” disasters – but we also witness what is called the fall of neoliberalism, a series of citizens protests and revolutionary movements (from the Maghreb to Wall Street) and an obvious lack of a new modernisation project and its theory. Marxism used to be such a theory of a universal modernisation project, its framework. Even where socialist revolutionary movements were not in power, along with workers movements they influenced the state politics, thus reforming politics of social democracy and the welfare state. However, in the past 50 years the global neoliberal politics crushed modernisation projects and often corrupted those secular, emancipatory, anticolonial movements in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In the meantime technological potentials and communication possibilities have radically changed. The new world of new (mainly digital) “machines” (not only gadgets, but primarily communication systems and services) with its logic of non-physical production and sharing is being squeezed into the ways of the old social machine of mass industrial production, copyrights, etc. It is already difficult to imagine how we managed to live and work without computers, cell phones, MP3 players, Google or Facebook. What was the world like before neon, billboards, city-lights, video screens? It is not easy to become aware that what we have today, what we take for granted – from transport and infrastructure to systems of social organisation (healthcare, social security, free public education, universal suffrage) – once did not exist. Indeed, for a major part of humanity these rights are still not met. Neoliberal politics of dismantling the welfare state under the motto of the economic necessity of belt-tightening leads to the reduction and elimination of these rights in countries where they were won long ago.

The results of two centuries of struggle of working men and women for their rights are rapidly vanishing before our eyes. Despite the fact that we live in an information and communication age there are still no political modalities which could be used on a wider global scale to discuss and collectively negotiate the directions of social progress in new technological and economic conditions. That is why movements like Occupy Wall Street; student protests against commercialisation of education or mass protests of web activists, hackers and ordinary Internet users against new laws and regulations in Europe known as ACTA and in USA as SOPA and PIPA, still represent the only way to conduct such far reaching and large scale discussions in a contemporary society.

Burdened by ever-faster market changes, that effectively mask the static social and political systems, we are unable to visualize even the recent past. How can we even begin to envision a different future? The Chinese censorship recently banned SF TV series with plots that involved time-travelling. The explanation was these shows are unrealistic and thus they are superstitious and, of course, there is no place for superstition in the official communist state media. Philosophers like Slavoj Žižek commented that what censors do not like is the actual idea that there are other possible alternative realities and that this case points us to the question of boundaries. What is considered possible or impossible today? That is a topical global question. Why do we consider a journey to Mars or tourist flights into space as actual possibilities, while at the same time we perceive as completely unrealistic ideas such as the reduction of expenditure for the military, or introduction of a free health care, education or social security claiming that realisation of such proposals would instantly crush dominant social, political and economic order? Or as Fredric Jameson put it: Why is it easier to imagine the end of the world or a global environmental disaster than a simple change in the mode of production?

I can recall Utopian thinking

bold mission statements and tightening of belts

demolition of familiar landmarks

promises made and deals that were dealt[ii]

Design once went side by side with utopia. It served as one of the means for realizing utopian ideas. Today it mainly boils down to pragmatic questions of “persuasive communications” and for sustaining veneer of a beautiful consumer society, while at the same time we are rushing into a social, economic and ecological disaster.

Utopia is by definition a non-place. It begins in our imagination, in our minds. Is there a place for utopia in our minds today, a place for imagining the future and alternatives to the present? Is it possible to establish an intellectual and political position where one doesn’t have to linger in between “reasonable” ammount of change and pragmatic deceit, desperately trying not to crush the dominant capitalist order? Is it possible to find a place where the fundamental questions of a social organization could be rethought again?

In this sense Zgraf 11 aims to discuss once again the relationship between design and social and political modernization in the post-industrial era. It wants to affirm the idea of design that is closer to social development than to mere goal of economic growth. What is the role of designers in public mediation of these ideas and their realization? Design and visual communications today relatively successfully project and construct fictional images of reality through advertising discourse. So, could they equally successfully project information on different realities; construct and bring into public realm images of possible realities, images of a future society?

In this 11th edition of Zgraf we would like to raise once again the questions of the nature and significance of design as a contemporary profession, and we have to begin by questioning the role and mode of operation of Zgraf itself. How did designers respond to the challenges of a new period and new circumstances? Are we prisoners of old ways of thinking, old divisions and controversies?

In the past two decades Croatia experienced the break up of Yugoslavia and of the socialist order, the war and a nationalist realisation of a sovereign state, the restoration of capitalism and the recently confirmed accession to the EU. At the same time in the process of “transition” we got the by-products of reality of a peripheral capitalism in its neoliberal form: deindustrialization, unemployment, clientelistic relations between politics and capital of dubious origin, an increase of the external debt, a tendency to endanger public good and the public sphere in general (clearly visible in the privatisation of public spaces, reducing available healthcare, free education etc.)

The international triennial exhibition of graphic design and visual communications Zgraf was organized for the first time in the mid 1970s. The timing coincided with the end of a modernization era of Yugoslav socialist self-management system. The exhibition was envisaged as an instrument for affirming design and the designer’s profession. The international character of the manifestation attempted to evaluate the work of local design and the activities of local designers within the current international framework. The exhibition is made up of two main parts. The first is a review exhibition of works completed in the past three years (since the last Zgraf exhibition), and the second is a thematic exhibition presenting works that address a specific exhibition theme.

The past ten exhibitions have been covering themes from the relationship between graphic design and art, the importance of education (arguing in favour of establishing a school of design), design and new digital technologies, social responsibility of design especially in advertising to local vs. global, etc. Although in the past thirty-seven years the design world has changed in many ways, the themes identified for special consideration by Zgraf are relevant even today. This 11th edition of Zgraf in a way marks a new beginning and therefore we wish to turn to these themes again not only with the exhibition, but with a series of accompanying programmes. These include the lectures of the international jury members, the EduZgraf programme aimed at students of design who will present their works at the exhibition titled Back to square one. This catalogue also brings a valuable text for further rethinking of design history, Out of the Studio: Graphic Design History and Visual Studies of an international jury member, well known critic and writer on visual communications – Rick Poynor who writes about the position of graphic design as an educational discipline and subject of historical representation in the academic field. The text starts with UK experiences, but obviously similar problems exist everywhere. Furthermore, sometimes we are surprised with the author’s dissatisfaction with the current situation, since from our point of view the English grass grass seems greener in that field.

Despite individual creative and commercial successes of local designers, studios and agencies the overall feeling is that the society has not yet recognised and used the potentials of the social role of design not just as a business device for the increase of competitiveness, but for a more successful communication – from street or tourist signalisation to the form and functionality of documents and forms of visual identities of state, city and public institutions.

Design today, as 37 years ago, strives for a powerful affirmation. The local jury member, renown designer Boris Ljubičić in his lecture will reflect on the current situation in Croatia where as he claims “everything needs to be designed – from the visual identity of the state and its institutions to the to the smallest products of economic or entrepreneurial activities.” The design community feels this social shortfall and the great need for a better, clearer and more efficient structuring of visual communications in the public sphere. Yet, what we are unable to explain is why society, political structures and even public institutions, still after decades of convincing do not recognise the needs and general social benefits of quality graphic and visual communications that extend beyond commercial interests and demands. It was pointed out several times that few years ago the painstakingly prepared draft for the National design strategy has mysteriously disappeared in the bureaucratic labyrinths of the HDZ Government. Unfortunately new socialdemocratic-liberal coalition Government has not yet shown interest or any awareness for the need for such a document or the development of a clear policy regarding the role of design in social development. Thus designers as citizens and as members of professional associations have to raise their voices and take initiative.

Book The Century of Croatian Design by Feđa Vukić was published almost twenty years ago.[iii] Today it is still the only major survey of local development of the discipline that we now generally call design. But, what do we see if we read it today? Several times throughout the book the author emphasized the then current basic neoliberal formula that design could not really develop in socialism because there was no market and private initiative. The “explanation” boils down to the psychological critique of socialism, a theory that the abolishment of private property, social ownership and self-management created a negative environment in which “collective responsibility” did not promote the quality of products and market success. The political reasoning behind the post socialist neoliberal mantra – without a market there is no democracy, without market and democracy there is no design – is clear in a period of liberal-capitalist normalisation but also in a period when design is on the global level equated with marketing and advertising and when other social and cultural roles of design are ignored. The unquestionable faith in the invisible hand of market economy that will solve all our problems is amazing. In hindsight the enthusiasm of the transitional moment can be understood, but today it is useful to notice the extent in which the real outcomes of social, economic and industrial development (including changes in the field of design as a profession and a social fact) in the past two decades are a complete opposite of what was then expected. How come that democracy, private ownership, free market, entrepreneurial initiative and sovereign state have not contributed much to a powerful development and role of design?

Fedor Kritovac, critic, theoretician and promoter of design (who unfortunately passed away last year) and sociologist Josip Županov wrote an interesting analysis in 1969 on the different types of resistance to the introduction of design into the local industry.[iv] The authors noticed: institutional resistance on the art scene and in industry, a strong value hierarchy between fine, applied arts and mass production, resistance to establishing higher education institutions, faculties and professional associations, withholding of funding, particular interest groups etc. It would seem appropriate to do a new research and analysis and see where, why and how the resistances to the introduction of design emerge now and in what aspects are they similar to those 40 years ago.

Design has strived to be recognized and established as a profession since early 1950s and establishment of Exat 51 group, through professional associations (ULUPUH, DDH/HDD), review exhibitions (Zagreb Triennial, Zagreb Salon, Zgraf, Designer’s Society exhibitions), the emphasis on the importance of design education at all levels, establishing centres for promotion of design and for connecting designers, industry and users (CIO, HDC, DC HGK). Today these steps in its development are behind us and we can even state that we have already passed the “transition” period. But the questions that still remain are: what, how and for whom to design? It is obvious that in spite of the existence of design studies and educated professionals the problems of product design still remain the same, if not even worse because of the de-industrialization and destruction of local production, with the perpetual lamenting on the “nonexistence of understanding and interest of the local economy for design”. Can Croatian designers join the new European and global labour market that will be opened with the EU accession? How do we educate young designers? Are we professional, knowledgeable, ambitious and organisationally capable to meet new challenges? How can we divide the responsibility for the state of profession (not only in the professional sense but as an important social factor) between the design profession itself and politics?

When we look back at the past’s views for the future and what it turned into we can rely on what was then written for the Zgraf exhibitions. In the review of the first Zgraf, now a somewhat forgotten author Darko Venturini in his text “At the margins of a useful initiative: Zgraf 75 – Prolegomena to the development of new relations”[v] emphasizes three main points: the social position and role of design, the critique of the works submitted for the exhibition and considerations on the possible future of Zgraf. The text is interesting not only as an indicator of what the professional public thought then but also as a framework for an evaluation of Zgraf’s achievements in the past 37 years. At the end of the text Venturini says, “Whether this exhibition will become an Event or yet another unfinished and short lived Zagreb initiative depends on further steps”.

It is obvious that the same type of ambitions and unfulfilled expectations is present from the very beginnings of the manifestation. Venturini points to the problem of the three year rhythm: “The triennial event now envisioned (mainly because of the funding problems) hasn’t got the time density needed for the manifestation to be affirmed as an active factor. The triennial exhibition can become just another triennial exhibition, a tradition not a relevant factor.” Today as in 1975 we can emphasize that only “a two year rhythm would ensure the manifestation a long lasting, real and relevant influence”. Venturini sees the role of a biennial Zgraf in a wider, then Yugoslav, context that should today be transferred to a regional context. The forthcoming Zgraf exhibitions will take place under completely different circumstances of the Croatian integration to EU and in that sense new conditions in the market and the profession of communication design. Although random, the inclusion of foreign authors from a wider international context (USA, China, New Zealand…) is important as it informs the local audience and establishes critical frameworks. But it is also important from the organisational viewpoint, orientation to the public and the sphere of social influence that Zgraf should set regional goals and establish partner relations with similar manifestations in Central and Eastern Europe. This is especially important for the networking of students and educational institutions in the field of design.

In 1975 Venturini’s discourse was clearly on the line of the modernisation project, and it does not distinguish the value of design for high or elite culture, subcultures, consumer or vernacular culture, which in today’s market circumstances could be encouraging. Graphic design achieves its social role in all those fields:

“Because it is aimed for the street, store and consumerism, because it is ephemeral in its duration and so susceptible to trends and change of taste – graphic design is as a rule far more influential, modern and trendy than the field of interest of the high culture in it classical sense. It is also more up to date, faster and more engaged in reacting to the needs of the moment. Graphic design in spite of its weaknesses – its temporariness and consumption – not just an element of art in the street that actively influences the overall urban picture but it is much more than that. (…) Assuming that the whole field of mass culture receives the social attention it deserves for its potential possibilities that can effectively, socially usefully and culturally direct towards a general progress.”

These statements can today seem self-understandable, but in practice high culture as well as design for cultural institutions and projects get more attention than so-called commercial design. But it is also true that the level of ambition, visual culture and graphic language of commercial design in advertising and packaging is usually very low, with regular excuses of designers and clients alike that that is what the public demands. It is unusual that today commercial design is at a lower level despite the social and technological progress and the aspirations of consumers than it was in the works of Milan Vulpe in the 1950s and 1960s.

Goroslav Keller reminds us in the review of Zgraf 2 from 1978[vi] that we spend much more time in department stores than in theatres, that we read more newspapers and magazines than books, that we are more often in contact with manufactured objects and their packaging than with works of art. This gives us a “better perspective on our everyday, mass, working and living culture. Product design and visual communications design have manifold social and cultural effect. In this way the designer when designing a product or visual message, also designs the viewer, reader, observer and the user of that product/message” and optimistically emphasises that by the process of strict critical selection Zgraf exhibition became “the creative element of the design policy of this country ”. Unfortunately this can not be said for all editions of Zgraf in the past two decades. Zgraf often aims to rise above a mere chronicler, but we cannot assess that it really became the creative element of the design policy, because Croatia does not even have a design policy. So, what is left are just periodic “short lived initiatives”.

We are often proud of the international accomplishments of Croatian designers at exhibitions and reviews such as TDC, ADC, Red Dot … But already in the Zgraf 2 catalogue Slovene design critic Stane Bernik reminds us: “we should not be led astray by the accomplishments of our designers of visual information. Very often our environment is filled with aesthetically disputable and contents wise unconcealed visual communications… As if our contemporaneous leaves no trace in the way we think, experience the world that we make with our hands”. If Bernik and so many others saw the solution of the problem in the establishment of the school of design and moving away from the then dominant applied arts approach, today is the moment to re-examine the ways and conditions of design education. How to educate and prepare students for work in new technological and social conditions if the “knowledge society” (as our politicians like to think of Croatia) has little of that to offer during their studies? We need not ask for the latest state-of-the art equipment, it is enough just to mention professional literature. Although most students are capable of using foreign literature, translations and books written by local authors are what make certain knowledge and terminology a part of local culture. Publishing circumstances are unfortunately very bad. We hope forthcoming publications such as the translation of Bringhurst‘s The Elements of Typographic Style and Mihajlo Arsovski monograph (both published by HDD), the translation of Geerit Nordzij‘s The Stroke and the book by Ivica Mitrović Designing of the New Media (both published by DVK UMAS) will encourage other publishers to enter this field with new translations but more importantly new author works.

In 1995 at the end of the introductory text of Zgraf 7 catalogue, noting the new role of computers and the expansion of multimedia communications, Feđa Vukić questions: “will it be possible in the future to set up an exhibition of graphic design without installing electronic devices? The answer to that question will be visible in the next two decades of Zgraf.” Unfortunately, almost two decades later, this year’s edition has very few submitted and selected works from the field of new media. Maybe authors from that field perceive Zgraf as too traditional – literally a graphic and not communications design exhibition. (It should also be noted that the economic crises is visible by the smaller number of submitted works this year).

Design continually changes – it is not what it was in 1975 or 1995. However, the profession of a designer, the graphic designer as well, was never strictly defined. If we follow the activities of ICOGRADA and ICSID we see a continuous questioning of the term, role and task of design, designer and their professional associations as well as problematizing the modes of design education. Changes went from an early emphasis on formal elements of design, professional organising, encouraging interdisciplinary approach to the orientation toward the “environmental” approach. A shift is occurring in the field that is typically labelled ‘graphic design’, a shift from printing technology to communication as a defining category. Thus the terms “visual communications”, “visual culture” and “communication art” are ever more used. Finally, ICOGRADA accepted the change of term in its title from “graphic design” to “communication design”.

For decades designers asserted that their profession is completely different from visual arts. But today designers very often turn to some hybrid forms between design, visual or media arts and performances that take place in galleries or at exhibitions (perhaps because they are often unable to find their work place in the “real” production of objects or meanings).

The modes of work and goals of the profession are radically changing. New technological and communication possibilities arise, but how can we stand up to the reduction of design scope and its practices in times of deep structural crises of the global post-industrial society? To many of us it seems graphic design has lost that important place and dynamic role that it held in the culture of the 1990s, both globally and locally. Maybe it was really an exceptional moment – energizing and an exciting nexus between the technological boom that enabled the availability of new digital devices and tools and radical cultural, social and theoretical interests of designers.

This in a way closes the circle from the initial divide of manual craft skills and design that was the foundation of 20th century industrial design. As Kritovac and Županov enthusiastically noted in 1969 that the new civilisation “assumes the reintegration of different spheres of human society and activity: primarily the integration between work and culture, culture and consumption. Design is today one of rare ways and means of such integration.” What is the role and social responsibility of design in the post-industrial era – in a time when new digital and social media foster the overcoming differences between work and leisure, production and consumption, original and copy, material and symbolic?

What are the possibilities of critical design practices today?

What is the role and the potential of education for designers and public education through design?

We decided not to offer the theme of this exhibition as a sentence or a question, but as a crossword of notions whose different combinations may present possible starting points for investigating these questions.

• Social               • Welfare                • Responsibility

• Modern            • (Open) access   • Self-initiated

• Common         • For everybody   • Potential/s

Unfortunately this year, we could say traditionally, we cannot be satisfied with the response to the chosen theme both regarding numbers or contents. Thus for the future exhibitions we should reconsider moving to the strict curatorial approach in setting up the theme part of the exhibition. Professionally organised, emphasizing the regional aspect (especially in the sphere of design education and education about design), trying to overcome the traditional antagonisms – which in reality have already been overcome – between the two professional associations ULUPUH and HDD, Zgraf has an opportunity to be recognized as a valuable design manifestation as well as a place for affirmation of design as a whole.

The crises of economic growth and social development crisis are today inseparable. The crises of economic growth cannot be overcome by the simplistic formula of neoliberal politics where costs are externalised and transferred to the weakest and most vulnerable. Austerity measures alone do not encourage economic growth without comprehensive visions of social development. What do we aspire to as a society? What kind of society do we want? What needs to be tackled today to be realised tomorrow? Designers have great possibilities, roles and responsibilities in public discussions and negotiations about even provisionary answers to these questions. In these activities we cannot stand and wait for approval and a starting signal from politicians or economic elites. The future is never pre-defined; it is a continuing public debate on the directions and goals of development.

In Croatia – as in most of the Balkans – the same old phrases about “territory as destiny” are often repeated, how our turbulent past limits and negatively directs our possibilities today. So for our predicaments today we often blame the Balkans, Byzantine or Ottoman Empire, socialism, Russians, rural mentality or nonexistence of the middle class. But, Walter Benjamin had a somewhat different idea about the relationship we have with our past. We today are responsible for the past. Are the victims, sufferings and revolutionary failures from the past futile or will they be justified? Our actions today define the historical sense of past events, or, in the words of Venturini or Alain Badiou, we define today what will become an Event. The future development depends on our activity or passivity. Yes, all future projections usually fall short. Things somehow go awry. But the simple fact that the every day is “Today” holds an actual possibility for action. Acts that define the fate of the past and prospects of the future. That is why designers have to draw the line every day.


This used to be the future

where it was at back then

Let’s tear the whole bloody lot down

and start all over again[vii]


[i]  Pet Shop Boys: This used to be the future, Neil Tennant-Chris Lowe, 2009, http://www.petshopboys.co.uk

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Stoljeće hrvatskog dizajna, Meandar, Zagreb 1996.

[iv] Županov, Josip and Kritovac, Fedor: “Odakle otpori industrijskom dizajnu”, in Industrijski dizajn i privrednodruštvena kretanja u Jugoslaviji, collected works of the symposium, ed. Eugen Canki, Radničko sveučilište Moša Pijade, Zagreb 1969, p. 239-261. Reprinted in Od oblikovanja do dizajna, ed. Feđa Vukić, Meandar, Zagreb 2003, p. 298-326.

[v] “Na marginama jedne korisne inicijative: Zgraf 75 – prolegomena za nove odnose”, Čovjek i prostor, no. 268, Zagreb, July 1975

[vi] Goroslav Keller, “Mnogo dizajnera traže autora” (“Many designers in search of an author”), Start no. 245, Zagreb 28.6.1978

[vii] Pet Shop Boys: This used to be the future, Chris Lowe, Neil Tennant, 2009.

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