If there is a place from which to discover the world of Design in Austria, it is definitely Graz.
Designers, companies, international guests, public installations, and much more. Also this year, DesignWanted has confirmed its collaboration with Designmonat Graz, now in its 10th edition.
For the occasion, I had the pleasure of participating in the Opening from May 4 to 7, thanks to the invitation of Creative Industries Styria, which organizes the initiative and since 2007 promotes Design as a driver of economic development.
“The main task of the first years was to raise awareness”
said Mr. Eberhard Schrempf, Managing Director of Creative Industries Styria.
Today, Styrian creative industries generate a turnover of 1.6 billion euro per year. Over 4,300 companies, ranging from architecture to design and media to advertising.
The total number of employees is around 15,200 people.
The business seems to be big enough to confirm that the efforts put into it have been paid back. The vision of Mr. Eberhard was right and Designmonat is a consistent representation of it.
The desire of doing things, sharing ideas and build ‘bridges’ are not lacking. If you add to these a consolidated and constantly expanding international network, Austria will certainly be able to assert itself on the global scene.
Graz is also a UNESCO City of Design since 2008. A timeless attribute to a city, not only regarding existing design in Graz, but also entailing the responsibility to implement design into everyday life.
My first day started with Exhibition Opening of Shaping Human Cities, at GrazMuseum.
11 experiments realized by designers, activists, students and residents.
11 european cities were at the center of the project (Belgrade, Bilbao, Brussels, Cieszyn, Graz, Helsinki, Ljubljana, London, Milan, Saint-Étienne, Tallinn).
The goal: to discover what makes cities closer to us, how people can interact with them and get involved in a deeper and more dynamic way.
Eleven miniature golf courses that invite the visitor to play. Each lane is assigned to one Human City and one of their experiments. The courses incorporate the spatial and creative circumstances of the experiments and pose a challenge for the players.
The day continued with the Grand Opening Ceremony held at the Joanneumviertel Graz, where Mr. Schrempf, Mr. Siegfried Nagl (Mayor of Graz) and Mrs. Barbara Eibinger-Miedl (Minister of Economy) have welcomed and introduced us to the new edition of Desigmonat.
“Creativity and design are a crucial economic factors for Styria and Designmonat Graz is an important international showcase for the power of Styrian design and the strengths of the region, namely innovation and creativity.”
Stated Mrs. Barbara Eibinger-Miedl.
Right after, the chance to visit ‘SELECTED – Out of the Frame’ at Neue Galerie Graz, Austria’s largest interior and product design exhibition, a wonderful concept presenting 80 exhibits from 17 nations.
The products were matched with 200year-old portraits creating a fascinating setup.
The day ended at Helmut-List-Halle with the Designers’ Night & Dinner. Time for party and music, and still getting to know some of the many international guests!
Wake up early, I’m ready for my second day in Graz! The Designers’ breakfast and a tour of the city await me.
We all meet at the Weinbar Klapotez.
The speakers are the owners of different design stores around the city, which we will visit shortly, where innovative concepts and creative products make the customers’experience. A nice way to show the design’s most effective side: how it generates business.
Among the places that most impressed me:
- The concept store Mur, full of very satisfying design objects
- The optician Brillenquartier, which housed a container used for eye examination. Really unusual!
- Milli Lux, a small store selling handmade lamps realised with natural and sustainable fabrics
- Another concept store, Tash Living, due to the particularity of the products and also to the unique and comfortable set-up
Later on, the Tolerance Posters exhibition curated by the well-known comics artist Mirko Ilić.
Located in the central streets of Graz, an exhibition that also represents this year’s topic at Designmonat: how much tolerance does design need?
The “Tolerance Posters” are original contributions by 38 international designers and do provide extraordinary answers to this question.
An exhibition available to the city to reflect and appreciate the beauty of the graphic arts.
The day continued with the visit to other urban expositions.
The Customized Fences. A project by The Styrian company Zaunbauer H + S Zauntechnik which invited local designers and architects to an ideas competition on innovative and interesting fence design.
Also, interesting bench concepts have been dislocated in the city, like the „Wolkenteppich (Cloud carpet)“ for the city, a coproduction of the architects Marleen and Bernhard Viereck with furniture manufacturer Johannes Messner; or ‘Simple elegance’, the prototype by the Graz-based architect Andrea Vattovani.
My last visit of the day was at the Designforum Steiermark, where the ‘Bets of Austrian Design’ was shown. A small, but interesting exhibition of especially tech products.
Couldn’t wait for the dinner, which was organized at the very suggestive Murinsel, an artificial floating “island” in the middle of the Mur river.
It was designed by New York City artist Vito Acconci on the occasion of Graz becoming the 2003 European Capital of Culture.
Enjoyed the evening with my new international friends talking about cities and design.
I was really impressed to see such a dedication to the common cause of making design a strategic asset for the public development. And I was happy to share the vision we have at DesignWanted, which is pretty close: supporting talents and bring design everywhere!
I expected to see Design only Graz, and instead the third day gave me a nice surprise: two visits to unexpected places, able to combine tradition and modernity, design and art.
The first visit was at Schloss Hollenegg, where we were greeted by Alice Stori Liechtenstein, the owner of the Castle.
An innovative vision for a place like this: to bring design pieces, finished or experimental, between walls that tell secular stories.
For the third consecutive year, Schloss Hollenegg has opened many of its rooms for a design exhibition, to explore the importance of heritage, in personal and collective terms, looking both at the past and at the future.
The next stop was at the Weinhof Krenn49 (a winemaker), which has found a winning ally in design to promote its products.
Between tradition and the future, creativity is used to serve the stories that this company and its wine have to tell.
Between wine tasting e dinner, we did not miss anything. Time to return to the base.
Designmonat Graz, in the end
What I like about design is its ability to combine and distinguish at the same time, to innovate and remain faithful to tradition. But above all, its complete transversality.
It is full of values, both local and international, and manages to convince completely different people when it is well done.
Visiting Designmonat confirmed my feeling and, in the same way, highlighted once again the importance of marketing in any design project.
Talent, without a clear strategic vision and a defined marketing action, can hardly go far.
Creative Industries Styria, in the figure of Mr. Eberhard and his team, are doing exactly that: they have brought together minds, energies, products and companies, and have worked hard to create an ecosystem that can support Styria and, thinking bigger, Austria, in positioning itself as an ideal place for creative people.
Attracting talents, innovating, bringing it out, are all concepts that need the institutions’ support. Individuals have the task of translating into the business the added value that is created by Design and Creativity.
Designmonat is a young and extremely lively and concrete reality, useful for the world of design on a global scale.
See you soon Graz!