Top 10 actions, that can change design in Ukraine

Yaroslav Belinsky, Coordinator for Ukrainian Design Forum 2017, analyzed the current positioning of design in the Ukrainian creative economy and emphasized the key ideas of the Forum, the implementation of which can change the situation for better.

In Ukraine, conceptual changes are needed in the positioning of design in legislation, management and education. The legal field that we have today, as well as the method of training personnel is aimed at work in an industrial, vertically integrated way of production. One of the key issues is the distorted perception of the role of design. In Ukraine, manufacturers often turn to designers late in the design process when there is a need to package or restyle a product. This way designers feel "not in their place” and prefer to pacify the customer with a conventional "pretty" design than spend time proving something and educating the client. In the end, all parties take the more comfortable and safer approach, even though it narrows the prospect of development.

However, the attitude of the client can be changed. To begin with, there must be a change of discourse and the formation of expert initiatives must occur. As for the next steps, two different approaches are outlined. 

  1. The first approach is a strategy of small steps. Incremental changes carried out by a private initiative at the level of one project/object, or within a single territory like a district of a city or a small town. Examples of this would be creative interventions in the form of the redesign of bus stops, signs, landscape design of common areas and the creation of sites for creative recreation. During and after implementation, these efforts should promoted on a wide scale among the local populace and wide audience. This furthers the values and ideas behind the project, provide a positive example and successful outcome, to inspire and cause a natural desire to do no worse "than the neighbors". It is worth noting that PR is sometimes disproportionate to the scale of real transformation.

  1. The other approach lies in the active cooperation between expert initiatives and the executive branch and legislators so that in a number of agencies (for example, in the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministries of Regional Development or other municipalities) there were design-ombutsmen. This would ensure that design decisions (from websites to landscaping projects) are made by competent experts in the field and not by bureaucrats in a voluntary way. In time, and perhaps in parallel to the aforementioned process, experimental programs for the preparation of designers will be introduced in several leading universities. The main condition for these programmes would be that among the teaching staff, not only theoriticians will be leading the classes, but also practicians that have successful case studies in their portfolio. The learning process needs to be built in such a way that students are able to learn about the full production chain from the generation of ideas to implementation. They should graduate with the ability not only to create, but also to sell their product to the consumer in order compete in the modern market. It is also imperative that at universities there must be fully-equipped workshops for prototyping and creative experiments. This, in turn, is hardly possible without established communication between the consumer, the producer, the investor, designers and the state.

It is obvious that both approaches do not exclude, but complement each other and equally require the prominent presentation of the essence of design. Thus, for the transformation of separate creative businesses into a sector of the creative industries, several requisites must fall into place. First of all, discourse and public demand are needed. Discussion within the industry must become a fact, on the basis of which a "mental map" of the design sphere in Ukraine will become established and develop further, including the formation of rules of the game, consolidation of players of the sector and a powerful advocacy campaign.

Top Ten Actions:

1. National campaign “Year of Design in Ukraine.”

A wide-scale promotional campaign aimed at the democratization of design among the general public. This can include:

  • Ukrainian Design Week;

  • Ukrainian Annual Report;

  • A series of educational lectures for the general public (non-designers);

  • Workshops on the methodology of Design Thinking for representatives of governmental departments, ministries;

  • Publication of handbooks on design (booklets, manuals) in Ukrainian. At the moment there are none.

2. Innovation Design Center 

A centre should be established which would become an influential institution that could consolidate the efforts of representatives of various spheres of the design industry (graphic design, motion design, fashion, industrial and product design). This would be an organization that would inform about best practices, standards for ethical conduct and provide professional expertise. The centre would communicate to the public and business leaders the power of design and the opportunities it offers.

3. Creating an annual statistical data survey about the Ukrainian design industry. Directory of designers. 

4. Launch of an online platform with regular newsletter updates, tips and suggestions on events in Ukraine and around the world.

5. Intellectual property support. Establishment of cooperation with lawyers involved in the protection of the rights of representatives of cultural and creative industries.

6. Support of Ukrainian designers abroad through the network of embassies. In 2017, delegations of industrial designers from Ukraine received positive reactions at Paris Design Week and Dutch Design Week, but it is worth noting that they were private initiatives.

7. Designers as part of government committees. The inclusion of designers into the process of design-making within governmental structures (for example, the implementation of Design Codes for cities or branding identities for regions).

8. Policy change. Holding a series of workshops using hands-on methods to facilitate shared learning among policy-makers.

9. Video case studies. The creation of educational and documentary films about the successful influence of design in social contexts and government.

10. Development of Design Action Plans and Road Maps for design sectors and industry with the inclusion of representatives of the creative industries and government.

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