The European Design Prize 1988

Preface to catalogue, published by Danish Design Center Copenhagen

The main forces responsible for shaping the world of material goods radiated from Europe. They were part of the industrial revolution, they prompted awareness, and they took the form of ideas and programmes adopted, imitated, processed and developed all over the world. Morris, Werkbund, de Stijl, Bauhaus, HfG Ulm, and Memphis all manifest this.

Design is a consequence of industrial development, and it is linked to technological progress. Design also gives an answer to how people handle technology, or how they ought to handle it. The richness of European design ideas exemplifies this – and the controversies between different design concepts are proof of it. Together they have produced a whole industrial culture of their own.

It would, however, be wrong if all the merits of well-designed products, which have won prestige in many parts of our trade and industry, were attributed to design effort alone. They are the end result of the socio-cultural development that make the creation of a product culture possible.

The forces behind this development include:

> Models of design education:
For example Bauhaus or the
Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm

> Models of design promotion:
Here we could mention several of
the European design centres and
their models for design promotion

> Models of industrial organization:
England has played a pioneering role.

Quite apart from that, some European industries – such as Olivetti or Braun – have made history and become representations of modern industrial culture.

In the USA-Japan-Europe triad, Europe has the oldest traditions in the field of industrial design. European strength lies in the great variety of national characteristics which, for all their diversity, have common roots.

But if we make local references to ‘Italian’ or ‘Scandinavian’ design, does ‘European’ design have any definition in a global context? The definition is based on a growing awareness, resulting from political, cultural and economic development, which represents some distinguishing characteristic. Technology may be bought and cold, but not awareness.

In the competition between the industrial nations, and in the defensive against the competition from low-wage countries, what has been emerging in Europe is a valuable resource which we must appreciate and nurture.

I hope the European Design Prize will contribute to this.

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