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Toward a Human Design Project: Design Culture, the State, and the User in Poland, ca. 1956-1976

thesis
posted on 2024-05-01, 00:00 authored by Mikolaj Czerwinski
During the Thaw (ca. 1954–1956), Poland increasingly opened to the West in efforts to revitalize the communist system after the death of Stalin. This enabled the creation of new international networks between design practitioners as political elites allowed experts and art school students to travel. Joining western colleagues in developing industrial design, academically-trained designers in Poland seized the opportunity to participate in exchange across the Iron Curtain to develop the nascent field. By cooperating with their peers, designers at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków and Warsaw as well as the Institute of Industrial Design hoped to conceive objects for mass production and succeed in moving away from handicraft production, which dominated during the interwar period. Examining industrial design through international cooperation across the Iron Curtain reveals how Polish designers adapted to industrialization by adopting international aesthetics based on abstraction and then quickly reorienting them toward design methods and communications theory during the long sixties (ca. 1956-1976). Design methods de-centered aesthetics, transforming design into an applied science. By turning to this novel method, Polish designers hoped they could manage industrial processes and control the planned economy in order to raise the standard of living of their fellow citizens, in effect turning the state bureaucracy into what artist Krzysztof Wodiczko called “a human design project.” The human design project exemplifies the diverse efforts to adopt design methods to control industrialization and establish a modernity suitable for the socialist world. In our current moment of persistent globalization, exploring such practices serves to historicize processes and circumstances that are too easily assumed to be the exclusive products of a world after the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc.

History

Advisor

Jonathan Mekinda

Department

Art History

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

M a r t h a P o l l a k , M a ł g o r z a t a F i d e l i s , E s r a A k c a n , A d a m M i c k i e w i c z

Thesis type

application/pdf

Language

  • en

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