About design and living in the Netherlands – an interview by Joanna Pańczak with Kasia Zaręba, designer of Poznań Park(ing) Day
Who is a designer nowadays?
The role of a designer is like the role of a translator. Design operates at the junction of various fields. For instance, there are many objects around us in our contemporary world which we do not understand. The role of a designer who knows much about technology is to translate for a given user how the object works, how to use it. I create at the joint of art and design.
What is the difference between art and design?
We were asked about that almost every day throughout our studies. With time, I’ve started to believe the question is not so important anymore. Borders of professions started to blur. Architects present their clothes collections, fashion designers create domestic design – this is nothing surprising. Most of us work at the junction of several fields.
Yes, but at the Academy design is still a part of art, right?
Yes, it rather is. A good example, though, is School of Form recently established in Poznan. This school treats design as a completely separate field. What is precious is the fact that one does not have to know how to draw in order to get there. This is one of the most important changes introduced by Li Edelkoort [school’s co-founder] to design education, since it gives a chance to people who are creative and have great ideas, but do not know how to present them yet.
Design takes the tools from art. But uses them in a different way. In order to design something, one has to borrow the techniques of drawing, but put them to practical use. In my designs I’m trying to create user experience. The object must be more than just pleasure for the eye, it should be felt and experienced in many other interactive ways. Design is in general more interactive than art.
Could you provide an example?
I remember that someone designed a couch in our school. It seemed like an ordinary couch, but when you touched it, it turned out to be soft on one side and hard on the other.
Another thing is that – if the couch was presented in a museum, probably no one would allow sitting on it. This is a huge problem of exhibiting institutions and curators. They forbid experiencing art.
Right – is design created with museums in mind?
When I started school it probably was so. Now, we are undergoing a great revolution. We think about design as an increasingly practical area – but of course it is not that simple. At Eindhoven school there was a student, a guy from Afghanistan. He designed a ball moved by wind, rolling on desert sands and disarming mines. Theoretically it was a great idea, but it did not work. Probably, were it realistic, someone would have thought about it long ago (laugh)
This was exactly a project that bordered between art and design, but with probable destination in a museum. It pointed people’s attention to a problem for which no solution has been found so far, although it seems so close. This differentiation, ‘it works – it doesn’t work’ still poses a serious problem. Many designers create things that are seemingly functional but turn out to be flops. Sometimes, the design is just a question, and not the answer. This should be clearly marked
How was your design for the Park(ing) Day created?
This is an interesting story. During studies in Eindhoven, I lived in a students’ home with eight other people. From time to time we organized large parties. For one of them we made a table covered with grass. We prepared a dinner together and everyone had a great time. I saw this place integrating people; we met there more often than usual. It stayed with us for two weeks in that shape. I thought sharing this amazing experience in a public space would be valuable.
From the perspective of a few months that have passed since the results of the competition were announced, would you change anything in your project?
I would. Much has already been changed. Jola Starzak and Dawid Strębicki helped me a lot. We modified the form of the table so that sitting at it is more comfortable. The menu changed as well. September is not the season for tomatoes. When I designed the table, I wanted it to be interactive, so I introduced the idea of branches of fresh tomatoes. Generally, the concept is that everyone may pick something for their dish from a bush. Now, instead of tomatoes there will be apples and a lot of fresh herbs. I plan to prepare lemonade for my guests, I’ve recently met a girl who makes aloe creams, and she recommended them for my lemonades. Unfortunately, they turned out to be a bit bland. It is best to have an expert who may give hints about when and which vegetables and fruit bloom.
You’ve been living in the Netherlands for a few years. What is the attitude of the Dutch towards Poles?
That depends. They are quite unique towards foreigners, they love them. It is very easy to live here. But Poles are shy, and rarely open up to the Dutch, so they don’t know much about us. Sometimes I feel I’m in a completely different cultural space. I played a game of charades, with names of film and literature characters, together with a few Dutch people. I chose Dostoyevsky – from among several people, only one knew him. This was a great surprise for me. They do not have a reading list here, everyone reads what they want. But sometimes I feel the Dutch are very similar to us. They like combinations just as much as we do (laugh).