Biography of the Ukrainian industrial design objectively consists of four parts. The first one is connected with the comprehension of the very existence of such phenomenon as “design”. Chronologically, this period is defined by the late XIX – early XX centuries. At that time, the development of the art and industry activity of Ukraine was mainly associated with the rapid growth of industry in the eastern regions of the country.
Needless to say that many branches of manufacture needed new specialists, including of course project designers. The centre of industrial design of Ukraine was the city of Kharkiv with its deeply rooted traditions of development and organization of the industrial production. No wonder that in Kharkiv in 1869 the drawing school of M.D. Raevska-Ivanova, a separate special educational institution, was opened. Kharkiv was quickly developing into a big industrial centre that’s why M. Raevska-Ivanova chose for her school the Art and Industry specialization. Moreover, at the beginning of the XX century there were three non-classical secondary schools and 19 technical and vocational schools in Kharkiv. Some art subjects were also taught at the Kharkiv Institute of Technology, Kyiv Polytechnic Institute and Lviv Polytechnic Institute. The main task of the designers of those times was to generate the mass industrial products.
The industrial design entered a new stage of development after the 1930-s – the era of Stalinist industrialisation when a success in the development of the factory engineering culture was gained. At that time, the efforts of the engineering and design thoughts were realized (sometimes in a great way) in the products of the Kharkiv machine-building plants. Such industrial products as tractors and locomotives of the Kharkov Tractor Plant, planes of the aircraft factory, products of the electromechanical, bicycle and other plants may evidence these victories. The products’ design parameters that was developed in the field of mechanical engineering were not inferior to their Western European counterparts of that time.
In the post-war period, there was a problem of the technological inferiority in the USSR. Mostly it was evident in the production of the mass consumer goods. Factories produced products based on the capabilities and needs of factories and at the end consumers settled for not always high quality copies and modifications of foreign products.
1960 – 1980-s
In the 1960-s the design of Ukraine demonstrated the absolute identity with the designer spirit established in Moscow. As before, the main work of designers was carried out on objects in the field of machine and instrument making which resulted in the orientation toward functionality and utility of products. In 1962 there was a strong scientific and methodical school VNIITE (All-Union Research Institute of Technical Aesthetics) with branches in the largest cities of the Union, including Kyiv and Kharkiv, established. The main achievement of VNIITE and designers of the 1960s-1980s was the creation of a good scientific base and fundamental research in the field of ergonomics. Since 1963 the Kharkiv Art and Industry Institute began to prepare professional designers (on the base of the Kharkiv State Art Institute). The design groups appeared at many new enterprises.
EXTRACT: “Ergonomics and design are equally in need of each other because they are striving for the same goal – the maximum accord between technology and man” – Y. B. Soloviev, the founder and first director of VNIITE, the first chairman of the Union of Designers of the USSR.
In general, the Ukrainian design made worse showing than the design of Western countries. The prevailing ideological dogmas and schemes hampered the development of aesthetic culture. In the 1970s-1980s a planned economy and bureaucratization prevented the introduction of progressive design projects into the mass production.
What happened to the Ukrainian design after the dissolution of the USSR?
Until the 1991 VNIITE was a developing institute with 15 huge branches, young talents, and direct transfer of experience. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union there was a loss of the unified document circulation system. The euphoria that appeared in the early 90’s because of some illusion of transition to the new knowledge that will open incredible horizons led to the disastrous results. The moment of the transition of the documentation was missed, the data was not digitized, the results of many fundamental design researches that was contained in the libraries and funds of the VNIITE branches were destroyed, professional communities and collectives disappeared.
Due to the circumstances, the professional design of Ukraine at the beginning of the XXI century was basically expressed at the laboratory and exhibition levels. The evidence of the high quality design and its all-round development could be seen at the local exhibitions and competitions, such as “Vodoparad”, “Replicanty”, “Svitlo” etc.
EXTRACT: In Ukraine, there is technical support of the design activity (there are more than 30 technical universities in the country) which means that there is a significant potential for professional education that has not yet been revealed for real, but it has all the chances to do it.
A new step in the development of design is associated with the young professionals in this industry. Recent graduates of the leading art, architectural and design universities in Ukraine demonstrate quite optimistic performance. Over the past five years, the number of design studios that do not just create but also realise and sell their products has more than tripled. This is evidenced by the quick multiplication of our Red Dot prizes. In 2016 Ukrainian designers won six awards: 4 for the concepts and 2 for the realized products. Among the winners of the 2016 there are already well-known designers Kateryna Sokolova, Pavel Vetrov, NOTT design, Svoya studio, Smart Atoms studio and designer Alexander Morocco that developed a flexible e-reader (only 6.5 mm thick) for the international company PocketBook.
About the fact that the Ukrainian design exists says also an increase in the number of the realized concepts. Mukomelov Studio has been cooperating with the German manufacturer of Schock kitchen sinks for a long time. It also has projects for Roche Bobois, Riva 1920, Moree, Kikkerland and others. Also Kateryna Sokolova, a graduate of the Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Arts, cooperates with Western companies on a regular basis. Today Kateryna leads projects in Paris, Hong Kong and Kyiv, cooperates with companies like Ligne Roset, Jarre Technologies, Forestier and others.
It should be noted that some own conscious manufacturers that realize the original ideas of designers (such as MoDi, MZPA, ELIO) began to appear in Ukraine.