This year’s anniversary edition is held under the theme of ‘Minimalism’. Against all appearances, this is not an easy subject - on the one hand, the aesthetic of minimalism remains in vogue, but, on the other, a good minimalist design is timeless and classical.
I cannot agree that the aesthetic of minimalism is in vouge and that a good minimalist design is the one that is classical and timeless. What I do agree with, however, is that this year’s theme is difficult. Something minimalist is complex at the same time, for it has to retain its maximum functional potential. An object should not have any additional decoration, but if it does, the decoration should complement the form and function of an object and be its integral part. It is like in real life - minimalism should not mean getting rid of all you have, but it should be about reducing certain needs and focusing on what is important and essential to your life. Coming back to design, a good product - regardless of a theme - is the one that perfectly combines form and function alike. What comes with “Minimalism” is the economy of form and materials.
Looking at the winning designs of the previous editions we can say that they are the quintessence of existing trends. Multipurpose toys, ceramics, mobile furniture and geometric lamps. What appeals to the jury? Is it the conformity with current trends or maybe the risk taken in the interpretation of a theme?
The jury is not interested whether a work reflects current trends, because it is not the essence of design. What is important is how the work approaches the theme, how the work is made, what its quality is and to what extent it is innovative, but also the choice of materials and the care of execution. Of course, some works display some signs of external influences - be it in their materials, shapes, colors - but it is not surprising because we always, less or more consciously, draw some influence from the world around us (the only crucial thing is not to copy others).
What are the criteria for judging the designs? Is it a form, function, aesthetic, conformity with current trends or the element of surprise?
I have already mentioned the criteria for judging the designs, but let me refer to the element of surprise. If by “the element of surprise” we mean that a product is impeccably designed and we are stunned at how innovative it is and how perfectly it approaches the theme, then yes, the element of surprise is important. But if we get something that is nothing but shocking we find it boring. Let me remind you that a design should be functional even if it is unique.
Who can participate in the competition? Do you have to be a professional designer?
Everyone who fulfils the requirements can take part in the competition. The name speaks for itself, the “Młodzi na Start” [Young Designers - Ready, Steady, Go] competition is addressed to people making their first steps in design. It is amazing if someone has a professional attitude towards their work as a designer from the very beginning.
What happens to winning designs? Are there any chances of them being implemented? How are the winners of the competition doing in the design market?
I think that what happens to designs is less important than what happens to winners or other participants of our competition. I know that some of them have developed connections with producers, others have gained motivation for further work - they participate in various competitions, receive prizes and sell their products. There are several people who have opened their own design studios. We cannot forget that, first of all, the competition gives you a chance to confront other designers, test your skills and meet people from the field. Also, it is a great opportunity to have your designs published in an international magazine. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning and what young designers are going to do with this beginning depends heavily on their persistence, talent and luck.
During these 5 years, what has surprised the jury the most?
I think what surprises us the most is participants’ lack of self-criticism and their unfounded overconfidence that they created something special despite the fact that they simultaneously ignored technological rules. So this is what is surprising when it comes to people, but, speaking of designs, I will put it this way: I am always very pleased when I see designs crafted professionally from top to bottom. I like it when they are well designed, aesthetic and functional. When I see them, I usually think: why aren’t our prizes higher? Why can’t I give one more prize to the design I like? Believe me, I would gladly take home some of the designs. I have a dream that, one day, I will be able to stream the “Młodzi na Start” exhibition live and show it to my international ELLE Decoration family.
photos: projects awarded during last year's edition, main image: Circle Collection, Gabriela Sienkiewicz / ELLE Decoration archive