Research Groups & Network

  • Design Silesia

    Silesia is one of the first regions in this part of Europe which decided to develop its innovativeness through widely understood design - creating a unique project Design Silesia, implemented by the Marshal's Office of the Silesian Voivodeship, Zamek Cieszyn and Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, financed from the Human Capital Operational Programme in the years 2010-2013. In 2011 the project was joined by: Faculty of Architecture of the Silesian University of Technology and Ars Cameralis Silesiae Superioris Cultural Institution.

    Although the philosophy of design is universal, its specific application always has regional roots - it is created here and now, for specific people. The Silesian Voivodeship was the first to decide to combine design with official reality in such a comprehensive way. From our perspective, the design is not treated as a luxury good, but as an action that is supposed to make our lives more comfortable and smarter. There is nothing more tempting than a vision of possibility to improve everyday life, which is why new centres and initiatives promoting design are being created in Poland (Poznań, Kielce, Gdynia, Łódź). Each of them clearly defines its mission and looks for the sphere in which it will stand out. The project from Silesia is the only one that clearly focuses on the public sector. For this activity, we were the first public institution in Poland to receive the prestigious international DME Award granted by experts from Design Management Europe in 2012. The proposed activities (37 have been undertaken since the beginning of the Design Silesia project) are following: “Design do… usług!” (Design at your service!) (assistance in redesigning services of selected institutions in the region), Mobilne Kontenery Designu (Mobile Design Containers) (mobile exhibition with examples of good cooperation of entrepreneur - designer/design team) or the Śląska Rzecz (Silesian Thing) competition, in which products and services introduced to the market by companies and institutions from the region are rewarded.

    The main objective of the project was to familiarize entrepreneurs, local governments and the academic and scientific community with the essence of design. The aim was also to encourage implementation of innovation through design, which plays an essential role in the creation of new products, services and systems, helps to solve problems and contributes to finding the best solutions geared towards a wide variety of users, so as to improve the quality of public spaces. Design requires specialist knowledge and a system of support of its implementation. Therefore, the project served to create a network of cooperation and exchange of information between Silesian entrepreneurs, designers, representatives of local government units and the academic community.

    As part of the Design Silesia II project, the Academy of Fine Arts carried out, among others, the following projects:

    • Designing workshop: “Design w terenie” (Design in the Field), the idea of which is to create design solutions for selected municipalities (gminas) in the Silesian Voivodeship (three editions carried out in 2011, 2012 and 2013).
    • Odlotowa Galeria” (Winged Gallery) - promotional space for design located in the Katowice Pyrzowice Airport terminal.
    • Competition for “Odlotowy Mebel” design.
    • Fest Design – a festival for young designers, a space for confrontation of the students’ ideas about the profession of a designer with the practitioners who will evaluate student portfolios.
    • Dobry Produkt dla Śląska (Good Product for Silesia) – a competition for a product design carried out in cooperation with “Być Razem” Foundation.
    • “Design Office” – an office dedicated mainly to young designers – students and graduates from the whole region – the task of which is to help them find a job in their profession or start their own designing business.

    Design Silesia I
    implementation period: April 2010 – March 2011
    sources of financing: European Social Fund (85%), state budget (15%)
    budget: the whole project PLN 1,051,851
    project partners: Department of the European Social Fund of the Marshal's Office of the Silesian Voivodeship (leader), Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Zamek Cieszyn

    Design Silesia II
    implementation period: April 2011 – December 2013
    sources of financing: systemic project, including: European Social Fund (85%), state budget (15%)
    budget: the whole project: PLN 5,466,743.71; Zamek: PLN 1,297,578
    project partners: Department of the European Social Fund of the Marshal's Office of the Silesian Voivodeship (leader); Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, Ars Cameralis Silesiae Superioris, Zamek Cieszyn

  • Projects for public space - Design in the field and UL WORK/SHOP

    Public space is above all the people. The town/city is not only the buildings, roads, infrastructure and spatial composition, but also (and perhaps above all) inhabitants, employees, tourists or even visitors. When creating a design for a public space with a rich history, inhabitants and permanent users attached to the place, we cannot ignore their right to decide on their own place of residence and living. The contemporary designer is not only an expert planning a new, better world from behind the desk, but also an activist open to communication with people, who uses his/her professional knowledge to respond to real problems, identified together with the users.

    The aim of UL WORK/SHOP is to promote the design and its role in creating friendly public spaces. Four groups of students and graduates of design faculties of Silesian academia, under the leadership of designers, worked in the urban space of Katowice. The main goal of the workshops was to stimulate creativity and release the potential hidden in people living in Silesia.

    Three days is not enough to create a project of transformation of a selected place. However, it is enough time to familiarize oneself with the specificity of the design process for public space. The aim of the workshops was to make young designers and students aware that the creation of a design for public space must be preceded by a thorough analysis of the place, and above all by consultations with its users.
    In 2011, the workshops were conducted by Beza Projekt, Parastudio, Kompott and Designlab. The curator of the second edition of UL WORK/SHOP was Marlena Happach, Founder and President of the Warsaw Association Odblokuj, associating architects, urban planners, designers, graphic designers and sociologists. By initiating undertakings aiming at improvement of the quality of public space, Association Odblokuj involves inhabitants and users of the space in the design and implementation process. (Find out more about Odblokuj Group:

    Design in the field! - design workshops on public space and social design
    One of the areas of particular interest of the Design Silesia project is public space, which is still being highly neglected in many places in Poland. Good organization of urban transport, high quality, attractiveness and, above all, functionality of the elements of equipment of urban space, recreation and leisure space, playgrounds or public utility buildings, improve the quality of life of inhabitants, improve their well-being and positively influence their behaviour. This, in turn, may increase the social and professional activity of the inhabitants, which translates into the economic and cultural development of the region.

    The Design Silesia programme provides for various activities related to the education of local government in this area: training, workshops, conferences. Their aim is, on the one hand, to highlight the importance of measures improving the quality of public space and, on the other hand, to raise awareness of how design can support the process of change in this area. One of the tasks implementing this education process are the “Design in the field!” workshops.

    The main objective of this undertaking is to analyse in depth the design problems occurring in a selected municipality by a team of designers leading a group of students and closely cooperating with representatives of the municipality where the event takes place.

    “Design in the field!” are design workshops during which a group of young designers is to create a concept of development and activation of key places in the public space of a selected town/city. Students of design faculties of Silesian universities, under the supervision of experts, are living and working in a selected municipality for seven days, trying to get to know and understand it as well as possible. In the design process, emphasis is placed on solutions that meet local needs. The intensive week of workshops is full of conversations with the inhabitants of the municipality, discussions and field visits. The workshops programme also included several open lectures discussing various aspects related to public space. The aim is to inspire participants and inhabitants to think differently about their own town/city and to look at local challenges from a broader perspective. During the development of the workshops formula, the emphasis was put on the municipality authorities’ understanding of the concept of design, among others, through working with designers and active participation in the design process.
    The results of the workshops are concrete design concepts and, above all, a change in the awareness of both the municipality authorities, its inhabitants and designers about the public space, methods of diagnosing problems connected with its functioning, development and the role of inhabitants' participation in the process of its transformation.

    Carrying out design works
    We managed to invite the best specialists from all over Poland to the Design in the field! team. One of them is Marlena Happach, an architect who founded the Association Odblokuj working to improve the housing environment. In Warsaw, she managed to revitalize several Praga courtyards and also disenchant the prefab housing estate in Rakowiec. Disputable issues that arise in projects with a large number of participants will be solved by Ewa Zielińska - another Design in the field! expert, an experienced mediator at the Dispute and Conflict Resolution Centre. The expert group will also be supported by young designers: Krystian Kowalski from Kompott design studio and Silesian designers, Weronika Kiersztejn and Michał Kozik from MUSK collective design.

    Opinion on the workshops (City Hall of Bytom):
    Certainly, participation in the workshops was an interesting and inspiring experience. We are impressed by the involvement of all design team members, both the students who demonstrated openness, creativity, commitment, ability to establish contacts with the inhabitants, in-depth analysis of the information gathered, as well as the experts whose observations will undoubtedly be useful in the planned activities. A particular inspiration was offered by the examples of public space designs, successfully implemented in Poland and abroad, presented during the open lectures, taking into account the role of architecture, art and design in urban development, as well as good practices in terms of inhabitants' involvement. Apart from the direct results of the workshops, the knowledge about the methods of local community participation and ways to improve the effectiveness of communication between inhabitants and the city hall, the practical application of which we could observe during meetings with inhabitants, local community leaders, as well as with officials, seems to be extremely important. What is also important, thanks to the participation in the project, we were able to get to know each other better and find common points in our diverse range of activities. In the future, this will result in even better cooperation for the benefit of the inhabitants and sustainable development of Bytom.

  • Service design course

    Design Silesia II is a project the main objective of which was to familiarize entrepreneurs, local governments as well as the academic and scientific community with the subject of design and to encourage the implementation of innovation through design. In 2013, the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, as a project partner, organized a pioneering, nationwide Service Design Course at a world-class level. This is the only course in Poland organized in cooperation with the prestigious research centre PDR - The National Centre for Product Design & Development Research WALIA, which was a partner of the project. Similar courses are organized in Poland (e.g. SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities - post-graduate studies: User Experience), but their extent is not so extensive and they do not include staff from many different foreign centres. During the six two-day meetings, 15 participants learned about the importance and application of service design and acquired practical skills to prepare for the implementation of service design processes in both the public and private sectors. The course included lectures, workshops and design work in cooperation with three public institutions. Classes were conducted in the workshop and design mode by Polish and foreign practitioners in the industry with extensive market experience, e.g. Ralph Talmont (consultant for global brands: Nike, Commercial Union), Katarzyna Krolak-Wyszynska (Chief Opportunity Explorer, CEO at INNOVATIKA), Alex Grots (Design Thinking Expert, Director innovation Skanor Group), Marianne Guldbrandsen (Head of Innovation & Strategic Partnerships at Macmillan Cancer Support + Independent Coach & Innovation Consultant), Aga Szóstek (Experience Designer, Strategic Designer, UX Plus), Natalia Romero (Assistant Professor, Tenure Track, Design Contextualization and Communication, TU Delft, The Netherlands), Ré Dubhthaigh (Design Practice Lead at Citi), Weronika Rochacka (Co-Founder & Design Strategist at DESIGN PROVISION).

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