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Estonian Design at Night: Chic, Innovative and Intelligent

Meet the makers of the renowned Tallinn Design Night Festival

7 min read
© Disainiöö

Meet the makers of the renowned Tallinn Design Night Festival Disainiöö in the headquarters of the festival in one of the hippest neighbourhoods on the planet – Kalamaja, in Tallinn.

‘When the festival was conceived ten years ago, it was a 24-hour-long presentation of Estonian design. Since then it has become an international week-long event, with more than 90 intellectual, eye-opening, experimental, funny or entertaining opportunities to glimpse the current trends in Estonian as well as global design,’ explains the main organiser of Disainiöö, president of the Estonian Association of Designers Ilona Gurjanova, on a trip to check out the Estonian design scene.

Estonian design

Ilona  © Disainiöö

XI Tallinn Design Night Festival

As always, there will be exciting exhibitions here from both Estonia and abroad. But this year, for the first time in the history of the festival, you can walk through Design Street, where more than 25 teams from Estonia and beyond are to display their works… or find yourself at the Fashion Cross surrounded by the artwork of over 40 Estonian fashion brands…

Or why not take the floor at Pecha Kucha Night – a format originating in Japan, where you have just 20 seconds to show 20 slides and express your accompanying thoughts. The festival program will include lectures and workshops for grown-ups and kids, an auction, fashion shows, design excursions, flash talks, film nights, light installations, music, pop up shops, and as per tradition the gala ceremony of the Estonian Design Awards.

Estonian design

Solu  © Disainiöö

‘This year we are extremely happy to present a brand new documentary- style art book entitled Woods and the Sea: Estonian Design and the Virtual Frontier, compiled and edited by US-German design journalist Michael Dumiak and published by London–based Black Dog Publishing,’ rejoices Gurjanova, a designer both by profession and by her own definition. ‘The book is a portrait of Estonia’s design fabric, a narrative on the bases of 25 interviews featuring among others the Grand Old Man of Estonian design Bruno Tomberg and the only Estonian ‘’fashion doctor’’, sustainable fashion designer Reet Aus.’

Estonian design

Tulip  © Oleg Hartsenko

Design is More than a Chic Handbag

That said, design is not merely a stylish table or a chic handbag. It is a product and service development to make our everyday life easier. A process, supported and controlled by design management, which helps to bring economic benefit by comprising the product, packaging, communication, marketing, working environment and organisational culture under one umbrella. That would be the exact message of the Redefining Design seminar, where internationally-recognized experts interpret the concept of design process.

‘The keynote speaker is Cameron Sinclair from the US, whose purpose design firm Small Works has created innovative solutions in the hardest hit areas of the world and in over 45 countries, from emergency shelters and long-term sustainable reconstruction, to economic development,’ outlines Gurjanova, one of the advocates in the power of design as a catalyst for social and economic change.

Estonian design

Sille Sikmann  © Disainiöö

Perfect examples of design management, to name but a few, are Estonian-origin start-ups like Skype, Playtech, and TransferWise. Tallinn City transport system has been named Design Management Europe DME Award Winner. Tallinn Airport – the ‘Cosiest Airport in the World’, office and public furniture company Thulema, bath manufacturer Aquator, design consultancy firm Velvet, and café Supelsaksad have all been granted DME Honourable Mentions as well.

As part of the Human Cities concept – a platform of interdisciplinary exchanges, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the EU – a project from Estonian designers HÄLO will be tested on potential users during this year s Disainiöö. It is an environmentally-friendly, small building with innovative technology where overworked citizens can in just 20 minutes relieve stress and recuperate their strength.

Estonian design

Glens  © Disainiöö

One Designer for Every 800 Citizens

Estonia is phenomenal – there are more than 2 500 designers here with a university degree, making one designer for every 800 citizens! Design is taught at the Estonian Academy of Arts (EAA), at Tartu Art College, Haapsalu College of Tallinn University, the joint programme by EAA and the Tallinn University of Technology. We also have The Estonian Association of Designers (EAD), Estonian Design Centre and Estonian Design House here.

Estonian design

Clomb  © Disainiöö

Martin Pärn and his eponymous table, ‘Martin ‘have received the Red Dot Best of the Best Award. Pärn was also included in the compilation of the 200 best design products of the 20th century, published by the design magazine MD. One of the Top 20 Women in Business in Northern Europe, Reet Aus, has created an upcycling fashion line, each item of which uses on average 70 per cent less water and 88 per cent less energy compared with a regular product.

Estonian design

Shaka Windmeter  © Disainiöö

Innovative, functional, intelligent, elegant, minimalistic, user-friendly, ecological, witty – this is the trademark of Estonian design that could be admired for the first time outside Estonia back in 2000, in Helsinki, Finland. Since then, collections of Estonian design have been repeatedly displayed at fairs and design weeks in Paris, Frankfurt, London and Milan, as well as travelling to Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Russia, China and the US.

Starting in 2014, the exhibition project ‘Size Doesn’t Matter’ has been introducing the classics and newcomers of Estonian design in Europe. The first host city was Brussels, the following year it was Vienna, this year it took place in Stockholm and Caen.

‘In 2011, the EAD opened the Estonian Design House, which functions as a centre of information and competence, and is also the best and trustworthy spot to buy Estonian design while in Tallinn. And while abroad, visit its popular eShop,’ recommends the long-term president of the association.

Estonian design

Kelpman  © Disainiöö

Bruno – Revered Estonian Product Design Award

The Bruno award, presented every two years, was launched by the EAD in 2006. It is named in honour of the founder of the design department of the Estonian Academy of Arts, professor Bruno Tomberg. Incidentally, back at the time, in 1966, Estonia was a part of the Soviet Union, and the word ‘design’ was forbidden by Soviet officials as it was deemed too ‘western’, and the term ‘industrial art’ was used instead.

In honour of the 2016 Bruno award winners, the 91-year old gentleman has a lovely message: ‘Besides being a good designer, be a good person. This is most important. The more empathic you are as a person, the more empathic and caring your designs will be.’

Estonian design

Martintable  © Disainiöö

This year’s Bruno award is for the first time presented in three categories: best product design for human environment, best lifestyle product design and best engineering product design. And for the first time ever, the international jury will select the winner of the Award For Life-Changing Design.

Entry requirements for the competition – this year there were a record number of 156 products – can be met with any production-ready prototype or industrial product/product series currently in production, created over the past two years by designers working in companies registered in the Republic of Estonia and/or having permanent residence here.

Estonian design

ID  © Disainiöö

What are the all-time Bruno award favourites of the president herself? ‘The ID card reader by Martin Lazarev and his team, because it makes life so much easier; the woollen shawl by Mare Kelpman because it helps to keep me warm in the severe Estonian winter, and the leather backpack by Piret Loog, because it lasts for ages,’ states Ilona Gurjanova, with an appreciating smile.

Source: Life in Estonia

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