The urgent need for mutually beneficial cooperation of domestic furniture production with Ukrainian designers to create joint projects that would confidently bring the country’s furniture industry into international orbit has been constantly discussed in the furniture environment for the last few years. You can’t say that in this case there is a complete stagnation and complete detachment of design from production. We have dozens of examples of the success of such furniture unions, but it is obvious that such a tandem has not yet reached the quantitative level that we could grow into a qualitative one, which would be the driving force of the dream breakthrough of the industry.
That is why this problem is repeatedly raised by both designers and furniture. Of course, it remains relevant for the Ukrainian Association of Furniture Makers, which, to the best of its ability, tries in different ways to “breed” furniture and designers, because both are in the field of its statutory activities. Recently, it has had active and creative partners in this matter: the European School of Design, with which a memorandum of cooperation has been signed, and the Agency for Research and Implementation of Design Projects MAINO Design. She recently completed the exhibition “Ukrainian Design Brands. Total Presence ”with the participation of UAM member companies became the first practical evidence of a real partnership in intensifying the cooperation of designers with furniture, as the partners of the exhibition were, among others, both UAFM and EDS.
The next joint event in this direction was not delayed. It was a design session held at the European School of Design on the topic of interaction between designers and manufacturers – “D-Unit. Focus on Ukrainian design “. The problems are the same: the need and prospects for cooperation between designers and furniture makers, in particular in the production of serial furniture.
Coordination centre between designers and manufacturers
If we specify the global nature of this task step by step, the participants of the design session stressed the need to create a coordination centre between designers and manufacturers, which would monitor and combine their interests and aspirations, because in general, the Ukrainian situation is still that “designers are something they design there without being sure of its implementation, and the furniture makers produce something there, but in the end, the industry is not satisfied with the result.” This was stated in particular by the head of EDS Dmytro Medyanyk, who believes that such a coordination centre should become a “tool of mutual understanding methodology”, a lack of understanding is the main obstacle to cooperation between furniture and designers: often what is beneficial and acceptable for designers furniture and vice versa (participants of the session gave specific examples of such stumbling blocks in the relationship between the parties). In fact, this session was the actual creation and simultaneous presentation of such a coordinating interacting centre “D-Unit”.
Algorithms of work of subject designers with furniture factories at the international level
The subject designer and developer of the “Furniture” department of the international company Flipkart / Walmart was invited to share the experience of cooperation between the designer and furniture manufacturers. The guest of the event, Pradip Kumar, was connected to the air via the Zoom platform. He told how he creates private label furniture collections for Walmart, as well as for furniture factories from China, Malaysia, Azerbaijan, the United States and other countries. In particular, the work begins with a discussion of the terms of reference, during which the customer and the contractor find out:
· Price segment,
· Production capacity,
· Materials from which the furniture will be made,
· Sales channels of the collection,
· Portrait of the consumer,
· Composition of the collection and more.
After that, Pradip and his team prepare a mood board – a collage of photos, drawings and diagrams that would illustrate the overall concept of the future collection. After acquainting the manufacturer with such a collage and making possible changes and corrections to the creative, designers prepare an image of the concept of one of the items in the collection, such as a chest of drawers or a bed. After the approval of the selected concept, the design studio prepares images and technical documentation for the rest of the items in the collection. By the way, one collection can contain 10, and sometimes 20 and more pieces of furniture. Pradip is required to visit the factory at the stage of prototyping, make the necessary adjustments to the design and/or design of furniture. And after testing and approval of technological maps Pradip and the team prepare presentation materials, if necessary, instructions for assembly, packaging, catalogues and website.
For only one of its customers, Pradeep prepares 12 collections a year, which are furniture for the living room, bedroom, dining sets and furniture for the entrance group.
The participants of the meeting asked many questions and after the broadcast, some manufacturers turned to the organizers of the event for the contacts of this design studio.
The potential of D-Unit in the furniture market of Ukraine
The largest Ukrainian furniture manufacturers were invited to participate in the discussion on the industrial design of the furniture industry. In particular, representatives of such companies as Mebli-Service, Bila Tserkva Furniture Factory, BRW and Gerbor, VMV-Holding, Garant-Export, Doros, Morgan Furniture and Svit Mebliv joined the EDS conference hall in real and virtual spaces.
Member of the Management Board and Chairman of the UAM Design Platform Vitaliy Ivakhov once again noted that design is what is sold by the manufacturer and bought on the market: “If the thing you created is not sold, it is not design – it is the result of your creative work.”
It can be said that such a coordination centre can be not only a platform for combining the interests of designers and furniture practitioners but also an expert, a tester of their joint projects on their market success in the case of implementation. During the session, the idea of implementing a pilot project as a mobilization and agitation example of the success of the furniture-making synergy, which would be taken care of by the participants in the creation of the D-Unit coordination centre, was born. This example will make it clear how to move forward: what is acceptable, what needs to change in order for the idea, so to speak, to take hold of the masses. Furniture practitioners, who, of course, also took part in the session, not only supported the idea of implementing such a pilot project but also spoke in favour of participating in it.
The position of UAFM in the lively discussion that unfolded at the session was fully justified, as its representatives quantitatively dominated the number of participants, which once again showed that the issues discussed are really important for the Association, especially in terms of concretization of efforts to address it.
MAЇNO Design representative Anastasia Biletska noted that such exhibitions, as already mentioned, can also serve to solve the discussed problems, be – albeit temporary – but also, if not the centre, then a platform, a tool of “methodology of mutual understanding” of design and production. Those high examples of design, perfectly realized in specific furniture projects, which were demonstrated at the exhibition, are a convincing concrete example of the success of such furniture synergy, an argument in favour of its activation and spread in the Ukrainian furniture industry.
Anastasia Biletskaya summed up the story of this milestone in the cooperation between the European School of Design, MAЇNO Design Agency and the Ukrainian Association of Furniture Manufacturers : “The obviousness of the problem does not always indicate an obvious solution, but it is gratifying that all parties are motivated to create effective interaction.”