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Croatia is booming economically, politically and creatively – this small country is home to a host of talented artists working hard to show off their talents and elevate the quality of the country’s design scene. From plastic tape installations to children’s toys, these ten contemporary designers certainly highlight Croatia’s growing presence in the international design market. Their multidisciplinary practices and playful designs show an insightful approach to design focusing on user and audience interaction and experience.
The Grupa design studio was founded in Zagreb in 2006 by Filip Despot, Tihana Gotovuša and Ivana Pavić. The trio all received their Master’s degrees in Product Design from the Zagreb School of Design in 2005. With activities revolving around product, exhibition and set design, Grupa have participated in a number of established exhibitions in Croatia and abroad, including the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan and the Qubique furniture tradeshow in Berlin. Their originality is immediately obvious: in the recent years, they won several awards and were featured in numerous design publications. Whilst having a clear utilitarian goal, the Grupa’s designs also carry a distinctly playful feel. The trio have cultivated an insightful approach to design, exploring a variety of purposes, typologies and materials and utilising their own manufacturing and distribution capabilities wherever possible.
Numen/For Use are a design collective and the collaborative effort of industrial designers Sven Jonke, Christoph Katzler and Nikola Radeljković. They began in 1998 under the name For Use, establishing Numen in 1999 as a collective identity to cover all of their projects outside of the field of industrial design. The group works across scenography, industrial and spatial design and conceptual art. In 2008, their focus shifted to conceptual designs with no pre-defined function, which resulted in a variety of hybrid and experimental works such as the Tape Installations for which they are now best known. However, the working process and professional ethos at Numen/For Use are still strongly influenced by its members’ industrial design backgrounds. Crossing the border between art and design, their work showcases the similarities in the field’s core values; visual communication of abstract values, media and society, and the use of creative potentials to articulate spatial relations.
Filip Gordon Frank graduated in industrial design in Zagreb before going on to specialise in interior design in Milan. He is the designer behind one of Croatia’s most iconic contemporary design pieces, the Mini Me (2006), a simple yet elegant domestic lamp. Frank established his own brand, and decided to manage his prototypes and products by himself rather than relying on different producers in Croatia and abroad once the production of Mini Me by Italian manufacturer SpHaus ended in 2009. Frank re-launched the product in 2012 with Croatian design firm Dekor and it continues to be commercially successful. Although Frank’s main portfolio is teeming with furniture and household accessories, the designer has also worked on several interior and exhibition design projects including the Salt Museum in Nin.
Young designer Marko Pavlović is an independent product designer dedicated to ‘saving the world one toy at a time’. His practice is committed to delivering unique design solutions across various industries, with a focus on toys and puzzles. He graduated from the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Architecture, School of Design. Already in his first year of university, he began working on toy design and gained international recognition for his three-dimensional puzzle design Oblo Spheres. Pavlovic designed Oblo with the aim to create a toy that will enhance intelligence and fine motor skills in preschool children. And indeed, Oblo Spheres was once described as a Rubik cube for children. He has won numerous awards in toy design categories throughout Europe and the USA; one of the most recent includes a nomination for the German Design Council’s German Design Award in 2012.
Prolific designer Svjetlana Despot founded her first design centre, Datadécor, in 1992 with a view to producing a number of functional products. Graduating from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the University Of Rijeka, she then went on to study at the Architectural College in Beograd and the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. In addition to Datadécor, Despot launched Data by Despot in 2004. The brand focuses on sculptural textile objects inspired by the designer’s personal fascination with structures, nature, ethnography and urban waste. Despot’s stylish designs are innovative, highly artistic and use an inventive combination of high technology and tradition. Her motto ‘Modern technologies – hand-made’ runs through every design as she aims to reinvent traditional crafts through her use of contemporary processes and eco-friendly materials. Today, Data by Despot consists of 14 collections including works that can be found in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb and the Museum of Dubrovnik.
Designer, concept developer, project manager and cultural entrepreneur Viktor Matic has led a truly international life. He is from Croatia and has lived in Germany and Italy, and spent an exchange year in Jerusalem and Istanbul whilst studying for a degree in product and communication design. Having graduated in 2011, he is now based in Italy working in multiple media on a range of personal and commissioned projects. Alongside his own practice he is also part of an artist collective, music and fashion label wupwup, which he founded with friends in 2008. Through his designs, Matic is developing his own method of creative production, expressing his own artistic language and style. www, his hybrid interpretation of an archetypal shelf considers today’s western digitised society and the evolving role of design objects. Installation-like in its construction, www has no one fixed state and is capable of interacting with the user and the surrounding environment.
MIRTA contemporary jewellery is designed and crafted by Zagreb-based Andrea Simic, who launched the company in 2010. Her striking and minimalist jewellery is made entirely by hand and draws inspiration from nature, design objects found on various design blogs and architecture – which Simic studied at university. She also lists her creative mother as one of the greatest influences in her design practice and takes great enjoyment in the process of hand-making each piece. Formed from oxidised sterling silver and Herkimer diamonds, Simic’s delicate use of basic, elegant shapes and colours have come together in several strong collections such as Herkimer, Sticks and Stones. She has also collaborated with fashion label MARIOS to create a range of simple, geometric designs.
Interdisciplinary design studio Redesign was founded by Neven and Sanja Kovačić in 2002. Their main focus is product design with a particular interest in natural aesthetics and logistics, sustainable design and the use of mathematical structures. Alongside independent projects, the pair actively collaborates with Croatian industries and innovators such as Bagheera d.o.o. and Kvadra, for whom they designed Uplift. While projects range from furniture to sophisticated sports equipment, their multi-faceted approach is distinguished by Neven and Sanja’s emphasis on innovation, sense of ecological responsibility, and rationality. Neven is also a member of Croatian Designers Association and Association for Industrial Design at Centre for Design, Croatian Chamber of Economy. In addition to being regulars in design publications, Redesign have also received several national and international design awards.
Ceramicist, painter and product designer Lidia Boševski graduated from the School of Applied Arts in Zagreb in 1979. She then went on to study Textile and Fashion design, graduating in 1984. In the early 1990s, Boševski’s focus was on painting combined with a batik technique; at that stage in her career, the artist had several solo exhibitions and was accepted as a member of the Croatian Association of Independent Artists. In 2003, her focus shifted towards product design, specifically in ceramics. Boševski’s current designs are inspired by nature and natural forms, as shown by her Sea Strand collection. Aninvestigation of textures and materials reflecting the memory of stone structures, Sea Strand stands as a surprising allegory for the flexibility of time and matter. The opening of her new design and ceramics atelier Owl in 2005 with Zoran Boševski enabled Boševski to develop new creative approaches and to engage in material and design research.
Design all-rounder Roberta Bratović graduated from the University of Architecture, Zagreb with an MA in Design in 2007. She then went on to study Performance Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design London graduating in 2009. Bratović’s design practice spans brand identity, print material, 3D environments and objects. She is currently based in London at Liberty, one of the UK’s legendary premier department stores, working on its visual identity and definition. Recently, Bratović has also been part of several collaborations with Croatian designers including Numen/For Use, which culminated in the award-winning Revolve sofa bed, a design that became highly successful in the Croatian design market. Another of Bratović’s fruitful collaborations was with Croatian designer Nina Baćun. The duo is now renowned for their Nightware collection of lampshades inspired by Croatia’s national dress.