Barcelona Cultura

«The designs that change contexts are those thought of as systems, not as isolated objects»

Óscar Guayabero is a para-designer, curator of exhibitions, Professor of the History of Design at IDEP Barcelona, IED and ESDesign, and a major cultural agitator. He is one of the main promoters of the "Design for life" and will soon open the exhibition on the future of the bathroom at Roca BCD.

After a career of more than 25 years and having curated several exhibitions, what has been the most important moment in your professional career?

Well, even if it seems a bit of a joke, the most important moment in my work was when Pronto magazine published  a very comprehensive report on the Design for life exhibition. It was one of the first times that the readership of this type of publication were presented with a picture of non-elitist design, designed for the common good and as a tool for social change. And this was precisely the aim of the exhibition that had taken me more than 4 years of preparation.

At the end of October, the "Design for life. Education" conference returns. What will be different about this year's edition?

In this second edition we will address design as a tool for improving educational experiences. From rethinking the spaces to the interfaces of the digital education programmes, design can greatly improve the transmission and absorption of knowledge. We will try to open this window so that designers and educators can find possible ways of interacting.

You are in constant contact with the new generations of designers. What differentiates them from the generation of Rafael Marquina, Miquel Milà, André Ricard and other contemporaries?

Society has changed enormously since then and the designers, of course, respond to the social reality that surrounds them. This does not mean that there are attitudes that strangely relate the early days of industrial design with the current one. What was done then for reasons of scarcity, is now done for sustainability. In fact, the attitude of Ricard, Marquina, Milà, etc. is much closer to young designers than the stance of the design in the eighties and nineties.

We have known designs as impressive as "Mine Kafon" by Massoud Hassani. What "Designs for life" from the last few years will stay with you?

I think more and more that the designs that really change contexts are those considered as systems, not as isolated objects. The design of collaborative and distributional processes and the tools to make them possible seem to me one of the biggest contributions of design to the improvement of society in recent years. From cooperatives such as Som Energia or Guifi.net to the work of collectives linked to housing such as La Borda or food, such as El Pinyol vermell.

What role do the objects themselves play?

The objects are at the service of initiatives. For example, the famous menstrual cup is a good product but as a tool within a network that tries to improve the lives of women in countries where menstruation is a taboo, it achieves real change. The object is important but always within a broader strategy.

Finally, we become philosophical. If art is the visual representation of an historical period, what place does design occupy?

First, craftsmanship and then design, are the representation of daily life. Far from the grandiloquence of art concepts, design shows us the daily life of each period, and that is fascinating.

Ajuntament de Barcelona