Design Policies: 
Between Dictatorship and Resistance

Special issue of The Radical Designist
Reader’s Designist Magazine


The Radical Designist gets back to a normal rhythm of publication. It stands as a Design Culture Journal originated in a research group named “Theory and History of Material Culture” active in UNIDCOM-IADE since its beginning in 2001 to 2013.

ThRAD is a journal open to all fields of Design but devoted to publish articles in a form of “Essay”. The papers should look like papers on Cultural Studies or History or Philosophy or Art Theory, in conclusion, look like Arts and Humanities essays. We also would like to privilege individual contributions with clear authorship marked not only by academic rigor but also by educated opinion.

This is the case of this special issue we chose to edit to re ignite ThRAD in 2015.

The special issue results from a research project coordinated by Helena Souto, “Design in Portugal (1960-1974): the actions, actors and repercussions of the Art, Industrial Architecture and Industrial Design Nuclei of the National Institute of Industrial Research (I.N.I.I.)" [“Design em Portugal (1960-1974): acções, intervenientes e repercussões do Núcleo de Arte e Arquitectura Industrial e do Núcleo de Design Industrial do Instituto Nacional de Investigação Industrial (I.N.I.I)”] funded by FCT, Portuguese main science funding agency.

In the call for papers broadcasted earlier this year we wrote:

“During Cold War in peripheral countries and regions, like the Iberian peninsula, Eastern Europe or Latin America, Design was, not only a discipline related with industrial development and modernization, but also, due to its DNA, social insertion and ethics, an instrument of resistance to dictatorships.

In the case of Portugal, the country was one of the founders of EFTA (European Free Trade Association) in 1960 corresponding to a first sign of the New State's dictatorship concern with exportation and foreign markets. However, another sign of the Cold War, the Portuguese colonial conflict, and a counter insurgence notion of social development contributed to create a market in Africa.  In consequence, the Portuguese economy witnessed an enhancement of its industrial sector. By developing these activities, some enlightened industrials and designers believed that a metadesign approach in the Portuguese industry could contribute to the transformation of the regime and conduce to the achievement of democratic governance.

In consequence, the late 1960’s early 1970’s witnessed the emergence of a new professional starting to be designated as “designer”. The transfer of methodological knowledge from “Democracies” to “Dictatorships”, determined by the need of modernization, carried out also an ideological democratic insemination that helped to corrode the Regime’s structural foundations.

The purpose of this special issue is to contribute to a panoramic view over the impact of design policies in the internationalization of economies and social professional change during the Cold War, but also how design contributed to the values of democracy both political and social in this period, especially in the 1960 ‘s and 1970’s. This call proposes also to cover processes in which “democracies” were subjected to authoritarian dictates over minorities either social or political.”  

The selected papers show, from Brazil, Portugal, Spain and former Yugoslavia, similar processes, a zeitgeist in which dictatorships were starting (also) to crumble due to their own grasp for modernization. Design was one more agent in their destruction but most of all the productive infra structure that allowed following democracies to prosper and endure.


Eduardo Côrte-Real, Helena Souto

From the East side of the Iberian Peninsula: Meanings of Design When It Arrived During the 50’s and Early 60’s to Barcelona


Universitat de Barcelona

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thRAD editors invite authors to chat about design and design policies in historical contexts confined by Dictatorship and Resistance. Both the Spanish and Portuguese 20th Centuries share a long dictatorship: from 1923 until 1975 in Spain –with the interval of the Republic years— under Primo de Rivera and Franco; from 1926 until 1974, O Estado Novo, in Portugal under Salazar—. The aim of this paper is to review the history of Design in Spain watching it from the approach proposed by the journal’s editors in order to provide materials for comparison. It will analyse the idea of design that arrived to Barcelona and how has been redefined locally checking the hopeful ideals it brought about in that moment and context. Its aim is to understand how far design adopted almost in Barcelona a character of resistance playing down-up against a certain establishment and political dictatorship. The argument is developed in dialogue with design history as a field of study.

Design Policies | December 2015 | 01/06

Design and Industry: The Role and Impact of Industrial Design in Post-War Yugoslavia


Parsons The New School for Design, New York

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Key Words
Yugoslavia, midcentury, industrial design, media

This study offers an overview of the design developments in the period following the Second World War in Yugoslavia and indicate the points of contact and departure between an emerging generation of architects and designers and state sanctioned design. The goal of this paper is to trace the development of the discipline of industrial design in this context, and argue for its revolutionary position in the development of a modern Yugoslavia.

This study offers an overview of the design developments in the period following the Second World War in Yugoslavia and indicate the points of contact and departure between an emerging generation of architects and designers and state sanctioned design. The goal of this paper is to trace the development of the discipline of industrial design in this context, and argue for its revolutionary position in the development of a modern Yugoslavia.

Design Policies | December 2015 | 02/06

“Contradictions of the Estado Novo in the modernisation of Portugal: design and designers in the 1940’s and 50’s”


Universidade de Aveiro

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The period of Portuguese history known as the Estado Novo (1933-1974) presents a series of contradictions as regards the directives issued, possibly resulting from a lack of political cohesion. Considering the dichotomy between modernization and tradition that existed between the 1940s and ‘50s, and the obvious validity of the government’s actions, this paper aims to demonstrate the contradictory attitudes towards the modernization of the country via different routes, highlighting the role of ‘designers’ as silent interlocutors and agents of change in this process. Various documents are analysed, some published under the auspices of the Estado Novo, others in the public sphere, in order to reveal the various partnerships that were in operation and the contrasting attitudes towards the government at the time. Other activities taking place in the period are also analysed, both those arising from state initiatives and others that were antithetical to it. The paper reveals the need to break with the political power in order to promote artistic and cultural interests, and describes initiatives designed to promote industry in the country, some launched by the Estado Novo, others by companies. It focuses upon the teaching of art, which later gave rise to the teaching of design, and on the presence of other institutions and organizations that contributed to the modernization of Portugal, in some cases by mounting exhibitions in Portugal and abroad, as well as other artistic activities such as graphic design, product design and interior decoration, referring to the respective designers, artefacts and spaces.

Design Policies | December 2015 | 03/06

AME-O OU DEIXE-O! A ditadura militar no Brasil (1964-1985) e seus efeitos nas artes visuais


Universidade de São Paulo

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De 1964 a 1985, o Brasil foi governado por uma ditadura militar, que exerceu uma pressão esmagadora nas organizações de trabalhadores, também sentida no terreno da cultura. Alguns artistas chegaram a abandonar o país, por extrema incompatibilidade entre sua arte e a ideologia dominante, enquanto outros continuaram a viver no país. Não apenas concepções artísticas, exemplificadas em trabalhos aqui exibidos, mas também a interpretação destes pela crítica sinalizam uma época, marcada por radicais experimentações.

Este ensaio analisa resumidamente os efeitos da ditadura militar no campo cultural de um modo geral e no ambiente das artes visuais, em particular, onde seria perceptível a incipiente formação de um mercado de arte.


Design Policies | December 2015 | 04/06

Um Laboratório de Design na Periferia, o caso de Canasvieiras

Ethel LEON


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Uma iniciativa de ensino e prática de design no Brasil começou a ser redescoberta no último ano. Trata-se do Laboratório de Desenho Industrial instalado na cidade de Florianópolis em 1983 e que durou até 1998 (LEON, 2014), embora esta data seja passível de contestação.

Esse Laboratório foi dirigido, em sua primeira fase (1983-1986), pelo designer e pensador Gui Bonsiepe e, em seguida, pelos designers Eduardo Barroso e Marcelo de Resende. Ele foi instituído no período final da ditadura militar brasileira e reverbera políticas tecnológicas adotadas nos anos 1970 que visavam autonomia tecnológica e apoio a pequenas empresas. Seu modelo de ensino se distanciou daquele adotado nas universidades e entendeu o design como prática integrativa de diversos saberes, organizados em torno de projetos concretos. Talvez aí resida seu grande legado.

É impossível compreender esta iniciativa ímpar sem ter noção das políticas tecnológicas e industriais que a engendraram e que têm sua gênese cerca de 10 anos antes, por volta de 1974. Esse é o período conhecido como anos de chumbo, quando o país vivia sob ditadura militar que recrudescera depois de 1968, ano em que manifestações estudantis e operárias desafiaram o regime. No entanto, esse período também foi considerado de ouro, em função das taxas altíssimas de crescimento da economia, que beneficiaram parte da população - as camadas altas e médias, ligadas à tecnocracia da máquina estatal e das grandes empresas privadas.


Design Policies | December 2015 | 05/06

Design e Desenvolvimento – 40 Anos Depois (Book Preview)


IFHT, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro

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Porquê falar de políticas de design?
O discurso do design como ferramenta para o desenvolvimento (seja este econômico, social, ou um ideal de convergência de ambos) se estabelece no contexto do debate sobre as políticas nacionais de design. Este debate, embora esteja se ampliando nesta última década especialmente a partir da Europa e Ásia, ainda é bastante restrito mundialmente no ambiente acadêmico, com raras publicações, pesquisas e estudos sobre o tema.

Por outro lado, há décadas fala-se da necessidade do design se aproximar das instâncias públicas e dos órgão governamentais, integrando-se ao rol de ferramentas que estes dispõem para enfrentar os problemas cada vez mais complexos de gestão e de políticas públicas. Autores como Gui Bonsiepe, John Heskett, Victor Margolin, Alpay Er, Brigitte Borja de Mozota, entre outros, chamam atenção para o tema, que na academia surgiu inicialmente na área de história do design a partir dos anos noventa, e em seguida também na área de gestão do design...

Design Policies | December 2015 | 06/06