8 Polish Designs That Never Made It Big But Should Have
Genius can be celebrated or go unrecognised. The same goes for great design – sometimes it catches the world’s attention, and others, it doesn’t make it past the prototype phase. Call it chance, luck or fate, it’s just a fact of life. Here we take a look at some great Polish designs that never made it big, even though they really should have!
A closet made up of units that can be rearranged freely with the push of a button. An interesting idea, especially for those who have trouble reaching things that are placed high up, e.g. those who are confined to a wheelchair. One of Mobile’s creators, Piotr Zoń, used to say that ‘furniture is supposed to make us feel comfortable rather than force us to exercise. Especially if we can’t.’ The closet’s classy form, designed by Michał Kracik, not only conceals the mechanism responsible for the rearranging but is also quite eye-catching. Unfortunately, Car Technology Production, the Kraków-based company behind this unique design went bankrupt a few years back and Mobile never made it to production.
Your Mobile closet could, for instance, be used to store a nice collection of Elektrobiblioteka books. The intriguing Elektrobiblioteka (editor’s translation: Electrolibrary) prototype was created by Waldek Węgrzyn in 2012 as his final project at the Katowice Academy of Fine Arts. It’s a mash-up of a traditional print book with a digital content interface. The book connects to a computer via a USB port making it possible to project the contents of the page you are on onto a screen for others to see. Whenever you flip one of the book’s pages, the same happens within the digital interface. This is made possible thanks to circuits covered with conductive paint attached to the paper. Additionally, some of the book’s illustrations have touch sensors allowing for interaction with the content on the screen. Elektrobiblioteka has the potential to make life easier for those who work with texts, combining the comfort of reading a print book with the functionalities of a digital interface.
On the website of Lapolka, the designer duo founded by Marta Białecka and Anna Piwowar, you can find the following: ‘We passed a dog wearing a protective collar on the street. The collar was so similar in shape to a basic lampshade that we decide to turn the image into a design.' As a result, Lapolka came up with the amusing Pies Salonowy lamp (editor’s translation: Salon Dog), made from cardboard and a plastic protective collar. Even though the 2007 design enjoyed some popularity at the time and was manufactured by Lapolka, it never was put into serial production. Seems like a missed opportunity given the immediate emotional response the Salon Dog generates.
Another design that easily stirs up some emotion, but mostly among Poles, is the New Warsaw – Wratislavia, a modern take on the classic Polish automobile Warszawa, produced in the years 1951-73. The car envisioned by the Wrocław-based Koziołek Design studio founded by Michał Koziołek gracefully references the curvy shapes of the original. However, thanks to its creator’s aesthetic sense, New Warsaw’s design is universal – you don’t have to be nostalgic about old Polish cars to appreciate it. The bad news is that even though work on the Wratislavia started over 4 years ago, due to financing issues a functional prototype has yet to be produced Still, Michał Koziołek hasn’t abandoned the project and believes that someday he’ll see Wratislavias on the streets.
While the New Warsaw is what you call a retro design, the SpinCar is quite the opposite. Designed by Hubert Kuberacki of the Warsaw University of Technology in collaboration with Bartosz Borowicz and Mateusz Przybysz, it looks like a car from the future. And that is exactly what it is. The idea of this electric vehicle using a circular chassis garnered a lot of interest in the early 2010s but apparently not enough for SpinCar to go into production. It's a shame, because thanks to its unusual, round shape and wheel arrangement – they are set at a 90 degree angle – it can turn around in place, eliminates driving backwards (always a hassle) and takes up less space than a traditional car, even though it is spacious enough to fit the whole family. Add the fact that its electric and therefore quiet and fossil fuel-free, and it becomes apparent that SpinCar is the ultimate urban car design. Hopefully one day we’ll see it in action!
An even more eco-friendly solution than compact, electric cars is, of course, bicycles. These, however, can be cumbersome in certain aspects – the chain can get your pants dirty on the way to an important meeting, another issue is finding a sensible place to park the thing. Marek Jurek of the Physics Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a bike lover himself, came up with a design that addresses many of these issues. His IzzyBike has pedals attached to the front wheel, making the chain obsolete, and at the same time minimalising energy loss. The frame is made up of two parts connected by a pivot joint, which lets you smoothly steer the bike by gently shifting the front in the direction you wish to go in. Thanks to this solution the bike is not only agiler than traditional ones but can also be folded in a matter of seconds to easily fit in an elevator or car trunk. You can take it wherever you want without any special effort so parking is no longer a problem. Why this ingenious design from a few years ago is not the hottest thing out there remains an unsolved mystery…
Like riding a bicycle, listening to the radio can be a lot of fun. Especially if you can use a saw to ‘cut off as much of the radio as you need’, as Piotr Stolarski and Maria Makowska, the creators of the Log Radio put it. What?! The idea behind this prototype was to create an object that may be mass-produced but is, at the same time, highly customisable: you can give it a unique, personal finish by shaping or painting it. Even though Log Radio is more of a tongue-in-cheek design than a serious idea, it would've been nice if it was actually available, if only because it's so charming.
Poland’s Visual Identity
Even though this sounds almost as unbelievable as sawing off a piece of radio, it's true: Poland doesn't have an official visual identity. This means that there is no aesthetic umbrella for all the fonts, symbols and colours used in official state communication: logos, documents, websites. As a result, each state organisation has its own policies and because of this, it's sometimes hard to determine at first glance whether you're actually dealing with real state business or not. It's worth mentioning, that as appealing as, for instance, Poland's Coat of Arms is, many of the existing symbols cannot actually be used as elements of visual identification because of their special legal status. This lack of an official visual identity was addressed in 2011 by Marta Gawin in her final project at the Katowice Academy of Fine Arts. She proposed a whole series of logos, neatly arranged into categories corresponding to the different functions of state institutions, that were inspired by historical stylisations of the Polish Coat of Arms. Maybe it will be implemented in the future?
Author: Marek Kępa, May 2017