The Nobo Design studio was founded in 2009 by two students from the Faculty of Industrial Design at Krakow’s Academy of Fine Arts. Since they began working together, Aleksandra Pięta and Piotr Wiśniewski have created objects inspired by folk art, by using and transforming folk motifs and designs. What’s more, they prefer to utilise widely available ecological and recyclable materials to create their objects.
Nobo Designs projects are something of a paradox: simple everyday objects, traditional in terms of their form and function (e.g. babies’ cradles, shoelaces, armchairs, bags, food packaging), created using old folk designs and 'old-fashioned' materials. And yet they also meet all the requirements of the present day: they are fully functional, contemporary and appeal to consumer tastes.
In our works we try our best to dust off the old and offer something new. It might be strange, interesting, pretty, unusual, but it’s always something different… It’s an attempt to find that balance between dying tradition and contemporary design, and a struggle against the mundane, against mere replication and trash," say the designers.
Nobo Design’s projects, with their comical and creative approach to folk legacy, have won great acclaim and numerous awards. Ludowadła — shoelaces bearing a folk design — picked up third prize at the 'Pamiątka z Polski' (Souvenir from Poland) competition in 2009; a year later, the jury at the 'make me!' competition (at the Łódź Design Festival) awarded the studio for Smaki Podhalańskie (Tastes of Podhale), a series of packaging designs for a number of regional foodstuffs (including smoked ewe’s milk cheese, milk, butter, and honey). At the 'Młodzi na start' nationwide design competition, Nobo Design also received distinction for their series of wooden dolls which can be individually 'dressed up' in folk costumes using attached paints and stickers.
Aleksandra Pięta and Piotr Wiśniewski have also designed thimble earrings with folk designs, cardboard packaging for renowned Krakovian bagels, candy boxes which double as an educational jigsaw puzzle, watches decorated with folk art paper cuttings, and a mobile straw cradle which can be suspended or placed on a stand.
In addition to designing functional objects, Nobo Design also creates corporate identity systems, graphic designs and logotypes. The studio’s Informator Tygodnia Kultury Beskidzkiej (Guide to Beskid Culture Week) — a range of catalogues, brochures and flyers providing information not only about the event itself, but also about the region’s culture, art and traditions — won awards at the 'Arting' Industrial Design Project Competition (2010) and the Nationwide Art of Packaging Competition (2009).
We deal with objects in a kind manner, rearing them unconventionally but functionally. This continuous search for new inspiration, new forms and solutions — coupled with great humour — gives rise to objects with strong personality, objects that aren’t afraid to comment on reality," state Aleksandra Pięta and Piotr Wiśniewski.
One will also find books in their portfolio. O Wandzi, która wszystko zbierała (Of Wandzia, Who Was Gathering all) is a story about a designer profession, told in simple and creative terms, suitable for children. Drawings, combined with text, make for a witty narration, which allows the reader to better understand the design process and decipher sometimes-surprising sources of inspiration of famous designers.
Their diversified portfolio proves that they cope equally well with minimal forms and more visually complicated concepts. Nobo Design creates complex visual identities, for example the one for the Object Design, rendered in a restricted color palette of grey, white and red. Pink Sloth on the other hand is an utterly different proposition. A figure of a pink sloth, as if taken from the kids sketchbook, is to act as a business application hero.
Nobo Design’s activities are not limited to design — members of the Nobo team are also involved in disseminating design knowledge, in accordance with the words of Erik Adigard (which they claim as their motto):
Design is in everything we make, but it’s also between those things. It’s a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda and philosophy".
Since 2008, Piotr Wiśniewski has been writing a blog entitled Design po polsku, which has become a source of vast knowledge about Polish (and international) design.
Since 2012, the two designers have been working on a project entitled Odkryj na nowo żywieckie zabawki (Rediscover toys from the Żywiec region), thanks to which it is now possible to learn about the history of toy making in the Żywiec region (the area is home to one of the oldest centres for the manufacture of wooden toys).
Aleksandra Pięta and Piotr Wiśniewski are also the concept creators of the Virtual Museum of Polish Design, a freely available web space containing collected knowledge about the history of design in Poland and elsewhere.
Author: Anna Cymer, September 2013. Updated AM, May 2016.
English translation: Garry Malloy
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