1950-1960 IWP among the first institutions promoting design in the post-war Europe
1960-1971 Specialized institution doing comprehensive research, consultancy and designing for the economy
1972-1980 IWP as a scientific and research unit
1980-1991 IWP invests in ergonomics and universalization
1992-2000 Good Design programme as an answer to the needs of the market economy
2000-2014 Development of ergonomic and biomechanic researches

IWP among the first institutions promoting design in the post-war Europe

Institute of Industrial Design (IWP) was founded on 1st October 1950 which was before the famous Institute of Industrial Aesthetics of Jacques Vienot in Paris came into its existence. IWP was brought into being by Eugeniusz Stawiński who made a decision to transform the already existing Office of Production Aesthetics Surveillance. He entrusted the realization of the project to his counsellor and former student of architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts (Académie des Beaux-Arts) in Paris Leopold Tyrmand. The main objective of the Institute was „...to do scientific research work aiming at increasing the level of the production aesthetics and devising the guidelines on planned economy within the frames of industrial design.” The Institute was composed of many different departments such as market research, additional education, artistic, exhibitions, shows and revues departments; it also comprised numerous works including wood, knitting, graphic, clothing, leather, glass-ceramic and textile works.

The creator of the idea of the Institute, its founder and artistic director until 1968 was the Professor Wanda Telakowska called Joan of Arc of the Polish design. „Beauty for everyone every day. Good designs of the end products of mass production are the economic value. Good designs are also a cultural value” -- she realized the following concepts through disseminating the new and rational design. She was trying to include artistic inventions of different backgrounds in industrial design in order to preserve its national character. She emphasized the principle of purposefulness and the entirety of designing.

The Institute organized exhibitions, promoted design in the press, radio and television, published its own bulletins and „IWP News”. It informed about the new tendencies abroad. It provided the access to the collection of its library, trained artists, technicians, tradesmen, craftsmen, workers of cooperative societies, teachers and students. It did scientific research work and collaborated with the industry by implementing new products designed in IWP Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz noticed in 1955: „Only those who visited the Institute of Industrial Design can know what treasure it hides”. Among the personages who visited it from the very beginning were Queen Elisabeth of Belgium (1955), the wife of the Swedish Prime Minister Aina Erlander (1967), French actor Gerard Philipe (1954) or Raisa Gorbaczowa (1988).

Specialized institution doing comprehensive research, consultancy and designing for the economy

Changed into the interdepartmental institution the Institute of Industrial Design was subordinate to the Cabinet Office (1960-1965) and next to the Science and Technology Committee (1965-1968) and the Central Quality and Measure Office. Essentially it was supervised by the Design and Industrial Production Aesthetics Council established in 1959.

At the beginning of 1966 the Institute changed its seat and address to 5/7 Świętojerska Street where it is situated up to present (previously it was located next door by Ciasna Street but its address was 10 Długa Street) The activity in the new place was inaugurated by the 15 years of Institute of Industrial Design exhibition opened in July.

At that time the Institute employed hundreds of designers, did research and design work connected with many branches and was responsible for designing and furnishing various flats, kindergartens, primary schools, sanatoriums, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, bars and workplaces and those were not only the designs of single products but the assumptions to the so-called comprehensive designing. Such type of the attitude to supporting the industry was a kind of innovative approach in the 1960s (and it still remains in many branches). The Institution of Means of Transport and Measuring Apparatus Design was particularly buoyant. Its engineers, designers and artists inspired various design studios working in the same branch. They did studio works, devised the functional assumptions and designs of lorries, buses, carriages, locomotives, trams and other products of heavy industry.

There were also other new units set up in IWP: the Institute of Ergonomic Research (the first centre of such type in Poland), the Company of Colour and Light, the Studio of Environmental Artistic Inventions which was involved in experimental activities and the Institute of Quality Control.

IWP as a scientific and research unit

Since 1972 IWP has been subordinate to the minister of science, higher education and technology as a scientific and research unit of industrial design. The range of its activities was extended to analysing the social, economic and cultural needs, defining the utilitarian and aesthetic demands and perfecting – on the basis of ergonomics – the products design.

The Institute examined and designed both house and work environment. Among other things it joined the governmental programme concerning the development of house building. It coordinated the research work aiming at connecting the new functionality of flats with the improvement of the usefulness of their fitting. It examined the influence of social events and situations over the structural and functional properties of flats – in this field the new Institute of Utilitarian Structures had impressive achievements. The Study and Design Centre of the Culture of a Flat which was set up in 1975 devised and set the patterns for giving the finishing touch and fitting the flats.

There was also the Institute of the Main Problems of the Work Outfit Design whose goal was to modernize work and protective outfit. With the support of the Polish Academy of Sciences which examined the changes in the patterns of consumption it provided the data needed to prepare the Polish Norms.

Published in 1972 the „Small anthropometric atlas of design of the Polish adult population” as well as the „Flat Phantoms” published in the year (photo 9) contained the results of the work of the Institute of Ergonomic Research.
Professor Wanda Telakowska prophetically wrote in the introduction to the catalogue to the Nativeness in Design exhibition (1978):
Concern for the further development of artistic inventions in our country is justified not only by the necessity to preserve [...] the continuity [of culture] but also by the necessity to find the broad forms of activating the social life. [..]. Constantly enriched consumption is probably one of the conditions required for the further development. If, however, this is the necessary condition, it certainly is not sufficient. Creative work can also contribute to a great extend to enriching the existence of the future generations whose work to a high degree will be done by computers and other mechanized apparatus and machines.

In 1978 the collection of the IWP showroom was given to the National Museum in Warsaw.

IWP invests in ergonomics and universalization

In the 1980s IWP was subordinate to the Office of Scientific and Technical Progress and Inculcation and above all it was implementing the „Design and ergonomics in the process of creating modern industrial products” programme. It did anthropometric and biomechanic measurements the results of which were used to design, diagnose and also assess the workspace and the fitting (among others by means of Ergodidac 2 which was a multi-purpose device constructed especially for the Ergonomic Laboratory. It examined the standard products used in different interiors of a flat: kitchens and their fitting, furniture for children, glass, ceramics and materials used for putting finishing touches. It did sociological examination of needs, space and functions. It paid a great deal of attention to the situation of the disabled – it analysed their needs and did study and design work concerning the interiors, equipment and clothing for those less fortunate than the rest

What is more it formulated the guidelines on a product design. It devised the colour schemes and the documentation of the work and protective outfit. It did consultancy and design and economic analyses. It provided the information from the field of theory and history of design. It made it possible to get the access to its library collection consisting of its own, nationwide and foreign publications as well as the versatile information about the products, designers and producers.

However, in the circumstances of the collapse of the Polish industry the IWP activity did not have much influence over the production of different companies. The exhibitions which were often organized not only in a country but also abroad attracted the masses of interested people.

The modern foreign design e.g. Danish, Finnish, Dutch or Italian which was presented at Świętojerska Street often evoked admiration and jealousy. The presentation and selling of the products of Polish designers and producers – especially those trading in furniture, carpets, tiles, consumer electronics and major appliances – caused extremely long queues in the institute gallery (photos 13, 14, 15), made people enrol on public waiting lists and always provoked the same question: Where else can I buy it?

Good Design programme as an answer to the needs of the market economy

Since 1992 the Institute was subordinate to the Minister of Trade and Industry and then to the Minister of Economy keeping its status of a research and development unit. From the very beginnings of implementing the market economy in Poland it tried to enlighten different decision-makers of various ranks, the representatives of industry and trade but also the users of the products and make them realize that design is one of the basic factors creating the quality of a product and an important tool of the effective marketing and the enhancement of the competetiveness. It was all possible mainly thanks to the original Good Design programme which has been realized since 1993. In the annual competitions the Good Design prizes have been awarded to the best Polish products (photos 7, 8) and next they were presented to the vast circle of recipients at the post-competition exhibitions.

In 1998 the Institute opened the first Design of the Youth Exhibition the aim of which was to promote young designers by helping them in the first contacts with producers. Since then and every two years it presented the best diploma works of the design and interior design faculties graduates.

Development of ergonomic and biomechanic researches

Since the beginning of 2008 IWP has been a limited liability company. ARP S.A. is a controlling shareholder of the Institute of Industrial Design Sp. z o.o. The new strategy involves concentrating on consultancy for enterprises, governmental and self-governmental administration and simultaneously commercializing the activity and restructuring the organization so that the Institute can fulfill its aims and be a desired partner for other companies and institutions to collaborate with.
In the IWP all activities have been classified into three units:

  • publicizing design by means of exhibitions and publications. The Library consists of and provides the access to (including Internet) one of the biggest in the world (comprising 46,000 entries and being constantly updated) collection specializing in the field of design
  • Edcation - trainings and conferences for businessmen and designers
  • consulting projects and carries out the researches on design management, new product implementation, ergonomics and biomechanics

It is the new initiatives that chiefly constitute the current objectives of IWP. But the Institute also continues and develops its past programmes which have already proved right. Good Design competition celebrated its 21th anniversary in 2014. From 2007 it changes its formula – now it awards the best house, office, public, services, new technologies, new materials, graphics and packaging designs on the Polish market. What is more there are also other prizes which are awarded besides Good Design – Design of the Year awarded by the Minister of Economy and Designer of the Year – by the president of IWP. Another competition promoting young designers – Young Design – is held by new rules with the jury consisting to a great extend of different businessmen and its laureate is granted the Prof. Wanda Telakowska scholarship.

One of the first new activities were comprehensive researches of design application commissioned by the Ministry of Economy and carried out in 2007 in 400 Polish companies . Their final outcome was the report whose recommendations resulted in including design in the strategic governmental programmes of the development of economy.

The new form of promoting design and good practices was 4 editions of Gdynia Design Days organized by IWP in collaboration with the local authority and different commercial partners.
The aim of this event was to popularize design among the companies, institutions and the citizens and tourists of the Trójmiasto region.
The important initiative of IWP is the Polish Designers Lexicon available online. It contains the profiles of over 500 designers with the implementations in industry from the 1950s up to now.

The organizational potential and the firm position of an expert resulted in two big programmes: inaugurated in 2008 Design Management postgraduate studies organized together with SGH and awarding the grant for the Design Your Profit key project - three and a half-year programme promoting design for 550 companies and 100 design studios worth about 20 million zlotys. The goal of this key project which is completely financed from the union funds is to build the business environment of companies and enterprises in which they will be able to develop competetive products by means of design.
Since 2008 the Institute has collaborated in organizing the Polish edition of the Microsoft competition by the name of Imagine Cup. The participants of this competition are the students of design and software design (thanks to the involvement of IWP). In recognition of the valuable and innovative formula and the good organization of the competition Microsoft has decided to organize the world finals of Imagine Cup 2010 in Poland.