Spotlight on Graz, the Austrian design hub – Interview with Eberhard Schrempf
We talked to Eberhard Schrempf, the managing director of Creative Industries Styria about the designers’ responsibility in shaping our future, and how the Austrian creative community is evolving towards that purpose.
Founded in 2007, Creative Industries Styria is the Austrian organization that acts as a bridge between the creative industries and the traditional economy. It has been responsible for the organization of Design Month Graz since 2009, an event that promotes the local creative scene to the outside world, by gathering the best of their works within one month.
After having to cancel Design Month Graz 2020, the one-month event comes back this year set around the theme “BETTER FUTURE”. How can the creative community contribute to building a better world? And what can we expect from design events in the long run? DesignWanted talks to Creative Industries Styria’s managing director, Eberhard Schrempf.
Who is Eberhard Schrempf? And how did your journey with Creative Industries Styria begin?
Eberhard Schrempf: “I am the managing director of the Creative Industries Styria. My journey in this position started in 2007 when the network society was founded to improve and extend the efficiency and performance in the market for creative industries and the traditional economy. In addition to that, I am a lecturer at FH Joanneum for Information Design. Before that, I worked as a cultural manager and designer.”
Graz was designated UNESCO City of Design in 2011. What does it mean for a city to be a City of Design? And how has it affected the Austrian design community?
Eberhard Schrempf: “The successful application of Graz as UNESCO City of Design was very important for positioning the city as a design hotspot on a global map. When Graz became part of the UNESCO Creative Cities network, it was only the 10th City of Design. Now in 2021, there are 40 Cities of Design and 246 Creative Cities worldwide. Being part of this network has resulted in sustainable collaborations, countless contacts and opportunities.
Graz is a very important design location and has become a center for design and business in Austria in the last 10 years. Beyond design experimentation and author design, we focus very strongly on networking and mediation between design studios and companies, which makes us highly relevant for the design scene in Austria.”
How does Creative Industries Styria connect creative industries to the traditional economy? And how is Designmonat Graz playing a role in this?
Eberhard Schrempf: “Three strategic areas provide the framework for the activities of Creative Industries Styria: Awareness & Location, Impulses & Projects, and Network & Service. Within these focal points, Creative Industries Styria work externally for the companies and internally for the creative scene, with the goal of optimizing the factors fostering a faster development of the enterprises coming from both sectors. Doing so, we assume the role of a double ‘missing link’, namely the very link which the chain as a functional whole could not do without.
Design Month Graz plays an important role in this because it spotlights local creative industries over the course of one month, inviting people to discover and interact with makers. The event organises innovative projects and provides an opportunity to explore the importance of good design. Design Month Graz has high international relevance and links the local and international creative industries by hosting guests and working with media partners from Austria and abroad.”
This year, Designmonat Graz’ was based around the theme “BETTER FUTURE”. What role do creative industries play in building a ‘better future’? And to what extent can designers contribute to making a better world?
Eberhard Schrempf: “Designers and the creative industries make a crucial contribution to a better future. Every product has a design, behind every product stand designers. The creative industry as a whole can help to create the right mindset in people and motivate each person to play a part in changing our future for the better. By making design more visible through events like the Design Month Graz, people are exposed to new ideas and alternatives and therefore become more open.
Young designers, in particular, take on responsibility and no longer see themselves merely as service providers. They want to contribute something to a better future with their work.”
Can you name one or more projects displayed during Designmonat Graz that particularly got your attention for their innovation and potential in building a better future?
Eberhard Schrempf: “Yes of course. The first thing that comes to my mind is our main Design Month Graz exhibition this year: Fantastic Plastic.
It aims to raise awareness about the value of plastic as a raw resource and highlights the numerous approaches of designers to reuse plastic and integrate it into a sustainable product life cycle. Plastics have a rather tainted reputation when it comes to environmental and climate protection, but the actual problem is the incorrect disposal of plastics. In fact, plastic as a raw material is 100% recyclable and can be processed into innumerable products.
Another important event during this year’s Design Month Graz was the symposium “Redesign the Future”. During the two-day event, we explored how university-level education, urban development, and social and sustainable design can be part of the solution to saving our future. All international speakers agreed that design will take a significant role in this.”
We have selected 6 highlights from Austrian design month, head to The best of Design Month Graz 2021!
The past year has had a huge impact on design events, with many turning to virtual alternatives. How did you decide to run Designmonat Graz physically? And what challenges did you meet in its organization?
Eberhard Schrempf: “Actually, the events during Design Month Graz this year took place partly analog and partly digital. It was a decision that had to be made. Design Month Graz 2021 was not cancelled – and that was important because it was the first festival in Graz after many months of lockdowns, shutdowns and cancellations.
We developed micro-communication formats, digital tours through exhibitions and design-savvy shops in Graz and a new podcast format to give our guests, listeners and visitors the best possible experience. It was a different atmosphere and mood, but we are happy that we could put out a sign.”
How do you see the organisation of design events evolving?
Eberhard Schrempf: “Design is known for new approaches, surprises and the courage to take chances. I am sure the digital component that was added to our lives in every way during the last year will stay with us.
I see more virtual or hybrid events in the future of design events. But on the other hand, we should not forget that physical interaction is necessary as well. Design has to be seen, touched and experienced – not only digitally. As for the upcoming Design Months Graz, we will take the best of both worlds to keep the festival evolving.”
Discover ways in which Austrian designers are contributing to a better future, don’t miss The 3D Printed Gradient Furniture Collection by Philipp Aduatz.