Cuba's digital destination
by Ricardo Alberto Pérez
It’s hard to believe that there could be any timelier event for Cuba than the 1st Design Biennale of Havana scheduled for May 16 to 20. Organized by the National Design Bureau, ONDI by its Spanish initials, its secondary locations will be in Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba. The event comes at a time when Cuba is undergoing changes in a number of areas, something that inspires people to rethink some of their perceptions.
The Biennale setup provides a wide-ranging program that includes exhibitions, shows, runways and an overview of Cuban and international design trends. There will be a theoretical forum held from May 18 to 20 at the Havana Convention Center and it will also provide the ideal scenario for awarding the ONDI Design Prizes, thereby taking the temperature of what is happening these days in Cuban design.
We know that design is in fact already ensconced in a vanguard that is demonstrating visible signs about every one of the changes that are being generated in our society. It actively participates in the desire to be in dialogue and have an understanding with everything that is new, but at the same time it wishes to salvage a visual memory that will enrich the dizzying pace of our present, overtaken by the dominant effect of images.
Some pretty serious indications have shown us that our cultural traits are able to cross over design boundaries along with everything associated with our insularity and the characteristics of our climate which consistently, and sometimes unconsciously, has produced our principal customs and habits on the Island. It is a matter of imprinting the different design fields with an authentic vision of Cuba that has a vaporous lightness and the humor that characterizes our people without forgetting about our reflective side, ready to understand the most complicated ideas and incorporate them into our everyday lives.
The event will be graced by the presence of remarkable design personalities on a world scale and by important corporations from a variety of regions. Among these visitors, one of the most outstanding will surely be Martin Sorell, President of the WPP Group, considered to be a world marketing leader. It takes in many of the most admired global agencies in the industry and employs some 190,000 people in 112 countries. Our own large body of design talent will of course be present, showing off the work of a heady blend of highly experienced designers and a younger generation of capable creators who have their finger firmly placed on the pulse of what is happening in the world today.
The guiding slogan for the event is Design and Prosperity. As in any self-respecting event, this one’s success will largely depend on how well it will integrate the general public into its theme. It is important for people to realize that design has the power to improve their quality of life.
We should also emphasize the event’s humanistic nature: taking the spotlight will be matters dealing with including products geared to physically and motor-skill disabled persons, adding Braille to the labels on medicine packages, and making sure that the designs on these self-same medicine packages use colors that are appropriate for the vision restrictions of older people. Packages for products designed for children should also respond to their demands and fantasies.
Among its priorities, the Havana Design Biennale will be issuing an alert to the sense of professionalism that should be working hand-in-hand at every level of design. This aspect is more necessary than ever because the damaging effects on the image and credibility of national design when unskilled improvisation gets involved interfere with the work of all trained individuals, especially those coming out of the Higher Institute of Design.
The event will provide confirmation on the fact that our Cuban designers are fully committed to the world of technology and the sciences and that they also incorporate a high level of culture and humanism associated with the symbolic and subjective values of consumers, with a full range of practical experience, tastes and feelings. We are convinced that the merits of Cuban design will be clearly visible not only in Cuba but within the global dynamic.