Mapping Brazil - Design

The 2015 update on design in Brazil - by Daniel Kraichete

Although it is still seeking to consolidate a clear identity, Brazilian design is gradually moving in this direction. It is not so much an active quest as the natural evolution of the activity and the different initiatives throughout the country (and in other parts of the world) that are shaping the identity of Brazilian design and consolidating its position on the world scene. What was once a curiosity is today becoming a reference in a variety of areas.

Winning prizes and marking its presence at events in different countries, Brazilian design is attracting increasing attention overseas. In recent years the number of Brazilians exhibiting their work or being featured at international fairs has gone up, as has the quantity and variety of awards they have won.

This trend is reflected in some exchange initiatives between Brazil and other countries, which have resulted in exhibitions of French, Polish, Danish and Russian design, to name a few. The cooperation programme with the Netherlands is very active, taking the form of missions, exhibitions and various other projects in Brazil.

Design Policies and Institutions
Design policies and incentives are gradually developing as initiatives and projects in the realm of design gain increasing strength. The main business, development and innovation institutions now have design on their agenda. While few in number, Brazilian design centres and associations are doing important work, driving progress in the vibrant, burgeoning domestic scene. In the absence of a consolidated public policy, design is developing through a bottom-up movement aimed at supporting its effective growth.

Innovation and Entrepreneurialism
Design, with its cross-disciplinary features, is gaining increasing attention as a driver of development, innovation, entrepreneurialism and the creative and collaborative economy, to cite a few areas.

New working relations and work spaces, creative co-operatives and collaborations, startups (now emerging outside the digital world): this is the reality of Brazil’s makers today. These are some of the movements that are shaping a new development and business reality in Brazil, in line with trends seen around the world. In this new context, design is emerging as a key tool for innovation and strategic management, and design thinking is gaining ground and attracting attention around the country.

Creative Hubs
In a more local context, some revitalisation processes for degraded areas like the dock area in Rio de Janeiro and the centre of São Paulo are being supported by the formation of creative production clusters. In other parts of the country, different plans to establish local creative hubs are also being rolled out.

Economic Context
At the same time, recent economic activity in the country has been based largely on providing credit and increasing the buying power of less advantaged strata of society. This position, allied with consumer-focused development (to the detriment of more efficient industrial policies and infrastructure development), is creating a whole market of opportunities for the development of products and consequently of brands that can meet this growing demand, strengthening industrial design. Consolidated brands are bringing out a more varied mix of products and penetrating new markets, while new names are beginning to emerge. Despite the prospect of economic recession, the Brazilian market still has scope for expansion.

Market and Opportunities
The demand for high-end, exclusive design is growing, especially in furniture and home furnishings. Established names have a stronger foothold in the market and new exponents are gradually earning recognition. Wood from sustainably managed forests is an important material, but other materials and manufacturing techniques are also being investigated. Small products are also starting to gain ground – goods produced on a small scale by the designers themselves or by third parties directly for designers, who in turn negotiate directly with retailers or end consumers. Design collectors are also becoming important figures in this context.

Events and Media
More recently, two other factors have helped boost interest in design by the general public. One of them is the fact that some traditional newspapers and television channels have put design on their agenda and started to provide design-related coverage. While design may often still be misrepresented, the fact is that interest in the subject is on the rise. Another factor is design events, which have become a feature on event calendars, attracting bigger audiences not just of design and related professionals, but of the general public.

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