Last week I was in Belgrade, Serbia, as a speaker at the “Design Author or Universal Soldier” conference. Although I cannot tell you exactly what the title means, I can report that many of the talks (mostly in Serbian, but I had excellent translators) were stimulating and insightful. They covered a wide range of design concerns, including social activism (remember this was a city bombed by NATO for an unrelenting three months), “bullshit” branding, and the fragile nexus of art and design. The hub of the conference, held at an abandoned department store in the city center, was an exhibition of Milton Glaser’s work (poster by Glaser above) organized by Mirko Ilic, who was also a speaker, and Borut Vild. The audience, made up of some veteran designers and many students from the former adversaries Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia (getting along quite nicely), was engaged, moved, and energized (and perhaps given their experiences growing up during tragic wars, they were also more sophisticated than many American students I’ve met). When the students from Zagreb appeared wearing I [Heart] Belgrade t-shirts, everyone was moved.
Speaking of sophistication, one of the conference co-organizers, Mia David, publishes and edits and incredibly smart design magazine, titled KVART (covers below). In the middle of a Serbian economic slump, when state finances for cultural concerns are minimal, this handsome periodical is staging a valiant effort to raise cultural consciousness. Read more about KVART at its website. And if you can get copies (written in English and Serbian), you won’t regret it.
From time to time, I will feature other international design magazines like KVART to show, wherever possible, how serious design journalism is flourishing. Sadly, KVART’s fight to survive is facing financial obstacles. It deserves to survive. So check it out, and if you can help their bottom line, your cred as a design maven will increase considerably.
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.