PIVOT Dublin is a design promotion project initiated in 2009 by Dublin City Council (Ireland). Born out of Dublin’s bid to be designated World Design Capital 2014, PIVOT Dublin has gone on to establish itself as a platform for design initiatives and collaborative projects and has lead a resurgence of international interest in Irish design. In November 2012, Ali Grehan, Dublin City Architect and Founder/Director of PIVOT Dublin took the time to answer a few questions about the activities taking place in Dublin.

Q: Tell us about the design environment in Dublin and what makes it so vibrant?

Dublin design is diverse and thriving on many levels – both at an informal grassroots level and institutional/local government level. From product, craft, fashion and graphic design, to architecture and urban design, as well as the new digital design cultures that reflect our success in animation, film and the gaming industry, Dublin design has a unique voice and character – that of storytelling, empathy, creativity, conversation, ambition, humour and optimism.

The scale of the city facilitates connections between people, ideas and action with interdisciplinary collaboration extending beyond conventional design disciplines to embrace literature, music and visual arts. Despite (or perhaps because of) economic challenges, the city design calendar is teeming with events many of which are novel pop-ups produced by indefatigable young people.

Q: Pivot Dublin began as the team preparing the City’s bid for World Design Capital 2014. What is the story behind how the organisation got started? How has your vision and mission changed?

The project was initiated by Dublin City Council through the City Architects division in 2009. The economic crises had taken hold and yet at a time when we needed to draw on all of our resources, there seemed to be poor understanding of design’s role in developing innovation, economic growth and ensuring value for money. The WDC vision and the robust competition process offered an opportunity to challenge this. We embarked on a series of one-to-one conversations with designers, concluding with a daylong workshop, which informed a feasibility report published in April 2010. In this we stated, “while it would be a significant achievement for Dublin to win this competition, the overwhelming value will be found in the process of making a bid. The World Design Capital project offers a common ground on which to further develop an integrated and united Irish Design Community. A well-executed interdisciplinary bid could result in a clear and compelling statement about Irish design capacity.”

This ambition has been born out and PIVOT Dublin is harnessing the incredibly positive momentum generated by the bid work. Our mission hasn’t changed, but has continued to grow with the project. Our vision and objectives are encapsulated in the project name;

  • Promote design as a resource that can help us adapt, innovate and grow.
  • Inspire a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Value our national and international network.
  • Offer opportunities to explain, demonstrate and celebrate design’s positive impact.
  • Translate ideas to action through projects.

Q: Why do you think you have leveraged so much conversation, collaboration and contribution about design in Dublin from such diverse sectors? What level of involvement have you seen from citizens that aren’t designers?

Dublin designers have been incredibly generous and open throughout, understanding that we all have much to gain by working together. Communicating design value to the general public is, of course, critical to real success. We favour events that have visibility in public space and promote projects that address people’s needs, such as the Dublin House project which seeks to offer choice and creative opportunity to families who wish to live in the City Centre. The design animation film, a 2013 project mentioned below, will be aimed at everyone.

Q: Tell us, as about your upcoming project, Dublin Tagged! and other events that you host or create.

We have a programme of work underway for 2012/2013; projects which relate directly to promoting Dublin design and which seek to connect design resources to challenges for a wider benefit.

The focus of the 2012 has been to consolidate the project beyond the WDC 2014 bid, build on the positive energy generated by the bid process and expand the network. The project website www.pivotdublin.com and associated social media has been a key communication channel, augmented by national and international exhibitions and events.

The most significant events have been participation in the World Design Capital Helsinki 2012 International Design House Exhibition ‘Everyday Discoveries‘ and the development of Dublin Design Week. The Dublin Tagged event is one of our headline Design Week events and is a reworking of the Helsinki Tagged exhibition developed for WDC 2012. Created by an interdisciplinary group of 5 young designers, the aim of the Dublin Design Collective event is to encourage citizens to rediscover their city with the help of 80 large tags dispersed throughout the city that draw attention to certain landmarks that highlight design.

The international spotlight on Ireland’s ‘The Gathering’ festival and 2013 EU Presidency, offers significant opportunities to promote Irish design innovation. ‘The Gathering’ seeks to reach out to the global Irish network in a myriad of ways. The overarching theme of the Ireland’s Presidency is focused on ‘improving the European Union’s global competitiveness, promoting economic growth and creating jobs.’ The PIVOT Dublin project objectives are consistent with the themes of both events. 2013 projects underway include a design map of the city, a flexible and mobile exhibition unit which we can use as required and an animation explaining the value of design.

A mainstay of our programme is the website blog guest curator spot. Here, an individual or design group takes over our site for two weeks. Our guest benefits because they access our audience, PIVOT Dublin benefits because we hear new stories.

Q: You’ve participated quite a bit in the WDC Helsinki 2012 programme. Do you hope to participate in Cape Town WDC 2014 and how?

We’d love to participate in Cape Town’s WDC 2014 year. As to how, well, that’s a conversation we need to have with Cape Town. We know that they have great ideas, in particular about how design can connect society and people.

More information on PIVOT Dublin and Dublin design week are available on their websites www.pivotdublin.com and www.designweek.ie.