Interdesign Ireland 1972

Design for Tourism, Kilkenny (Ireland)

We were happy to act as hosts to the second ICSID Interdesign Seminar, Design for Tourism. When the Kilkenny Design Workshops were founded in 1964 it was intended that we should, among other things, “pioneer new concepts in design”.

Both for this reason and because Ireland has an important and growing tourist industry, the ICSID project of Design for Tourism had an immediate appeal to us. The implications which tourism can have for social and physical environment are a matter of national concern in Ireland, as they are in many countries. The proposal and recommendations of twenty professional designers going together from different countries ought, we felt, to be of value not only to Ireland but to every country interested in tourism.

At the Congress in Ibiza in 1971, Kilkenny was decided on as the venue for the Design for Tourism Seminar. Background information and briefs were sent to the designers in advance of their arrival in May 1972. The project was divided into four groups:

A. Holiday Accommodation
B. Transport
C. General Equipment
D. Colour and Materials

The designers were formed into groups, more or less arbitrarily, to work on different sections, but as time went on a certain amount of regrouping came about naturally, as particular interests and professional affinities revealed themselves. It was clearly impracticable within the space of two weeks to carry out a comprehensive survey of the whole country. What was possible was a survey of a representative area, and County Clare was selected as the most appropriate. A week was devoted to field trips to allow members of the Seminar to obtain first-hand knowledge of the region. Their conclusions and recommendations were put on record during the week that followed. This was done, it should be emphasised, under considerable pressure.

Perhaps we were lucky in the calibre of the people who converged on Kilkenny from places as far removed from each other as Japan, Yugoslavia, Australia, and Finland. ICSID had screened the paper credentials of the applicants but, as in all such selections, an unpredictable element remained. Certainly we were lucky in the almost unbroken May sunshine which showed the Irish countryside at what one of the designers described as “its most heartbreakingly beautiful”.

Few of the designers had any professional connection with the tourist industry. Yet within a remarkably short time the problems were identified and classified, approaches to solutions defined. Instant teamwork evolved as if by magic. On the evidence of the two interdesign seminars held so far one must be impressed with the release of energy and the performance when a group of experienced professional designers come together to engage on a project of social significance.

For the rest, it will be clear from reading the report that the participants have made a distinctive and important contribution to planning for tourism. At an early stage they rejected the idea of ready-made designs for specific situations as being inappropriate and quite possibly irrelevant, coming from those who had spent a mere two weeks in the country. It has been well said that “all introduced design is foreign and remains foreign until the people find a way of using it themselves”. So methods were devised to analyze needs and influences, to chart the interaction between guest and hosts, to illustrate the areas of common and separate use – in short to expose the problems and suggest solutions for a country which wants to keep its identity while propelled towards change by a rising tide of visitors.

We believe we can reasonably claim, therefore, that while Ireland happened to be subject of this particular case study, the suggestions and conclusions in the report are relevant to all countries engaged in the tourist trade, which means a high proportion of the countries of the world.

Our co-hosts to the seminar were Bord Failte (the Irish Tourist Board) and Coras Tracheal (the Irish Export Board). We join with them in our thanks to the many people of Ireland and abroad, too numerous to mention by name, who helped in the organization and the running of the seminar, and not least to the designers themselves who provided all the material for this report.

Special thanks are due to UNESCO whose financial assistance made this publication possible.