Interdesign Northern Ireland 1976

The Designer and the Creation of Employment Opportunities, Northern Ireland

28 August – 11 September 1976

The focus of this Interdesign was to discern whether more indigenous and autonomous industries should have been developed at that time, and if better uses could have been made of the resources of Northern Ireland. Participants were expected to produce general descriptions of types of products, including some idea of visual identity, marketing proposals, export potential and methods of manufacturing. Additionally, participants were expected to comment on government development plans in response to Northern Ireland’s unemployment rate which had reached 51,000, representing 10% of the working population.


The construction industry

There were about 50,000 people with skills relevant to this industry such as bricklayers, joiners, plumbers, and electricians, and of these about one quarter were unemployed. Hence innovation in this labour intensive field was thought to be of importance in order to decrease unemployment.

The food industry

This project covered all aspects of production, processing and the marketing of food. Employment in agriculture had declined significantly between 1956 and 1976, and continued rationalisation within the industry had meant that more skills and new techniques were required to efficiently manage large farms

The furniture industry

This was a relatively small industry employing about 5,000 people, but had a fairly large home market and export potential.

Leisurewear and equipment

There was an increasing trend towards leisure activities, therefore providing scope for the design and manufacture of leisurewear and equipment marketable on a worldwide scale. Northern Ireland had an extremely high interest in sporting activities and its labour expertise in fibre production, textiles and clothing manufacture should have been able to produce a wide variety of well-designed leisurewear.

Medical equipment and aides for the handicapped

In addition to providing a much needed service to the community, a new industry in prosthetic and medical engineering equipment could have provided work from some of the 2500 unemployed mechanical, electrical, and instrument engineers. It would have required, in many cases, small-scale batch production well suited to many of Northern Ireland’s small industries at the time.

Products with a regional identity

The production of items with a regional identity could have involved small-scale enterprises ranging from the work of craftsmen to co-operative type cottage industries and small, yet well-equipped factories based on high quality labour-intensive production.