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Valdivia: «Political borders in maps cannot entrap design; in fact, design pre-dates the concept of ‘nation’. I can admire the shapes of a wichí weave... It existed before Argentina was even constituted and it certainly was design»

The co-founder of Mar del Plata’s mega-encounter TRImarchi DG, reviews several implications of design, its evolutionary paths, and its boundaries.

In 2001, the students Sebastián Valdivia and Pablo González created a graphic design event in synch with the new ways of understanding the profession and its diverse expressions. Due to its hundreds of conferences led by key national and international representatives, formative activities, and outstanding response, it became one of the most important interdisciplinary, specialized meetings in Latin America. It even turned into a year-long, public leisure and study club.

On the eve of its 19th celebration, which will take place from the 1st to the 3rd day of next November, Valdivia answers an interview for the Expert Opinion section of our Old&Newsletter where he discusses such concepts as the identity of Argentine design and talks about the social appreciation of design, the significance of collections, and future challenges that will be faced by the discipline.

–What is your experience in the field of design?
–Being involved in the field has always helped me. Some designers have inspired and encouraged me to read most of the books that have formed me. Others oriented me by providing map bearings and signs that prevented me from getting lost. To me, the pentagram and musical notes system is an incredible design and it has enabled me to listen to amazing things. The chair where I’m seated, lightly cushioned and with strong legs that connect to a curved armrests, is making it easy for me to elaborate on my answer because it provides me great comfort. It has come along with me many times, thus, my experience with it has been gratifying.

–What features define pieces that possess a fine design?
–When its functionality is well established, I guess. In any case, I always value when a piece has an emotional meaning that reveals a hint of sensitivity, but that is a personal appraisal.

–Is there a unique “Argentine design” identity? Is there a single “Argentine design”?
–Does global design exist? I believe political borders cannot entrap design. Maybe they can determine it, but nowadays it has become very difficult to match design with particular regions.
Creo que las fronteras en los mapas no pueden atrapar el diseño. Actually, design predates the concept of “country” itself. I can admire the shapes of a wichí weave, lost in the midst of The Impenetrable region of Formosa. It existed before Argentina was even constituted and it certainly was design. Of course there are global trends but they impact different regions in different ways; specific issues often require specific solutions.

–Is design socially valued in Argentina?
–Society shares a pride for Argentine design. Since I was a child, I’ve heard people boast about "Argentine designs" which were nothing else but designs, such as the renowned Ladislao Biro. As time went on, a general appreciation of design has consolidated along with a better understanding of its different disciplinary branches. That aura of collective appraisal was boosted by the professionals that developed concepts, actions, and ideas that represent us as a society.

–What is the significance of archives and design patrimonial collections?
–Since I myself accumulate all sorts of designs, it comes easy for me to celebrate the existence of archives. Collections foster understanding by providing points of comparison, context, range, and historical interpretations. Each discovery treasured by collectors becomes a revelation for a whole community of nerds that appreciate such research methods. We are in desperate need of cultural diggers (nerd emoticon).

–Why is it necessary to preserve the memory of design?
–Design is a footprint of thought. Each reflection or idea that inspired a particular design piece contains shared social knowledge that has been unconsciously incorporated. Many pieces may appear to be outdated today because its uses have been surpassed, however the concept they embody and their development might inspire future innovations or, even, help young designers in search for their own path to avoid past mistakes.

–What institutional conditions are required to accomplish it?
–Good judgement, devoted preservation, ability to communicate content, and social awareness of the archive’s significance.

–Why is it that in Argentina, in contrast with the rest of the world, there are almost no museum spaces devoted to design?
–I don’t know. I’ve seen so much and so good scattered all around… could this be the right time to gather it?

–What future challenges will be faced by the design community?
–The same as always: to be aware of the needs of the community we interact with and to never give closure to past issues because we are in constant evolution and the transformations we experience also modify our old practices, needs, habits, and solutions. Design channels and tools will keep changing as they have done so many times before. I think that will continue to be our challenge.