Promotion of creative industry Springboard for young designers

The Association of German Industrial Designers describes the products of the design industry as “essential, enhancing the quality of life, elementary and beautiful”
The Association of German Industrial Designers describes the products of the design industry as “essential, enhancing the quality of life, elementary and beautiful” | Photo (detail): © William Veder/u-institut

Germany is a country of founders. A multitude of networks, associations and state offers are helping young designers gain a foothold in the business.

The results surprised even industry insiders: for the second time, a study of the American news magazine U.S. News & World Report chose Germany in 2017 as the most entrepreneur-friendly country in the world. Up to now, Germany has rather been looked upon as a country with strongly established industries, bureaucracy and lack of venture capital. But now a lively entrepreneurial culture has established itself, with more than 6,000 start-up companies that benefit from a wide range of funding.
 
Not only ministries of economics offer support; diverse offers are also listed in the funding databases of the federal government, the federal states and the European Union. Non-state networks and associations are also possible sponsors.

Coveted industry competitions

This also applies to the sector of design industry: for example, the platform Modeopfer110 has a good dozen helpers who run workshops and elaborate whole concepts with novices. The Association of German Fashion Designers is also helpful as a broker between industry and fashion designers. In 2015 the Fashion Council Germany was founded by national industry experts. It supports young designers with a mentoring programme of the Berlin Fashion Week: fashion show slots for newcomers, individual fair sponsorships at the Fashion Week and start-up competitions.
 
In addition to fashion, product or industrial design is also part of the design industry. Mould design for products such as helmets, office products and technical consumer goods is described by the Association of German Industrial Designers as “essential, enhancing the quality of life, elementary and beautiful”. For potential manufacturers, the u-institut, originally based in Bremen and now in Berlin, has been a consultant for entrepreneurial thinking and action since 2008. Its founders, Christoph Backes und Sylvia Hustedt, who are also sponsors of the Federal Government’s Competence Centre for Cultural and Creative Industries, offer workshops, events, expert opinions and publications for young entrepreneurs. The competitions “Cultural and Creative Pilots Germany” (Kultur- und Kreativpiloten Deutschland), “Creative Pioneers Lower Saxony” (Kreativpioniere Niedersachsen), “Creatives Mecklenburg—Western-Pomerania” (Kreativmacher Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) and “Idea Pilots Bremen” (Ideenlotsen Bremen) have experienced a regular stampede of participants.

The project “Istanbul’dan” is one winner of such a competition. “Istanbul’dan“ is a German-Turkish idea for mixing traditional Istanbul craftsmanship with modernity and producing, for example, lamps or jars in modern product design with traditional materials and methods. But must we really relentlessly manufacture new products? Christoph Backes of the u-institut warns: “Every idea costs money.” Instead of constantly creating the new, it is often more important first of all to market one, successful product.

Creative quarters as a springboard

A study by the Fraunhofer Institute for System and Innovation Research and the economic and consulting company prognos comes to a similar assessment. The countless micro and small businesses in Germany lack perceptibility, it says. Even in so trendy a neighbourhood as Munich’s Glockenbachviertel, which is well-frequented and popular with customers and creatives, fashion designers can often keep their heads above water only by taking second jobs. Small German design fairs such as the Stilblüten Festival in Frankfurt also have regular worries – Stilblüten finds no rooms for its designers in the city, although Frankfurt business promotion is doing its best.

Creative quarters do not come about by themselves. In his book Kollaborationen zwischen Kreativwirtschaft und Mittelstand (i.e. Collaborations between Creative Industry and SMEs), Florian Knetsch, co-author of the previously cited study, economic researcher and policy advisor, points to solutions in the European Union. They could also serve as a model for Germany: the cities of Lille and Roubaix gave 30 fashion designers the opportunity to work for 24 months in boutiques and areas of industry and to be coached by and learn from industry experts.

Creative Laboratory – a promising name

But the German creative landscape has also changed: Hamburg, for example, is planning a centre for creatives in the Oberhafen area. Munich is systematically developing the creative quarter in the Dachauer Straße, a 20 hectare site not far from the city centre. There, culture, commerce, 820 flats, schools and the centre for creative industry are to be settled in four sub-districts. One of the sections will be called Creative Laboratory – a promising name.