Vedran Kasap was born in 1977 in Zagreb. He graduated from the Applied Arts High School and the Design Study Program at the Zagreb Faculty of Architecture. After finishing his studies in 2003, he worked as an Associate Lecturer at the Zagreb Polytechnic. In 2005, he started working at the Faculty of Architecture, first as an Assistant Professor on the Design course, then from 2008 as a Senior Lecturer on the Computer Presentation Techniques Course, and then from 2013 as a Professor of the Interaction Design course. Since working at the Faculty, he has organized a series of workshops dealing with the collaboration with and integration of various field of design in the creation and production of products applied in real environments. Some of these have been the following: The Design Study Program at the Špancirfest, which explored issues of temporary urban equipment and signalization within the context of the Špancirfest festival, the Varaždin Summer Camp, which had Design and Architecture students conceive concepts and define guidelines for including the creative industries in the revitalization of the historic city center, and the Animated Graphics and Visual Communications workshop, done in collaboration with the Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Faculty of Political Sciences and Journalism, aimed at creating the visual identity of the Student Television. He is currently working on a World Bank project dealing with raising the quality of the interpretation and communication of nature as part of integrating the Natura 2000 network into all national parks and nature parks. As a member of the consortium, he participates in designing the signalization system, the interpretation and branding of the parks and various presentation and educational spaces within the parks, such as the visitors center and the educational and information centers.
Since 2006, you have been leading the Clinica Studio, but you also work as a lecturer at the University. How do these two jobs intertwine and to what extent do they influence each other?
After finishing my studies, I became an Associate Professor at the Zagreb Polytechnic in the field of IT design. I realized very quickly that without practical experience in the field I have no legitimacy to educate future generations of designers. It seemed irresponsible to guide someone based on my own interpretation of the literature from the field, without having tested the principles and methodology in a real environment myself. I decided to test my thinking and attitudes in practice and adjust the contents of the courses accordingly.
“My colleagues and I are all too aware of the constant need for advancing the study program, either via modernizing the existing courses or by introducing new ones. We are, however, part of a very rigid and bureaucratized system. Even minimal changes and corrections require a lot of time and energy”
We are often witness to criticism that our study programs are not in line with global development tendencies and that they lag behind the world’s leading educational institutions. In 2007, you prepared the curriculum for the Presentation Techniques course for the Design Study Program at the Faculty of Architecture, and in 2013 you did the same for the Interaction Design course. How much do you personally invest in modernizing the contents of the courses you teach and to what extent are the design segments you teach susceptible to change?
The criticism is partly justified. My colleagues and I are all too aware of the constant need for advancing the study program, either via modernizing the existing courses or by introducing new ones. We are, however, part of a very rigid and bureaucratized system. Even minimal changes and corrections require a lot of time and energy. More extensive interventions are complex and even more time-consuming, so there is a big chance that by the time the procedure is finished, the contents of the course will already have been outdated. Irrespective of these obstacles, we use various formal and informal ways to keep up with the times and to offer the students current knowledge and skills.
Interactivity as a design characteristic is often equated with interaction design as a design field. What is interaction design and how much do designers in Croatia engage with it?
Interaction design is often defined as designing the relations between humans and computers or any other object that has comprises a kind of computer. Over time, this term has begun to include an entire range of other activities, some from existing design fields and some from new ones or existing non-design fields. I am more prone to an open nomenclature because the boundaries between fields in design and other related fields have become more fluid, perhaps even unnecessary. I am certain that there is a great number of people dealing with interaction design who use a different term for it. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people who would never call themselves designers, but who are doing design.
Your Clinica Studio specializes in the field of product design, with an emphasis on the design of exhibition spaces, and TV and video production. With projects that cover such an extensive field, the role of the designer/studio manager is often reduced to the organization and coordination of the employees/associates. What is the current situation n the Clinica Studio?
The Clinica Studio is a small business with a few employees, and my intention is for it to stay that way. When we work on more complex projects, we do hire associates, colleagues from the field of design or other related fields. This does mean that we end up doing more of the organization and coordination, which does not leave me a lot of time to do the design, but this doesn’t bother me too much since I have the opportunity to work with excellent designers, who can do the job as well as me, if not better.
You’ve worked on a lot of projects for interpretation, educational and visitors centers, educational paths and spatial installations for national parks and nature parks. Which one of these was the most challenging and why?
As part of the Natura 2000 Ecological Network, I worked on the project Raising the quality of the communication and interpretation of nature for four years, collaborating with fellow designers Dragana Lucija Ratković Aydemir, Marko Šesnić, Goran Turković, Vladimir Končar, Vanja Cuculić and Igor Pauška. This included a complex one-year procedure of the international tender of the Natura Integration Project and the World Bank. During this period, 40 other associates, designers and I prepared the preliminary and implementing documentation for 18 educational paths, interpretation, educational and info centers, interpretation and signalization system boards, a web application with the automatic design and preparation of graphic materials for the boards, and a visual identity system for Croatian parks. I can’t point out an individual project as being the most challenging, but the pace of the work was extreme due to the short deadlines.
“There have always been good and bad aspects to being a designer. There’s always been something to motivate, and something to concern us”
Considering your experience, how much have the circumstances of doing design in Croatia changed compared to when you graduated?
There certainly are differences. Design has become more accessible and more prevalent, but also more expendable. This has both its advantages and disadvantages. There have always been good and bad aspects to being a designer. There’s always been something to motivate, and something to concern us.
The work of a product designer is embroiled with a vast array of other fields, and product designers are often expected to do things that are not part of their primary job description. To what extent is it even possible to specialize in a specific field of this already highly specialized segment?
I feel specialization rarely makes sense, and am more prone to an open and flexible structure of the design field. What makes a designer good is the way he or she responds to a certain task and the way he or she gives meaning to the solutions, viewing them in the widest possible context. It is the skills gained that create the specialization, and these can always be acquired through practice and training.
“The trend of self-initiated projects is on the rise. The extent to which the circumstances allow designers to devote themselves to design, rather than figuring out how to make ends meet, will increase the quality of these projects”
Sometimes either an individual or a team can come up with an equally good product design solution, though they may have different professional backgrounds and approaches. Should preference be given to the end result or the entire creation process when evaluating the work?
From the consumer’s perspective, the end result is what is important with all of its emotional, social and functional characteristics, whereas from the standpoint of the profession, the process is significant since it demonstrates how to do something or how not to do something.
The exhibition’s Spatial and Graphic Interventions and Systems category comprises complex works from interior design, exhibition space design and signalization systems. What was the basic criterion in the selection of the works for this category?
This criterion is very simple to describe, but difficult to evaluate – the extent to which the solution makes sense within a given context.
Are there any tendencies within the field of product design that you would point out as a recognizable characteristic of the projects done in Croatia in the last two years?
The fact that a couple of years ago a small segment of the furniture manufacturing industry in Croatia began to utilize the work of designers has led to both the industry and the designers reaping the benefits of this collaboration. This will certainly encourage other industry fields to follow suit. On the other hand, the trend of self-initiated projects is also on the rise. The extent to which the circumstances allow designers to devote themselves to design, rather than figuring out how to make ends meet, will increase the quality of these projects. The development and accessibility of technology is already pushing some designers into interaction design and a more intense interdisciplinary collaboration with various engineering fields, such as mechatronics, mechanical engineering and computer engineering. Considering the current global tendencies, the need for such interdisciplinary teams will only grow.