The Future of Design/An Interview with Design Department Heads

The call for nominations for the Edmond de Rothschild Design Award is a wonderful occasion to speak with leading design department heads about the challenges and opportunities in the field, designers’ place in the Israeli design industry, and the importance of design in 2022.

“Designers must be part of the revolution,” says Ilan Beja, Head of the Department of Fashion Design at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art. “The challenges and opportunities in the world of fashion today are the attentiveness and curiosity designers must cultivate and the tools they need to improve. Fashion is undergoing a revolution now,” he adds, “be it the transition from the real to the virtual, from the commercial to the sustainable and environmentally conscious, from preserving high technical traditions such as tailored clothing and couture to the incorporation of new, smart and 3D materials newly introduced to the fashion world. Designers must be part of the revolution, whatever their expertise may be. To change how they look at their label or at the label they work for. To understand that this is their life, from their moment of waking, through daily routines, to their greatest dreams and aspirations. This is a remarkable generation who went through a global pandemic, came out of it by virtue of joint efforts, and discovered a new world of fashion design with new needs, new – at times daunting – technologies, and uncharted opportunities to be explored and studied. Designers must understand that ultimately, fashion is a business that has to be profitable, and especially meaningful.”

Hadass Himmelschein, Head of the Department of Textile Design at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, says, “The significant challenges concern the definition of textile design as a profession, in the global context and in particular within the Israeli context. The department at Shenkar was founded in the 1970s as part of an academic effort to support Israel’s textile industry, which was a major sector in our economy at the time. Years later, textile production has migrated to ‘cheaper’ countries, and Israel sees the emergence of local textile research and development centers that are looking for solutions for the challenges of our times: sustainable processes, development of new materials, embedding wearable technologies in clothing, and more. Textile designers, trained and responsible for designing textile surface (fabric length), must now deal with challenges that concern the end uses of fabric and the design of finished textile products.”
Noga Hadad, Head of the Jewelry Making and Metalwork Department at Tel-Hai College, believes that “one of the main challenges in jewelry making is the current perception of design work as being done using digital tools, away from the actual material. Jewelry making is a respectable art, with a body of knowledge accumulated over thousands of years. The smith was considered a sorcerer, an alchemist, the first product designer. In ancient times, the smith knew how to transform materials, create moving mechanisms without engines, to process minerals and metals and turn them into precious objects. This knowledge is gradually disappearing, and the challenge from my point of view is to preserve our direct contact with our materials, which at the highest level becomes an intimate knowledge of the metal and its limits, while at the same time harnessing new technologies to the creative process. As I see it, good jewelry making is the ability to bring together techniques and materials, old and new, to form a meaningful statement and create a holistic product. That is where the magic happens for the wearer and for the beholder.”

Rachel Getz Salomon, Head of the Fashion Department at the NB Haifa School of Design, thinks that “as in everywhere else in the 21st century, what is called for in the fashion world is interdisciplinary openness and intermixing. Today’s fashion designers must possess a hybrid approach and be skilled at different types of work. Fashion is open to material and technological thrills as it has never been before, and the evolution of work methods guarantees a very meaningful message for this part of the design world. Because the Israeli fashion industry is very crowded, the key to standing out lies in the human story embodied in the fashion work. Designers are also story tellers, who use garments and clothing sets to give a story body and substance. In a world that is overflowing with creativity, it is difficult for designers to stand out, no matter how good they are. And the story, which is unique, is what can give them the opportunity to introduce innovation and uniqueness into the world.”
Shelly Satat-Kombor, Head of the Jewelry and Fashion Department at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, thinks that “the main challenge in the field today is how to make the designer’s unique voice heard within the abundance of design work all around. Our times are such that the cards have been shuffled, so to speak. Artists and creatives in every field must consider that the more they acquire different and diverse skills, the more prepared they will be when they emerge from the academic world into real life. This is also a time that calls for collaboration and uniting forces, knowledge sharing, and most importantly merging manual craft and digital. Additionally, young designers are constantly inundated with information through digital media, and their role, in my view, is to edit this information, tell the wheat from the chaff, and so maximize their talent and preserve their unique signature while maintaining their stance on political, gender, and social issues. It is very important that designers consider the climate crisis, offer solutions for it, and always keep in mind that fashion is a personal statement that is worth guarding, while also guarding our planet. It is their moral duty, as well as our own.”
Uri Samet, Head of the Department of Jewelry Design at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, argues that “unlike the traditional concept of the jewelry maker as a lonely goldsmith bent over his bench creating jewelry pieces by hand, our department aims to train designers who can operate in a dynamic multidisciplinary space characterized by the multiplicity of technologies, industries, audiences, needs and media channels. Design is above all a way of thinking about the world, a means of defining challenges and dealing with them. The range of products and designed uses in our department far exceeds jewelry in its traditional sense. Shenkar’s jewelry department is unique in its effort to connect tradition and innovation, and in its intensive focus on directly interfacing with the body using a wide variety of materials and technologies and at an extremely high level of precision and attention to detail. Our students design jewelry/objects/products that interface with the body not just in order to adorn it, but also in order to activate and improve certain aspects of its function, such as eyeglasses to improve sight or protect the eyes from the sun, rehabilitative jewelry, therapeutic objects, and biofeedback accessories.”