design issues in emerging countries

Daejeon, South Korea, December 2007




part I


The year is 1876, the spot, a booth at the United States Centennial Exposition, in Philadelphia, where after two months of the opening nobody seems to be interested in the experiment exhibited there. Visiting the Fair, Dom Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil, saw in that booth someone he had known before, the young teacher and inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who showed His Majesty his disregarded invention. Hearing from one side of the wire, Dom Pedro was surprised: "My God! It talks!" - and suddenly, everybody also wanted to experience it. Three years later, Dom Pedro issued an Imperial Decree creating the Brazilian Telephone Company, and after four years (in 1883) there were already five thousand subscribers in Rio de Janeiro.

Dom Pedro II was born (in 1825) and educated in Rio de Janeiro's Imperial Palace, in a time when Rio was already a very cosmopolitan town, with the port always receiving ships from everywhere around the world. The news spread quickly, and just to mention another invention that had previously won the interest and affection of the young Emperor, the Daguerreotype photography reached Rio less than four months after being announced in Paris and was immediately adopted (1839).

This episode might be considered representative of the origins of the great curiosity Brazilians share about the new, and especially about technology. Our culture, a real melting pot of European, African, American Native, Asian, and Middle-Eastern people had always to deal with the novelty and the imponderable in the land. The old tools, the old processes, the old culture, were useless, meaningless against the wideness of the new reality. They have to be reinvented, adapted, used in a new way, and reconsidered. Everything was far from the so-called civilized centers, and sourceless, and poor, and extremely primitive. There were almost no technical sophistication in native Brazilian culture, still very close to the Neolithic. Maybe this is the history of our particular way of dealing with tools and of solving problems. There is always a flexibility that comes from the daily need to deal with many and different constrains - the thought that "there might be some other way of dealing with this situation, or with this tool, to get where I need to". There is even an expression to describe it in Portuguese - "jeitinho brasileiro", or the Brazilian way of doing things. Understanding this culture on the light of history might help us to understand the Brazilian soul, and through this, something about the Brazilian Design too.

But how does Dom Pedro II attitude about Graham Bell's telephone reflects on Brazil today?


What is going on with Brazilian stock market? UK magazine The Economist says that Brazil looks in better shape than many other emerging markets:

"Five years ago interest rates were so high that investing in equities was an esoteric pastime. (...) Since then, three things have happened. First, interest rates have come down. Second, steps have been taken to improve corporate governance. And third, Brazil's public finances have been tidied up by a combination of good housekeeping and the commodities boom. Even Warren Buffett, a shrewd American investor, has been buying the Brazilian currency."


All this and oil too...

The same magazine says that God may indeed be Brazilian after all:

"When Francisco Suares, a Portuguese explorer, wrote home to his brother in Lisbon about Brazil's natural bounty in 1596, he declared himself 'ashamed to write it, fearing that I shall not be believed.' And so it remains today. Brazil's forests are bigger than anywhere else's. Its soil is so fertile that some trees grow to full maturity quicker than people do. Beneath the soil lie huge mineral deposits that are raw material for China's double-digit growth. Brazil is already on its way to becoming an alternative-energy superpower. And as if to prove a popular saying that “God is Brazilian”, it now seems that there are billions more barrels of oil than previously thought lying beneath deep waters off the country's coastline."

"Just how many billions is unclear, but Petrobras, Brazil's state-controlled oil company, announced earlier this month that it reckons the Tupi oilfield contains between 5 billion and 8 billion barrels. (...) this field alone equal to all of Norway's reserves (and is the world's second-biggest strike in 20 years, after Kazakhstan's 12 billion-barrel Kashagan field, discovered in 2000). It contains light crude, which is less expensive to refine and therefore worth more. And there may be other big deposits to be found nearby."

In the State of Rio de Janeiro, there is a US$ 1.1 billion investment being done in the gas/chemical complex in Duque de Caxias, with the opening in June 2005, of Rio Polimeros. The facilities aim to produce 540,000 tons of polyethylene resins, 520,000 tons of ethylene and 75,000 tons of propylene per year, generating about 17,5 thousand jobs along the chain. It is expected a large expansion in the production of packaging films, household appliances and basic sanitation related to the increase of the offer at lower costs from the petrochemical industry.


There are 15 different brands in the automotive industry in Brazil today. In October (2007), the production reached almost 300.000 vehicles, and the results from January to October were 2,48 million, with an expansion of 12% over the previous year results. In the same period, the exports reached US$ 10,76 billions, a 6.8% growth over the same period one year before.

One company followed and improved the heritage and genius of Santos Dumont, the Brazilian that flew the first powered heavier-than-air aircraft over the Champ de Mars, Paris, on 23 October 1906. Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturing company, had announced on December 3, 2007, a new contract of US$ 746 million to sell one hundred small jets Phenom 300 to the US company Flight Options. Embraer has almost 24.000 employees and operates today in Brazil, United States, France, Portugal, Singapore and China. It's order backlog is today of more than US$ 17 billion purchase applications.



The Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.BR) published recently their "Survey on the Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Brazil". From the titles of the articles that open the first chapter of the report, one can figure what are the main concerns and challenges in technological development in Brazil today: "Internet for everyone: the Brazilian challenge" opens it, and is followed by "For digital inclusion beyond marketplace", "Brazil: towards technology convergence", "Class associations as incentive for e-commerce".

"Today a bigger number of persons have confirmed access to computers, as demonstrate the data from the Brazilian Electric and Electronic Industry Association (ABINEE), posted in the beginning of this year (2007). The ABINEE assessment (...) indicates a 46% increase in PC sales during 2006, which represents 8.3 million commercialized units. That increase is due to the evolution of sales for the domestic segment – 3.5 millions – especially for persons who bought their first computer (2.2 millions). The trading of PCs configured for the program “Computer for Everyone” achieved 530 thousand units, and the sales of PCs with free software achieved the amount of 1.5 million units last year. ABINEE believes that the PC market will increase at least 20% in 2007, with 10 millions units sold. The sales of notebooks will grow more than 100% compared to 2006, which represents a share of 14% of the whole market." ("Internet for everyone: the Brazilian challenge", by Sergio Santanna)

Following the premise "the computer is the web", the Brazilian government had recently changed the regulatory act demanding for infrastructure counterpart to the Telecom industries from fixed public phone lines to broadband connection to be installed in every municipality.

"We have to increase the number of subscribers and users in homes, community centers and libraries. In order to effectively leverage the development, we have to bring the broadband to every public building in the country, to every university – private or public –, to schools, health units, police departments, among others. There are new and very promising technologies that will allow us to solve the specific problems in Brazil, a pretty complex task in a country with continental dimensions like ours. Wireless technologies like Wi-Fi, Wi-Mesh and Wi-Max, as well as the use of PLC (Power Line Communications) can leverage that process. Since they can be implemented in a shorter time, their crescent dissemination will produce a significant cost reduction in the web access." (Idem)

About 55% of the Brazilian population never used a computer, and 66% never accessed the Internet. Only 19% of the homes have desktop computers and 1% has notebooks. Only 14.4% of the homes have Internet access, and at least half of those using dial-up access via telephone. A 2 megabit cable home access costs around US$ 40.00, which is a very high price considering the general low salary levels.

"About 9% of Brazilian homes have pay TV. Four of each five municipalities have public libraries. But 68.6% have only one library. And just 0.8% has no more than six. Museums exist in only 17.5% of the Brazilian municipalities, and 13.9% have only one museum. The situation of theaters is even worse: 13.4% of the cities have theaters, but 10.9% have just one place for scenic arts. Less than one of each ten municipalities (8.2%) has movie theaters and among those 5.6% have only one room." (from the researches done by ABTA/IBAM/IBGE quoted in the article "For digital inclusion beyond marketplace", by Gustavo Gindre)

Mobile devices might be the entrance door for digital inclusion in Brazil - they are cheaper than a computer and cellphones have already been adopted and wide-spread. The convergence of Mobile Devices + Digital TV (specially considering the interactivity of Digital TV) might open the way for m-learning (mobile learning), in the sense that this might reach low-income people and also those who live in isolated places - and Brazilians love TV and love cellphones.


According to a performance evaluation done in 2006 by the Brazilian Association of Telecommunications, at the end of 2006, the telecommunication services reached 148.6 million subscribers, a 10.9% raise compared to 2005:

38.5 millions subscribers of Fixed Commuted Telephony;
99.9 millions subscribers of Mobile Communication Services (cellphones) - Anatel website shows a further growth of 28% between March and October of 2007;
4.6 millions subscribers of Cable TV;
5.6 millions subscribers of Broadband Internet Access.

the largest increase was among users of cellphone (13.7 million new subscribers) and broadband Internet access (1.8 million)

in 2006, the ammount of subscribers of Broadband Internet Access - 5.6 million – exceeded the number of subscribers of paid (cable) TV - 4.6 million.

The densities of Fixed Commuted Telephony and Cable TV remained at the same levels of 2001: 20.5 and 2.4 subscribers per 100 inhabitants; on the other part, the Mobile Communication Services (cellphone) and Broadband Internet Access reached 53.2 and 3.0 subscribers per 100 inhabitants - a 224% and 1480% raise, respectively, compared to 2001.

The Gross Income of the Telecommunications segment in Brazil raised 7% in 2006, reaching R$ 143.8 billion (US$ 80 billion), which meant about 6.2% of Brazil's GIP (Gross Internal Product). But the Brazilians also paid the highest tax burden in the world for this service - it reached 41.2% in 2006.

On December 2, 2007 was aired the first Digital TV broadcast in Brazil (adopting a more interactive system based on the ISDB-T Japanese standard), and the Government announced a credit of 1 billion Reais to produce and sell digital TV decoders.

On the personal computer segment, Philips and Sony had announced the beginning of production of notebooks in Brazil, aiming a market that should reach 500.000 units this last quarter of 2007 - a 150% raise compared to the same quarter of 2006.


Nickelodeon did a research called “Digital Playground” interviewing 7.000 kids from 8-14 in 12 countries about technologies and its impact on their lives. The 600 Brazilian kids spent more time online (more than 20% above the world average). They were in the second place publishing their own content in blogs and photologs. Their use of cell phones is higher than any other children, and is 50% higher than Japanese children. Italians, Brazilians and Australians lead the SMS use, voice calls and digital camera use among children. There’s a clear trend to listen to music in their cell phones (70% already do it). Brazilian children also have the largest number of online friends.

It would be fair to say that our design education was born with a German accent, inherited from the HfG Ulm philosophy. This influence came in the mid-fifties from Tomás Maldonado, Max Bill and Otl Aicher, who had been visiting and lecturing in Rio and São Paulo. Later, through his followers Karl Heinz Bergmiller and Alexandre Wollner, appointed to create a plan for the first Design school established in South America in 1962, the ESDI (Superior School of Industrial Design). A similar trajectory to India, where the Industrial Design Center from IIT Bombay had as its first director, in 1969, a former student of Ulm, Sudhakar Nadkarni. In Brazil, the word "Industrial" was added to ESDI's name in order to be more specific - since the word "DESENHO" - Drawing, that shared the same Latin root and meaning of the word "DESIGN", had lost it's original meaning in Portuguese. By doing so, Design´s fate was sealed together with the industrial and economic development euphoria of the late fifties in Brazil. ESDI was born in the context of the foundation of the new capital, Brasilia, traced in the Central Plateau by the genius of the architects Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, of the first notes of Bossa Nova music, and many other cultural movements, but notably almost together with the start of several automotive industries opened with the support of President Kubitschek (1956-1961).
Today, the Ministry of Education lists 385 Design courses in Brazil – ranging from Product, Graphic, Interior, Packaging, Design Management, Fashion and Webdesign. Half of which are University (Bachelor degree) courses, and the others are "polytechnic" courses, that are beginning to be accepted as higher education, although usually with little or no control on it's quality. Our educational system is composed in great part of private Universities, counting each state at least with one Federal University (there are 53 in the 26 states) and most of the states maintains also State Universities (they are 27 in 13 states). In the public system (Federal and State Universities), the courses are free, and in a private University the cost of a Design course will range from 3 to 13 thousand dollars per year. There are also 9 Master programs spread in Brazil and 1 PhD program (at the Catholic University of Rio). We have also our plans to offer a PhD at ESDI soon.

Our challenge as design educators in Brazil is to expose this young generation to a new design thinking, concerned with sustainability, minding the huge social and economical gap in our society, rethinking the relations of production, distribution and consumption, finding new ways of dealing with the environment and for a rational use of Brazil's biggest assets: our natural resources. And this new generation faces the challenge to take an entrepreneurial attitude towards the country's future.


Nobody knows how many design offices are there in Brazil today. And nobody would risk any guess. It is known that from the hundreds of design courses listed by the Ministry of Education the most conservative estimates would consider a minimum of 6 thousand young designers reaching the market every year.
Many of them will find place in the big studios that appeared in the country in the last decade, some with more than 50 professionals working together in projects for the industry - furniture, home appliances, branding, interiors, packaging, signing, graphic design, advertising, web, TV and movie graphics. A large number will survive with their own small studios, working mainly in graphic and web design. After all, in a growing economy of almost 200 million population, there is a lot to be done in basic terms of design that could be supplied by this new generation.
Most large industries (and some smaller ones) have their in-house design department, sometimes reaching a considerable number of professionals - in 2001, Multibras employed around 200 people in their product development team for home appliances (refrigerators, washing machines, stoves and cook tops, etc). Every automotive industry maintains a design studio of their own - either for new projects or for the customization needed to meet the local market expectancies. Motorola has a small team working mainly on interface customization, and Nokia is opening a new studio in Rio.
There are a few professional organizations, and differently from most of the other professional activities in Brazil, Design was not yet regulated by the Government. Those organizations are engaged in the purpose of having the activity of Design regulated by the Ministry of Labor, which will bring some advantages comparable to those obtained by other professionals - like architects, for instance - specially when hired by public institutions. The ADG - Association of Graphic Designers (, ADP - Association of Product Designers ( and the more recent Design Trade Association ( have a growing (although slowly) number os associates. There is an Association of Design Education, AEND-Brasil (, that promotes a bi-annual congress (P&D Design) and edits a research magazine (Estudos em Design / Design Studies), and also a National Council of Design Students, CONE Design (, which promotes yearly national student meetings with lectures, workshops and debates (N-Design) and also regional meetings (R-Design).


Opened in 1995, the Brazilian Design Program (PBD) is a sub-section under the Secretary of Production Development of the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade (MDIC). The Program website only lists its activities until 2003, and, even though it helped promote some activities in the period - including a great exhibition in São Paulo in 2006 - it is symptomatic that this website has such resumed content. A few years ago there was an attempt to constitute a network of regional Design programs in all the 26 States of the Federation with a very low initial budget supported by the Government in Brasilia. Consequently, many of them currently have problems to stay open.

In the PBD Strategic Planning for 2007-2012, it is pointed out that although the design market in Brazil is reaching it's maturity, it still grows in unarticulated efforts and misses the potential synergy between the public and private sectors, besides remaining the challenge to integrate the innovative design thinking and the productive sector.
Today it is clear that companies engaged in the international market are more open to innovation and design than those that think locally.

Although some initiatives are taking form - like the Design Advisory Council from the State of Rio de Janeiro, where ESDI have a seat - the action is still limited as is the political view of the role of Design in the economical development.


There is a number of design and design-related magazines being issued in Brazil, besides many newsletters (including our own weekly newsletter, reaching 3000 emails every Friday).


There are a few traditional design awards in Brazil: Museum of Brazilian Home Prize, maybe the most traditional, established in 1986); CNI Design Prize, promoted by the National Industries Confederation; and Design Movelsul Award, offered at the largest Latin American furniture trade fair (Salão Movelsul). Besides those, there is a large number of other awards and prizes, offered by companies like Masisa (manufacturers of wood mouldings, doors, MDF), Alcoa Aluminum Design Prize, ML Magalhães and Tok&Stok (both furniture manufacturers), and others promoted by magazines, by the State Design Programs, trade unions, like the Jewelry Design Prize offered by AJORIO. And Brazilian Design is also being very well accepted in Europe, receiving several IF Awards in the last years, and resulting in the opening of an IF representative office in São Paulo this year supported by the German-Brazilian Trade Association and the Ministry of Development.

part II


The industrialist and rationalist choice present in the installation of ESDI, however, had to be seasoned with the local flavors of talent and intuition. And this contradiction between rationalist and intuitive knowledge is ever-present in Brazil.

Let's get a little more in context with the Brazilian soul, forged by our history, as I have mentioned above; by miscegenation, religious syncretism (uniting Afro-Brazilian Candomblé with Catholicism); but also by the environment and popular creativity in it's several different expressions:

We Brazilians are very proud of our popular music - bossa nova, samba, chorinho - and many other music styles one can experience traveling throughout the country. Our art music also have beautiful and delicate examples from Baroque - like the composer Jose Mauricio Nunes Garcia, late 18th century - to the impressive orchestral music by Heitor Villa-Lobos in the 20th century, celebrating the land with inspiration from the folklore and classical composers.

We're also proud of our football - or soccer, as the Americans prefer - with heroes like Pelé in the past, or today Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaká, and many others players in the five world championships we won. I'll never forget when every single window in my neighborhood was lighted during the night games of Brazil in the Korea-Japan Worldcup of 2002. All of us wearing pajamas and shouting and celebrating the team's victories at 3am.

And our natural beauties also make us immodest - an amazing biodiversity, beaches, forests... Among Brazil's 8.5 million square kilometers, we have 3.6 million square kilometers of Amazon forest with great rivers and all it's fauna, and we have the marshlands of Pantanal, the plateaus, the mountain ranges of the Atlantic forests, the Iguaçu Falls, and the many beaches along 8 thousand kilometers of coast. And crossing five different climatic regions (equatorial, tropical, semiarid, highland tropical, and subtropical), and three different time zones.

Not to mention the charm and beauty of Brazilian women - even our most well-known popular song, "The Girl from Ipanema", is a celebration of the visual privilege of living in Rio...

The Girl from Ipanema

(Tom Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes / eng. version Fred Gimble)

Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes - ahh!

When she walks, she's like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gentle
That when she passes, each one she passes goes - ooh!

(ooh!) but I watch her so sadly
How can I tell her I love her
Yes I would give my heart gladly
But each day, when she walks to the sea
She looks straight ahead, not at me

Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, I smile - but she doesn't see (doesn't see)
(she just doesn't see, she never sees me,...)

Brazil frequently exports an image of beauty and happiness. And we are indeed a happy people. We are easy to relate and to establish social networks. Even though living with constrains - with all the efforts that might have been done, education, health and security are issues that still remain to be seriously improved, specially towards the less privileged classes. Life conditions in large cities like Rio, São Paulo and others, all with several million inhabitants, is very hard for this less-favored population. The contrast between wealth and poverty besides the perverse influence of the narcotics market throws the favelas into a war where this population is once again victimized.


All this environmental and behavioral issues added to the plural character of Brazilian society have obvious influences over our Design. First, we must understand the introduction of Design in Brazil as a consequence, or as a manifestation, of Modern thought. If we see the many predecessors of our history of Design, this is made clear.
The genius and the technical knowledge of people like Joaquim Tenreiro, working the wood to its limits to produce beautiful pieces of furniture, somehow rationalized the use of noble woods while accepting the modernist challenge of minimal structures. The modern living and working spaces needed to be furnished with a new style, and the consumer taste, acquainted with the traditional and heavy Brazilian Colonial and Baroque, was exposed with the clean and elegant Modern style. Those pioneer designers were always pushing the limits of local workshops and small industries, and facing the biggest constrain Brazilian Design had always to fight - the technical limits of our industries. Many dedicated themselves to the manufacturing of their own designs, like Tenreiro himself, or Sérgio Rodrigues with his company OCA (OCA means HOME in Tupi, one of the many Native Brazilian languages).

Their work left doors opened to the next generations, and helped to establish Brazilian Design as innovative and well-accepted today.
From Havaianas - the famous rubber flip-flop sandals from Brazil (well, at least famous in Europe and the Americas) - to the brother's Campana, there is something about the Brazilian Design that I will try to show you with a few images and cases.

What is common to most of these projects is the constant need to adapt to local characteristics of production, materials, market, climate, needs, expectancies, economical constrains. For instance: the automotive industry must adapt to poorly maintained roads with proper tires and shock absorbers; home appliances must face the different climatic regions of the continental country, from the cold European-like climate of South to the extremely warm and damp climate of North, and withhold instability in the supply of electricity; refrigerators need higher ice-production capacity in tropical regions; plastics goods should be carefully designed to a limited budget for molds; there is always the need to consider lower-investment and low-technology production processes; the wideness of the country and the lack of low-cost alternatives of long distance transportation (like trains) adds a considerable cost to the internal trade. And so on.
But there is another side of the design business in Brazil: some design offices are beginning to establish collaboration with international offices, specially in branding projects for big companies. One recent case was the re-brand of Vale (lately Companhia Vale do Rio Doce), a conglomerate of mining industries which had it's new image developed by Lippincott Mercer and it's Brazilian partner studio, Cauduro Martino. Another large Design Company in Brazil, Indio da Costa Design has offices in Rio, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, and also an US office on Walnut Creek, California. And there are several other examples showing this new trend of globalization.

Bringing global products to local markets is an operation that needs a delicate balance. Careful research on the specific consumer habits related to the products should be assigned. Based on new consumer life styles, Motorola hired ESDI in 2004 to do a research on the taste, expectancies and behavior of a specific group of users from classes C and D. Some interesting aspects aroused: the wish to demonstrate wealthy and status related to the cellphone; the need for a low learning curve on some basic operations like recording and using the contacts list; the use of the mobile phone as a substitute of the fixed phone; the use of the cellphone in association with the public telephone - there's the need for the ease to be located, but it's expensive to call back using the cellphone. The methodology used consisted of one initial short interview using taste charts and a form presented by the students to the costumers in chosen locations. This helped to select a more specific group of users, which were later further inerviewed and had their daily habits observed and registered. The research resulted in three concept models presented to the company at the end of 2004, as we can see in these images. This has led to another research contract in 2005/2006 (which cannot yet be disclosed).

Those consumers are used to buy goods in installments, using long term credit (sometimes even 20 or 24 months) that many times is offered by the large chain stores. One of the most well-known cases is "Casas Bahia" - their Gross Income this year is projected to be R$ 12.5 billion (US$ 6.95 billion). From their sales, 10% are paid using cash, 50% with credit cards and 40% using their own credit system. Although being a reasonably expensive credit, it helps to include a large parcel of population in the consumer market mainly of household goods.

There is a large amount of home appliances, household goods, consumer goods, produced by local industries, and the import taxes are high. Even so there are many imported goods available to every class of consumer - from cheap electronic equipments to luxury goods. But a computer or a digital camera will sell for the double of it's price in Brazil than in the USA or in Europe. For a comparison effect, we sell the world's most expensive iPod Nano 4Gb - it costs US$ 367 (R$ 669) in Brazil and US$ 149 in the USA. But you can buy it in 12 installments with no interest rate for this Christmas in every shopping mall around the country!

Many habits are nationally spread through the "novelas", the TV soap operas that are a national past-time and passion. In the first decades of TV in Brazil, the cultural habits, local fashion and even the accent of Rio were widely copied in the whole country, because the largest Brazilian TV network - Globo - is located in Rio de Janeiro. Today they explore this tendency doing massive advertising and merchandising during the soap operas, but on the other hand they're also a little more careful about regional habits, and some of their productions show other regions and the diversity of the country. But now you can call the TV station or enter their website and ask for the dress that actress was wearing yesterday, or the product or furniture from the set - and they sell a lot!

Talking about cultural issues, so-called "cultural fusion" products, although easily found in Brazilian furniture, jewelry and fashion design (or what could be understood, by definition, as cultural products), are a concept not easily applicable to our Design culture, specially due to the ethnic mixture that originated our society. Differently from most of our Spanish-speaking neighbors in Latin America, which usually have strong native cultural roots, we have a heritage that could be more easily understood if we consider the many cultures that have established themselves in Brazil since the 16th century, meeting and mixing with the natives. Early in the beginning of the 1500s, came the Portuguese conquerors, and Spanish, Jewish, Muslim, Africans (during all the long slavery period of almost four centuries). Then we had the Dutch (1650) and French (1710) invasions in Northeast and in Rio. Later, especially from the 19th century on, we had the Germans, Italians, Japanese, and all those were only the main immigration movements. The consequences will be found across several fields of knowledge and culture: from literature to music, and also to architecture, arts and design.
Within this context, what are our students doing? Everything! Taking samples from my own limited universe of one school, ESDI, I could show you some products from several fields. And besides those, they're also doing design for the web, animation, TV graphics, a lot of graphic design, branding, visual signaling, corporate graphics, advertising, point-of-purchase graphics, packaging, exhibition design... And also earning awards and prizes and performing very well.

part III


Some big challenges need to be faced so that the Design Market in Brazil might reach a higher level. First of all, to improve the quality of the education offered in the average Design courses, and to exchange much more information about what is being done both nationally as internationally. Design is a globalizing field, and we designers must be global citizens, ready and able to exchange information and cultural views with our peers, on behalf of our own regional cultural heritage. This is precisely one of our challenges: to be cosmopolitan without loosing our cultural roots, to look ahead without loosing contact with our vicinity, to learn from other experiences - either local or global - and apply what we learned when designing our products. So, the second challenge is to promote more frequent design exhibitions (regional, national and international), helping to disseminate design culture among all the social strata. This way we could reach both the consumer and the industrialist, educating and helping to establish a higher level of demand for industrial quality and design quality. Another way of doing this would be to promote the continuous display of design collections and the opening of new public spaces dedicated to design culture.

Another issue regarding education is the need to invest in research infrastructure. We need much more labs, and very well-equipped, developing researches that cannot be usually done by the market. Design research with a pragmatic approach must be performed at academic level, and generate results directly connected with the industry needs.

We must find ways to make a change towards an innovation-oriented education. Our project-oriented courses must be recycled and be more open and concerned to the needs of tomorrow. And we must be sustainable-oriented too. We must rethink our abundance and exaggeration culture, born from the extractive minds of our forefathers - after all, nature provided and they just had to stretch their arms to get all the fruits, the wood, the water they needed, and, being in the tropics, it will grow again very quickly.

And still another issue is that of continuing education. With the number of professionals we have in the Brazilian design market today, we must offer good alternatives of professional updating and to help those professional engage into the research activities mentioned above, bringing to the academy a breath of the market and vice-versa.


We have tremendous challenges regarding the social gap in our society. As designers, we must find ways to help in the inclusion of the large population which is today set apart of the national life and of the great economical performance of the country. It doesn't need to focus again in the low-tech "alternative" solutions, as we considered in the seventies, but we need to be open-minded and inclusive when considering all the possible range of solutions - from high-tech to low-tech. Sometimes the gap is so big that it must be overcome in slow stages - and in other situations we could jump from one step to another much higher. We have done this several times and we know how to do it.


At industries, we also have technological gaps to overcome. There are highly sophisticated industries working with last-trend robotic machinery and on the other hand a large number of small "backyard factories", producing low-quality products in the worst conditions. The top-level industries often need well-trained technical workers, but they cannot find them because of a poor technical education. Brazil is trying to fill in the gap in education, but the government investment is still very low and the private sector only invests on their own work.


The biggest difference of this Government in Brasil is the attention given to the social projects like Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program, that hopefully will reduce the gap between rich and poor, together with an economic development, pushed by several local and international facts.  Income inequality, from which Brazil suffers more than most other countries, has at last begun to shrink. These political changes represents a gradual improvement towards a better society in the future. 

Although progress is slow, Brazil's institutions are now strong enough to make it reasonably sure. Goldman Sachs recently reaffirmed the country's status. Economic growth may top 4% this year. When BRIC GDP figures were revised in March, Brazil discovered that it was richer and less indebted than it had thought. (Land of promise Apr 12th 2007 From The Economist print edition- Brazil is big, democratic, stable and rich in resources, says Brooke Unger)

All these facts present Brazil as an interesting research and development field at this moment.

Author of the book "Analysis of Brazilian Design: Between Mimesis and Miscegenation", which was his PhD thesis at PoliMilano, Professor Dijon de Moraes, advocates the thesis of our country as a lab - "Brazil Laboratory" - where the multiple characteristics of the country leaded to a plural, hybrid and syncretic model, that might be compared to the actual challenges of globalized Design. Yet another advocate of the "Brazil Laboratory" theory in his own field is Vinton Cerf, from Google: he says that it is an ideal country to test social interaction in the web, due to the amazing performance already shown in this area.


Finally, I must explain that, to be more objective, I have deliberately left aside from this presentation some rather fascinating themes related to Brazilian Design: as the beauty of the graphic heritage from the Brazilian native tribes; our popular culture and artisans, from whom we have many lessons yet to be learned; the large and well-established Brazilian Graphic and Visual Design market, in all it's possible areas - branding, corporate identity, packaging, signing, environmental graphics, TV and audiovisual graphics, interfaces - where we have significant part of our designers working today. But if we consider the challenge of innovation to fulfill the needs of the market, the holistic association of Product and Visual Design as we do have in our course at ESDI is undoubtedly a must.

It is important to notice that, in the national context above, ESDI has the potential to become a key Design Innovation Hub, considering its well-developed network of agreements and personal relations with national / international schools, governmental agencies, industries and the general Design community.

In the last few years, the school has developed academic and research projects in different areas, such as information technology, interface design, public transportation, furniture, and home appliances. Among its partners are Electrolux, Embraer, General Motors, Microsoft, Motorola, Odebrecht Foundation and the World Economic Forum. The school also collaborates with many state agencies, devising projects and programs, giving consultancy and events planning. It has received support from agencies such as Faperj, Finep, Capes and CNPq (Governmental agencies that offer support to research and postgraduate studies). In 2005, Esdi launched a graduate program, starting with a Master degree course.

In 2005, the school received the If Gold Award in Hannover, Germany, for the research and development of a new material, the Pupunha Plywood, making way to a new work area, related to alternative technologies and a more balanced environment. To encourage innovation and to promote professional activity enterprising, the school opened, in 2006, Design.Inc, a design business incubator, focusing on product design. In 2007, Esdi was granted the best grade among design courses on the Enade (Exame Nacional de Desempenho de Estudantes), an official exam from the National Ministry of Education to evaluate university courses. In the same year, it was elected by different publications as the best design school in Brazil, and classified by the magazine Business Week among the best schools in the world.

Esdi has partnerships with other educational institutions in the US, Germany, France, Holland, Finland, Belgium, Portugal and Israel, promoting the exchange of students and faculty, and the development of joint projects. We are currently developing projects with two German design schools, and receiving support from Brazilian and German Governmental Agencies CAPES and DAAD to exchange students and teachers. In 2008, we will be joining Cumulus Association of Design Education and Research, spreading still more our international alliances.

Global companies are coming after new talents in the school: only in the last few weeks we have been approached by NIKE, MOTOROLA, PROCTER & GAMBLE, NOKIA, FORD; Microsoft is also hiring our students, and three of them are getting financial support in their final projects, which is not an usual practice for us.


How could we interact in the context above? What areas we could find of common interest?

I could think about some areas of our interest were we could collaborate - as in the development of Interface Design teams, or in some projects in Transportation Design, in Sustainability and Green Design, Social Design, the use and applications for Rapid Prototyping in industry and research projects.

But this is what we are doing here right now - to know each other, to learn about our differences, our cultures and our own challenges, and to use those BRICKs to build a solid bridge for our designers to cross in both ways.


DE MORAES, Dijon (Branzi, Andrea – preface)
Análise do Design Brasileiro: entre mimese e mestiçagem
Ed. Edgard Blücher, São Paulo, 2006

Esdi: biografia de uma idéia
EdUerj: Rio de Janeiro, 1996

BORGES, Adélia
Sérgio Rodrigues
Viana & Mosley: Rio de Janeiro, 2005

16º ao 20º Prêmio Design Museu da Casa Brasileira
Adélia Borges [Org.].
Museu da Casa Brasileira: São Paulo, 2006

O design no Brasil
Casa Claudia
Ed. Abril: São Paulo, 2003

LEAL, Joice Joppert
Um olhar sobre o design brasileiro
Objeto Brasil: São Paulo, 2002

Valéria London Design
J.J.Carol: São Paulo, 2004

Momentum - design contemporâneo no Rio de Janeiro
Viana & Mosley: Rio de Janeiro, 2004

Uma visão do design moveleiro latinoamericano
Salão Design Movelsul: Bento Gonçalves, RS, 2006

Mostra Internacional de Design
Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil: Rio de Janeiro, 1998

Design Excellence Brazil
Design Excellence Brazil: São Paulo, 2006

LOSCHIAVO, Maria Cecília & CALS, Soraia
Bolsa de Arte do Rio de Janeiro: Rio de Janeiro, 1998

BORGES, Adélia
Maurício Azeredo: A construção da identidade brasileira no mobiliário
Instituto Lina Bo e P.M. Bardi: São Paulo, 1999

Joaquim Tenreiro: o  mestre da madeira
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo: São Paulo, 1999
CALS, Soraia
Sergio Rodrigues
Soraia Cals: Rio de Janeiro, 2000
BORGES, Adélia
Claudia Moreira Salles
BEI Comunicação. São Paulo, 2005

GAD Design
J.J.Carol: São Paulo, 2005

Interface Designers
Sextante: São Paulo, 2004
EG Design
J.J.Carol: São Paulo, 2005

Eletrodomésticos: origens, história e design no Brasil
Fraiha: Rio de Janeiro, 2006


ANATEL - Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações:
ANFAVEA - Associação Nacional dos Fabricantes de Veículos Automotores:
IBGE - Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística:
CGI - Comitê Gestor da Internet no Brasil:
PBD/Portal Design Brasil:
The Economist - Country Briefings: 
The Economist - Stock Market:
The Economist - Oil:

Many thanks to:

Gil Guigon, Visual Design
Antonia Costa, Proofreading

Denise Filippo, Computer Lab, ESDI
Wagner Bretas, Design.Inc, ESDI
Priscila Pires, Intern, ESDI
Ana Paula Mizuta, Intern, ESDI

reference material
Freddy Van Camp, Professor, ESDI
Julio Bertola, Electrolux
Angela Carvalho, NCS Design
Fernanda Borcony Messias, PBD

additional material
Sonia Barreto, Designer, Tecnopop (brochure)
Milton Morais, Silkscreen Lab, ESDI (t-shirts)

Most images are reproduction from the books quoted in the Bibliography or from personal or ESDI's archives.
Some images were taken from internet websites, some were licensed from
Whenever possible, the images were credited.


December 2007

Gabriel Patrocínio
Director, ESDI