Post 1945 industrial design perspectives – Slovenia and Iskra in a changing world

Jonathan Woodham

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


The aim of this essay was to recover ‘the lost’ or ‘hidden’ history of the ISKRA company that, at the height of its significance, employed 35,000, had its own design department with high standards of design that were recognised through winning more than 130 international design awards. Between its foundation in 1946 and its break up in the political turmoil of the early 1990s, ISKRA also played a highly significant part in the post war economic development of Yugoslavia, one of the most ’progressive,’ although non-aligned, of European communist countries. An important aspect of ‘re-aligning’ ISKRA and Slovenian design was to test the validity of the claims of the organizers of the ISKRA: 1946-90, Non-Aligned Design exhibition (Architecture Museum Ljubljana, 2009) that, as a high profile manufacturer and successful design networker and exporter, historians of design in Europe and beyond have ignored it. In fact, in support of this assertion, there is a considerable amount of primary material outside Yugoslavia in the University of Brighton’s Design Archives holdings, most notably the Design Council Archive and the Archives of the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (ICOGRADA) and International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ISCID), all of which contain useful material relating to Yugoslavian and Slovenian design between 1945 and the early 1990s, particularly in respect of the “Golden Age” of Slovenian design between 1960 and 1985. This essay addresses the relative absence of Yugoslavian, and in this particular case Slovenian, design from the world map of design history. The difficulties of accessing and interpreting primary documentation were considerable as there are less than 2.5 million Slovenian speakers in the world, less than 60 years since the country’s relatively small design community became a cohesive body and design education is still emerging in terms of its economic, social and cultural influence; design history as an academic discipline is still in its infancy. Issues of language accessibility may partly explain which Slovenian design has received a lesser profile than the communist aligned countries, particularly the former German Democratic Republic which has been the subject of rigorous and revealing research and publication over more recent years.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationISKRA Neu Vrsceno o Blikovanje Non-Aligned Design 1946-1990
Place of PublicationUbljana
PublisherArchitecture Museum Ubljana / Pekinpah
Number of pages31
ISBN (Print)9789616669115
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


  • Yugoslavia
  • Slovenia
  • design
  • product design
  • manufacturing industry


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