Exploring Irish design
From fashion and architecture to software and illustration, from a thriving craft heritage to high-profile contemporary designers, Ireland produces design work of great character, unmistakably of its time and place in a globalised world. Recent initiatives, such as the Pivot Dublin design initiative, are creating new spaces for exploring and connecting with the vitality and creative flair of Irish design.
The ‘Golden Age’ of the Early Christian era saw pinnacles of Irish craftsmanship, such as the Book of Kells, Tara Brooch, and Ardagh Chalice. The Celtic Revival and Irish Arts and Crafts movement (c.1895-1925) sought to revive Irish craft and design, through stained glass, printing, textiles, woodcraft and metalwork.
The modern era
Following independence in 1922, much of the energy within Irish design was directed towards nation-building, in particular through instruments of governance such as stamp and coin design. Irish coinage was especially praised for its modern and charming design. Featuring animals as symbolic of the predominantly agricultural economy, the designs were chosen by a committee headed by the Nobel-prize winning poet W. B. Yeats. The 1920s also saw the height of the career of Ireland’s best-known designer, Eileen Gray (1878-1976), a pioneering modernist in furniture and architecture.
Design today – a vibrant scene
The profile of Irish design has never been higher. Fashion designers such as Orla Kiely, John Rocha and Philip Treacy are well known for their clothing, textiles and accessories. Dublin has also become a hub for the design of software games and animation, including Richard Baneham who won the Best Visual effects Oscar in 2010 for his work on the film Avatar.
Dublin City Council led a bid for Dublin to be designated World Design Capital in 2014. The process of mounting the bid, entitled Pivot Dublin, was an unprecedented exercise in collaboration across design industries and resulted in the city being shortlisted in the top three out of 56 competing cities. The work done during the bid built networks across design professions, education and research which today are creating new opportunities for Irelands’ design talent. Design now connects to new areas of business, research and public service.