Five minutes with a Winter School expert: Pedro C. Almeida

Pedro Almeida gives keynote

Pedro Carvalho de Almeida gave a popular keynote speech during the first week of Winter School 2017. He is Assistant Professor of Design at the University of Aveiro, Portugal – read more about his work here. Here he tells the InDI blog his thoughts about Winter School and explains some of his key themes.

You’ve travelled a long distance to be here, what has struck you about Winter School?

PA: The Winter School is a great example of how universities can transcend their traditional boundaries, which are often limited to their own academic scope and closed communities, such as conferences and academic publications.

Discussing the various levels and possibilities in which designers can collaborate with local organisations in their own contexts can help thinking about where, how and whom the discipline can be relevant to.

The openness and engagement capacity of the Winter School with its focus on the region’s specific issues, shows a huge respect for its socio-economic ground and the deeply engrained cultural traditions. This is a timely and pressing agenda.

Winter School is an exemplar model for others to emulate.

What can we learn from Winter School about Design in today’s world?

PA: One particularly relevant aspect is the shift in design approaches, moving out from traditional notions of the design studio, or bubble, into closer understanding of the broader contexts in which it operates. For example, social, historical and cultural contextualisation for bringing design interventions back to symbolic values and relevant meaning.

Another aspect is the crossing of different cultural backgrounds, by bringing together an international community of academics, researchers and students from across the world. This makes it possible to better understand the global conditions in which we live in.

You delivered a presentation at Winter School 2017, what were the key themes you addressed?

PA: My presentation was called: ‘Brand archives as generative resource’. Brand archives aim to provide a thorough understanding of a brand’s identity from a design perspective. This means ‘distilling’ its essence and uncovering its DNA in relation to its broader contextual history and local culture. It is a both a resource and a tool to understand the past so to derive meaning into the future.

The notion of brand archives entails rescuing visual and material culture related to a brand name, and also the conception of these materials as generative resources to foster future possibilities. 

In my presentation, I addressed the relevance of brand archives to companies, designers and the broader culture. My themes represent a critique and response around the cultural inheritance of locally specific brands, and how this can often be overlooked and dissolve amongst global influence.

In the present day, designers can play an important role concerning the preservation of traditional local industries and companies. Historical brand archives consist of rich strategic resources for fostering innovation, whether from a symbolic, cultural, historic, social or economic perspective.

Brand archaeology is at the centre of a process for both understanding organisations’ trajectories of historical development and to enable the creative exploration of their own legacy. The approaches and examples presented were intended to show the creative potential embedded within local and material cultures.

Are there any key learning points that you would love people to take away from your perspective on Design?

PA: One of the ideas emerging from Winter School that I would like to reinforce is the preservation of what is locally specific, and relevant to contemporary needs and concerns. This is opposed to practices that contribute to the wiping out of regional and national identities, leading to a bland uniformity of designed products and approaches.

Finally, if you could pick three words to explain Winter School, what would they be?

PA: If I may use four: Outside of the box!

Assistant Professor Pedro Almeida

Assistant Professor Pedro Almeida, University of Aveiro. Image credit: Carlos Teixeira


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