1988 - 1996: A new location - the former City Library
In 1988, "Haus Industrieform" moved into the former City Library in Essen's inner city. The building, destroyed in a bombing raid in 1943, had been reopened in 1956, and provided an exhibition area of around 2,500 sqm for the permanent product exhibition.
Even then, “Haus Industrieform” was using an industrial ruin as a venue for exhibitions: the city library’s former stack annex was gutted and converted. This extension provided suitable space for product shows and special exhibitions.
1990: A historical moment
In 1990, "Haus Industrieform" was given a new name, becoming the "Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen". This new name made its relationship with the State of North-Rhine Westphalia clear, and clearly set it apart from other cities and states. The globally acclaimed communication designer Otl Aicher created a new corporate image for the institution.
Qualification by selection and presentation
Following Dr. Paul Mahlberg, Peter Frank and Ulrich Kern, Prof. Dr. Peter Zec assumed the presidency of the Design Zentrum in 1991. The discussions on the new corporate identity indicated that a certain reorientation had become necessary. Since then, the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen has defined itself not solely as an institution engaged in the promotion of design, but above all as a forum for business, politics, culture and the public. At the same time, it is an international communication and qualification centre. The most important activities of the Design Zentrum include design-orientated trade fair presentations, congresses, seminars, workshops, product presentations and consultancy services. Peter Zec's brief on his appointment as President was to give substance to that reorientation.
Under the motto of “Qualification by selection and presentation”, the Design Zentrum has since then exhibited selected design products throughout the world. The design promotion institution for instance successfully introduced German design on the Asian market. A further qualification instrument is the design competition, which constantly gained in attractiveness. In 1993, the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen responded to current developments in the design scene, and since then has conferred awards for communication design each year in a competition which – like “Design Innovations” for product design – is becoming more and more international.
As early as 1992, the Design Zentrum organised a much acclaimed congress on the future of design in Europe with the portentous title of “Design Quo Vadis?” This also marked the start of cooperation between the Design Zentrum and the European Union, which has continued successfully up to the present day. The results of the congress, in which over 750 people took part, were documented in an official EU publication entitled the “Essen Design Charter”.
The Design Zentrum spans the world
The Design Zentrum opened offices in Tokyo and Singapore. With the exhibition and publication “German Design made in NRW”, the Design Zentrum successfully presented products and companies from Nordrhein-Westfalen in Tokyo, Seoul, Taipeh, Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The “German Design Standards” and “Five Spirits of Design” exhibitions in Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney also drew large crowds.
The Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen is a member of ICSID and of ICOGRADA. Prof. Dr. Peter Zec has been a member of the executive board of ICSID since 1999.
Milestones – Design has many forms
Leaving the traditional shows and discussions on form behind it, the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen organised a series of exhibitions for companies such as Tupperware, Coca-Cola and Niessing in the 1990s. The exhibitions focused on the integration of design in entrepreneurial processes and in corporate communications.
In further exhibitions such as “The creation of the new” and “cognition, cognition” for Rütgers AG, the Design Zentrum addressed the question of the extent to which learning processes in large companies can be assisted by meaningful design. Further topics in these exhibitions included the incorporation of microelectronics and the utility aspects of design.