‘Belgium is Design’ is a declaration of passion for design, highlighting the unique characteristics of Belgium’s creative production. A joint declaration between the three different regions in the country, it recognizes that Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia are host to various talented designers that transcend cultural, linguistic and sociological differences to form a unique style. It is an approach that qualifies the statement ‘Belgium is Design’.
The concept ‘Belgium is Design’ was created by Lise Coirier/Pro Materia in 2009-2010 for the Triennale Design Flanders "Belgium is Design. Design for Mankind" under her curatorship. On this occasion, Design Vlaanderen, Grand-Hornu Images and Pro Materia joined forces to defend and promote Belgian design, while Belgium was without a government.
‘Belgium is Design’ is now used as a common label for the collective actions organized in Belgium and abroad by the following institutions: Wallonie-Bruxelles Design Mode, Design Flanders. And it is also enthusiastically supported by the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels export promoting organizations: Brussels Invest & Export, Flanders Investment & Trade and Wallonia Foreign Trade and Investment Agency.
Each year many Belgian firms attend Milan Design Week, largely at Salone del Mobile’s fairground site. The fair and its expansive off-programme in the city is the most important design event in the world, where producers, buyers, the press, and all those associated with the industry assemble annually. As such, Belgian governmental initiatives support their presence and try to stimulate new talent to connect to an international audience in this setting.
In the Belgian federal system, promotion of export is predominantly a regional concern. Each region, Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia, attends the Milan Design Week through its own initiative and has done so for many years. In this crowded event, however, it is vital to find a way to stand out and get maximum exposure. Since the whole is more than the sum of its parts, the regional agencies for the promotion of design came together with those for international entrepreneurship.
In the beginning, this resulted in joint communication on the Belgian presence in Milan to give an overview of the different public and private initiatives, but since 2011 a common approach has evolved further. The various government initiatives have now been integrated into a single presentation, always under the auspices, of course, of ‘Belgium is Design’.
Since 2012, the design of Belgium has chosen the fittingly emblematic location of Triennale di Milano to showcase its talents. While the SaloneSatellite, the international platform for emerging design promoted by Cosmit at the fairground, continues to be an effective springboard for many Belgian designers that has been supported by the regional institutions for nearly a decade.
But ‘Belgium is Design’ label is also promoting established designers and companies from Brussels and Wallonia in the frame of Maison & Objet fair in Paris. Organized by WBDM, a selection of brands based on the quality and innovativeness of their products is regularly presented on a collective booth. Complementary to the Milan showcase, this commercial event gives exhibitors concrete benefits regarding business development worldwide.
The ‘Belgium is Design’ logo has been created by the graphic designer Raf Thienpont, who lives and works in Brussels. It is an elegant statement, minimal but strong, in itself symbolic of the common ground in the otherwise very diverse and rich Belgian design scene. With a subtle touch the Belgian tricolour is added, suggesting the reserved Belgian character, which is nevertheless warm, vivid and open.