The 1960s

The exhibition activity of Slovak designers, especially in connection with periodic Slovak exhibitions of utility art and industrial art design, pointed out the need for the wider implementation of new designs in production which was meant to be assisted by the establishment of creative boards in connection with the reorganisation of industry in 1959. These bodies, comprised of art representatives, were intended to assess and select the range of serial products in terms of their aesthetic level. As these bodies were only advisory to the directors of departments, production units or individual enterprises, their competence was only limited. Despite that, they managed to positively affect the understanding of the importance of design in Slovak production. In a system of non-market economy, kept asleep by the monopoly position of individual producers, the measures ordered by the government or party bodies did not generally have much of an effect. Dissatisfaction with their implementation was also documented by the ‘Ideal Product’ competition which ran from 1964 (from 1966 under the more modest title ‘Excellent Product’ competition). In 1964 the government decided to establish the Council for the Creative Culture of Production as its advisory body which was intended to analyse the cultural aspect of production and to govern and control the activity of the system of creative councils. Although the actual competences of the Council were again only limited, it contributed to the improvement of national design standards and to the theoretical reflection of its purport.
In the second half of the 1960s new design opportunities were created when attempts were made to revive the mostly ineffective, centralised, directive management methods of enterprises by allowing space for their independent business activity. Hybrid theories on design in economies combining central management with market mechanisms occurred within revival efforts during the ‘Prague Spring’. The viability of such theories could not be proven, however, due to the invasion by Warsaw Pact forces which ruined attempts to reform socialism.
Despite undoubtedly positive advancements, interesting design solutions occurred during the 1960s in exhibitions rather than in production. The circle of Slovak designers was expanded with graduates of Professor Zdenek Kovar’s newly-established Zlín Studio of the School of Applied Arts (1959), among whom we must mention Jarolim Vavra, a designer of Chirana (medical technology), Jan Ondrejovic, a long-term collaborator of the Research Institute of Mechanisation and Automation in Nové Mesto nad Váhom, as well as Jan Vikrut and Tibor Herchl who paid dominant attention to the design of electrotechnical equipment. By the end of the 1960s, a fruitful co-operation began between Jindrich Safarik and the Považské Engineering Factory in the development of small motorcycles. Apart from those mentioned, Jiri Petrivý, Magda Sepova and others also presented noteworthy furniture designs. The design team at the glassworks in Lednické Rovne was extended by Jaroslav Taraba. The creative artist Rudolf Altrichter must be mentioned in regard to utility graphics, as his production in the 1960s mostly corresponded with the actual trends in creative art. Ivan Stepan, Milan Vesely and several others from the upcoming generation presented the production of higher art standards which, at the same time, interfered with the usual association of utility graphics with posters. The key figure in the design of brands and logotypes at this time was Miroslav Cipar.
The gradual completion of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (VŠVU) in Bratislava considerably contributed to the further extension of the creative design base in Slovakia. Apart from free art disciplines, departments of utility production were gradually established at the school, the utility graphics department led by Jozef Chovan from 1957 and the industrial forming department led by Vaclav Kautman from 1966.