Design Ecosystem in Katowice

 { 🇵🇱 } – Katowice: a Polish city looking in a different direction

The Spodek, a symbol of Katowice. Photo by Nomadic Julien.

As with most other Central and Eastern European countries, the collapse of the Socialist system and the advent of Capitalism brought about deep changes in the socio-economic sphere, which in some cases completely changed the course of history of some cities. This was the case of Katowice, one of southern Poland’s biggest cities.

Katowice, located close to the borders of Czechia and Slovakia, was once at the heart of one of the country’s most important hubs of coal mining, in the heart of the Upper Silesian region. Back in the 18th century, coal is what turned what was then a village into an industrialised city. But nowadays, coal is in the past and Katowice is looking towards the future.

Katowice’s Innovative Spirit

Katowice was once at the centre of one of Europe’s largest coal belt, together with nearby Ostrava, located in Czechia. But coal hasn’t been the only industry present in the region: steel, chemistry, automobile, energy and mechanical engineering have all contributed to make Upper Silesia an industrial powerhouse. I say Upper Silesia, and not just Katowice, because there’s a 5 million people-strong conglomerate which has benefitted from its industrialisation and its position at the centre of the regional coal industry.

Today, coal no longer reigns supreme, and only part of the strong industry which was once present in the region remains. This obviously caused a change in the city’s focus, and thanks to the locals being a fairly innovation-embracing bunch they have welcomed a shift towards sustainability, services and creativity.

The State of Design in Katowice (and Upper Silesia)

Among the fields which have contributed to the whole region’s recovery after some not-so-happy years is design. Design in Katowice has always been characterised by a local focus and sustainability. The local Academy of Fine Arts has been at the centre of the scene and is known in Poland for offering the best education in design in the country, which is comparable to what is being offered currently by some institutions in Western Europe. As a confirmation of Katowice having established itself as a design city in its own right, the 4 Design Days event has been set up and organised annually with a program that includes events, exhibitions, days for professionals, the Property Design Awards (a contest which awards the best architecture and design in the country and their creators) and the Design4You independent design fair.

Downtown Katowice. Photo by Nomadic Julien.

Katowice, unlike other major cities in Poland such as Krakow, Wroclaw or Gdansk, could never rely solely on its looks to boost its tourism industry and therefore its appeal on the international arena. By most standards, Katowice isn’t a very pretty city, even though its historical centre has some examples of different architectural styles. This is why, when its industries started to crumble, the city had to direct its attention elsewhere to stay relevant. By betting on creativity, as well as sustainability and services, time has (so far) proven that this was a wise decision.

Design Education

Let’s now talk about design education in this southern Polish city. First of all, at the cost of repeating myself, it must be stated that the afore-mentioned Academy of Fine Arts and Design (Akademia Sztuk Pięknych w Katowicach) is recognised as the public institution currently offering the best education in design within the Polish borders, being praised often by students and media alike and even “beating” its counterpart in the country’s capital, Warsaw. Currently, ASP Katowice (as it is known in short) offers study programs bachelor’s and master’s degree courses taught in both Polish and English (which is often still not a regular occurrence in Poland) in the fields of product and graphic design. Presently, the two master’s degree programs taught in English are “Designing Reading Experience and Interactive Storytelling” and “Inclusive Design: Health and Social Well-Being”.

Those who are interested in pursuing an education in other fields of design, such as interior and fashion, can do so at the local University of Technology, which defines itself as a “technical, artistic, medical university”. It must be noted that, unlike ASP Katowice, this institution is private and therefore is to be paid for.

Working Remotely in Katowice

If you’re a designer who happens to be in Katowice and is interested in working remotely from cafes or co-working spaces, you’ll have no issue finding plenty of both. But since we’re here, we’ll tell you what are some of the favourites spots in the city, so you don’t have to.

Let’s start with co-working spaces, which have been popular for quite some time now and are therefore easy to find not only in the biggest cities. Katowice has its own share of them scattered throughout its territory – Katodesk, #krzywa12, Desking, ClusterCowork and Wellcome Office are all good names. You will find more by looking up “wirtualne biuro” online, which means “virtual office” in Polish. Prices vary greatly based on amenities and service, but are generally affordable.

If you’re more into cafés, some places which the locals suggest are Project Kawiarnia, Kawosz, Botanika and Synergia, so make sure to check those if you’re ever in town and looking for a nice little spot with Wi-Fi, plugs and refreshments.

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Gianmarco Caprio / Content & Community Manager @ Phase

Content creator, editor and community manager at Phase.