Design Ecosystem in Kyiv

{ 🇺🇦 } – Kyiv: a city ready to shine

The Motherland Monument in Kyiv. Photo by Gianmarco Caprio.

Kyiv – or Kiev, if you prefer the city’s better known Russian name – has been a city under the spotlight for quite some years now, for all the good and the bad reasons.

After the so-called Euromaidan Revolution, the Ukrainian capital has been undergoing profound transformations, both at the societal and cultural levels. This naturally reflects on its art and design scene, which is seeing something of a little revolution of its own.

A city with a very long and important history, but which up until recently hasn’t really been at the center of attention due to being considered a sort of little sister to Moscow (“Ukraine” literally means “borderland”), things have been changing continuously since the events of 2014. It is Kyiv’s time to shine, and this is why we will delve into its design ecosystem today.

A City Looking Towards the Future

The popular uprising that overthrew president Yanukovich in 2014 and put Ukraine firmly on the road towards European integration was one that changed the destiny of the whole country, and Kyiv was at its center. No doubt, the political uncertainty that followed the events of the Revolution of Dignity (as it’s also known throughout Ukraine) created a quite specific climate, specifically in Kyiv. As many people no longer had a job to wake up for in the morning, this obviously benefitted the cultural situation in the country a great deal. Art collectives suddenly sprung up, people started going out more and forging bonds with one another. Since then, and with the situation in the city and most of the rest of the country (minus the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are still under the control of self-proclaimed and unrecognised “people’s republics”) has somewhat stabilised, and the city of Kyiv has become a new popular destination for Western European travellers, who for long have been snobbing Ukraine’s capital.

The State of Design in Kyiv

In recent times, Kyiv has been witnessing an explosion of the creative arts, especially in the field of design. In fact, just a few years ago a festival such as OFFF Kyiv would have been unthinkable. In the very words of its organisers, “OFFF is a community inviting all those who are eager to learn, to participate and get inspired in a two-day journey of conferences, workshops, activities and performances”. OFFF first started in Barcelona at the beginning of this century and has since been “exported” to such design hubs as Vienna, London, Tel Aviv and New York. Therefore, the choice of bringing this format to Kyiv says a lot about how the city is positioning itself in its post-Maidan years.

Kyiv designers have been leaving their mark on the global stage mostly in the fields of fashion and interior design and architecture, often blurring the boundaries between them. Graphic and digital design are on the rise, too, and there is a general willingness among the Kyivan youth to get involved. Surely, the larger design scene in this big but long-ignored post-Soviet country, and especially in its capital, is showing distinct signs of potentially establishing itself as one of the more interesting and fresh in all of Europe.

At Kyiv’s Besarabsky indoor market. Photo by Gianmarco Caprio.

Design Education in Kyiv

Right now, one can obtain a higher education in design at the Faculty of Design at the Kyiv National University of Technologies and Design (KNUTD), the Kyiv College of Construction, Architecture and Design, as well as the Kyiv State Institute of Applied Arts named after Mykhailo Boichuk (or Boichuk Art School, in short). Educational programmes include degrees in Graphic, Industrial, Fashion and Environmental design, offered alongside more traditional ones such as Embroidery and Monumental and Decorative Painting. As of now, state education in the design fields still doesn’t match the level one can find in Western European countries and tends to be still a bit conservative, but things are changing rapidly and it is safe to assume that, in years to come, programs will be brought to standards which will more closely resemble the ones found westwards.

Where to Work From?

The Ukrainian capital surely doesn’t lack plenty of quality options for working from outside of his home or office. Plenty of cafés and co-working spaces have appeared and can be found mostly in the city center. If what you’re after is coffee, Wi-Fi access and electrical outlets, then One Love Coffee, which has two branches in the city: one is at the intersection of Velyka Vasylkivska (Russian: Bolshaya Vasilkovskaya) and Baseina (Basseynaya) streets, on top of the same building of the Pinchuk Art Center, while the other is close to the Saint Nicholas Cathedral. Another excellent spot to work from is The Blue Cup Coffee Shop on Pushkinska (Pushkinskaya), reachable by Teatralna, Khreshchatyk and Maidan metro stations. Despite having first appeared only in recent years, co-working spaces are already plentiful in Kyiv, with names such as Art-Zavod Platforma, located inside Darynok shopping center on Bilomorska (Belomorskaya), Coworking Platforma Leonardo on Volodymyrska (Vladimirskaya) and Bazis Coworking on Sichovykh Striltsiv (Sechevikh Streltsov) leading the way.

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Gianmarco Caprio / Content & Community Manager @ Phase

Content creator, editor and community manager at Phase.