Brazilian design and social change

Alvorada, Portuguese for “dawn”, looks at this rising nation through the lives and works of its product and furniture designers.

Going beyond a survey of Brazilian design, this exploration concentrates on how the thinking and making of consumer goods reflect a country in social transition. By addressing the role that class, values, scale and human resources play in the work of Brazilian designers,Alvorada shows how design is shaping and being shaped by radical social changes.

If Brazil is now having its dawning moment, that’s because the fruits of its progress seem to be, for the first time, being evenly shared among its people. Thanks to economic growth and to the social-minded policies of president Lula da Silva’s two administrations, the Brazilian population has experienced unprecedented upward mobility in recent years.

Over 30 million people have since 2003 risen from poverty and joined the so-called “C-Class” (a term generally used in Brazil to define the lower middle class), which today represents just over half of the Brazilian population.

That is what this thesis project is ultimately about: it gathers and connects a collection of design propositions that attempt to reflect upon the relation between the designer as a critical subject, and Brazilian society as a realm of possibility and potentiality.

This is not however a thesis on Brazilian design and social change; some of the subjects and designs I met and featured address specific social issues, but not all of them do. They all are, nevertheless, worthy of note and acclaim.

The very different propositions presented here are examples of how designers from different parts of the country are tackling what is a sort of a tipping point moment in Brazilian society. The work of these designers shows the values Brazilians expect to see reflected in product and furniture design — such as identity, regional folklore, popular and “high” culture, collective memory, celebrity, style and surprise. But also the labor involved in turning ideas, values and materials into physical, commodified products manufactured either in small, rarefied quantities or produced on a large, industrial scale.  To understand how Brazilian design makes its “way in the world”, one must also look at how things are made, sold and consumed.

A deeper understanding of Brazilian design is manifestly under high demand from within and beyond its borders. Alvorada intends on beings a contribution to that understanding, and a critical account of what it means to design today in, and for, this fascinating nation.

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An Exploration of Brazilian Design