“Tea Party” with Ildikó Erdei: The role of design in socialist Yugoslavia

When it comes to the mass production of aesthetically designed objects of utility and the concept of democratic design, Yugoslavia not only followed the dominant world trends of the time, but also had significant artistic movements and designers who gave a Yugoslav touch to it, emphasized Ildikó Erdei.

In the lecture “Good design for a better society: The aestheticization of everyday life in socialist Yugoslavia “, Erdei first explained the changing role and function of design in art and architecture – an idea, that in the interwar period originated in the German Bauhaus school. The notion that good design ought to go beyond aesthetics and should with its functionality contribute to the transformation of society was then later, in the post-war period, also strongly endorsed by the highest state communist leadership in Yugoslavia and started to be implemented as well.

By doing so the new socialist state was not only integrated into the modernization trends in Europe and globally, but was also successfully accelerating other social processes, such as the industrialization and urbanization. In the lecture, this was illustrated by the example of housing, furnishing and interior decoration of a typical apartment in Yugoslavia and how this reflected both on the economic development and everyday life in Yugoslavia.

The last part of the lecture discussed how in the 1970s this tendency somehow weakened, bringing back into use former, less functional everyday objects. Ildikó Erdei analyzed several sociological factors that led to this, from social stratification to the formation of class tastes and consumption patterns, to the advancing privatization of everyday life.

The lecture took place on 3 July, 2024 as part of the cycle Regional tea party “Yugoslavia”, organized by the Academic Network for Cooperation in Southeast Europe in collaboration with the Institute of Social Sciences.