The fifth edition of MELBA Sofia Design Festival offered ten days full of valuable and fascinating content on different locations in Sofia. The event introduced intriguing foreign speakers to the Bulgarian audience, reviewed the most interesting and significant of Bulgarian design in the past year, held classes and discussions for professionals and offered six exhibitions on different topics. The rich programme included:
INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM, which brought together over 200 people at Toplocentrala and another 100 online. They all became part of the most significant annual design event in Bulgaria. Seven design professionals from Europe – Liza Enebis and Wanwai Shum (DUMBAR/DEPT® Studio), Holly Pereira, Adam Štěch, Mateusz Machalski, Eli Gutierrez and Maria Gavriluk (Gunia Project) – engaged the audience in fascinating stories about design in the service of socially relevant causes, about the heritage and current trends in typography, how design is reviving local crafts, its role in times of war and the need for a little chaos in our lives.
The exhibition Review of Bulgarian Design, which has become a tradition, invites for the first time an external curator – Marina Dragomirova from Studio Furthermore. The annual selection, titled Local Beauty, showcased the latest in Bulgarian design and invited visitors to explore local aesthetics through the eyes of nine artists who created works from regional materials, resources and traditions, most of them specially for the occasion. Jewellery inspired by the sound of the bagpipe (Dimitar Stankov), a visual narrative about the path of rye (Maria Jekova), a beeswax sink (Raya Stefanova), ceramic dishes with superheroes (Nikoleta Nosovska), a contemporary wool carpet (Lyouba Assadourova), light fixtures made of Rhodope stones (Milen Radev), objects made from melted car headlights (Neva Balnikova), a contemporary interpretation of traditional old mountain technique (Yana Yunakova) and bottling of fragrances typical for different Bulgarian regions (Dani Yordanova) – check them out and get to know the stories of all nine participants here.
Four more exhibitions engaged visitors in a dialogue with design through different themes, such as the vast topic TIME, which was presented in the eponymous exhibition at Port.A Gallery through the illustrations of 18 artists shortlisted from a total of 204 entries in the MELBA and Fashion Days competition from summer 2022. As part of the fifth edition of the festival, we have launched a new series of annual exhibitions called Diploma project. Their aim is to present the thesis works of students in different fields of design. We opened the series with an exhibition by Spas Yordanov, a graduate of the Ceramics and Porcelain program at the NBU Department of Visual Arts, presented his diploma project – the sculpture collection entitled Ceramic Lords of the Four Elements.
A subjective study of the history of Czech ceramic production was made by the exhibition Story in the gallery of the Czech Centre, which presented selected works by students of the Ceramics and Porcelain Studio of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. Festival visitors were able to take a look at Hungary as a country that provides relevant and competitive responses to the economic, environmental and societal challenges exciting the world today through the exhibition SMART HUNGARY: Innovation in Industrial Design through 24 examples.
This year, the diverse programme of the MELBA Festival was complemented by two discussions and two classes aimed at professionals. An educational initiative by the Know-How Show-How platform put the ethics of relationships between clients, designers and contractors up for discussion in front of a packed Czech Centre auditorium, with the aim of fostering communication on issues relating to design and the environment around us. The Know-How Show-How team also offered one-on-one meetings for young graphic designers as an opportunity to discuss projects or portfolios. In an educational class for typographers, Polish graphic designer Mateusz Machalski presented the basic principles of working with geometric sans serif type, the rules of creation and his personal design solutions to improve the process – from the sketch to the final drawing. Within the MELBA class on inclusive design, Ivelina Gadzheva talked about what causes exclusion in design processes and explored personal creative approaches together with the participants.
With great appreciation we pay special attention to the festivals website and the overall visual identity. Studio PUNKT made a memorable design for the fifth edition of the MELBA Design Festival. Our work could not be possible without the support of all partners who find meaning and value in our initiatives. We thank them equally with the participants and the audience. We are proud to have met and worked closely with wonderful people who contributed to a particularly professionally energizing 10 days of design in Sofia. See you next year!