Once a year, Cologne becomes a talking-point as the design capital of Germany. During the international furniture and interior design fair imm cologne, trade visitors from all over the world experience a city that is vibrant with design, installations and design VIPs despite the January weather.
Cologne is largely associated with design because of the furniture fair. Apart from that, little is known about Cologne in the design world, apart from the obvious, that is: the Gothic cathedral and other architectural treasures, museums of modern art and Cologne’s residential charm. And more than anything else, of course, the Rhine city is known for its almost rustic charm, its brewery taverns and Kölsch pubs.
At the same time, in view of the imm cologne‘s communicative and commercial importance for the international design world, it is hardly surprising that, over the years, a creative scene has developed in the city which, thanks to its institutions, educational establishments, studios, galleries, various event formats and retailers, constitutes an impressive and unusually diverse economic force for the region. Here in Cologne, the sector is represented by industrial and product design, corporate and communication design, media and fashion design, event design, architecture and interior design.
The incredible breadth of its design spectrum may well be the reason why Cologne is still more famous as a cathedral city and media hub than it is as a design location: it is less focussed on any one particular, classic sector than for instance the neighbouring city of Düsseldorf, which boasts an unusual concentration of agencies and is associated with fashion and advertising.
Instead, Cologne is a reflection of all the facets design has to offer. Here the sector is extremely diversified, unusually fragmented and thus not yet very networked. Anyone who knows the city will realise that this is one of its basic characteristics, for Cologne is full of open-minded, often extremely individualistic people – lots of lone wolves who, although attracted by the creative breeding ground, nevertheless want to go their own way. These one-man/one-woman firms have also contributed to the growth of the design industry in the Cologne region – growth which, as verified by the Cultural Industries Report Cologne 2007, has been developing very dynamically since the 90s.
Although the report investigates all the socalled “creative industries” – the music sector, the book market and publishers, the art market, the film industry, broadcasting, private theatre/cabaret, architecture and design as well as advertising and software/games – the design industry is regarded as a leading sector of the future because it has interfaces with almost all the other sub-segments of the creative industries market – interfaces that are expanding constantly.
In 2005, the core areas of the design industry – graphic and communication design, product and industrial design as well as interior design and interior architecture – accounted for a sales volume of almost 830 million euros in the Cologne region. Approx. 1,888 design bureaus and design companies were counted, with communication designers accounting for the largest share. Both the growth of the corporate landscape (+41% in 2005 as compared to 2000) and the corresponding sales development (+77.1%) indicate that the design industry, along with the games industry, has undergone the most dynamic development of all cultural markets in the Cologne region in recent years.
If you include additional design services from other branches of industry such as the photography sector, interior architecture, trade fair design, web design, applied art and stage/film design, the Cologne design market is estimated to have a total volume of 1.1 billion euros, generated by 2,681 bureaus and companies.
With the imm cologne and other leading design-relevant fairs like Orgatec and photokina, Koelnmesse makes the city a meeting point for the international design scene. Above all, the imm cologne gives the industry new momentum, fosters public perception of Cologne as a design city with the focus on “furniture design” and, with trend-related initiatives such as the Trendboard and various awards and exhibitions, promotes the discourse about design.
In addition, the imm cologne is an important forum, not only for established designers but for newcomers as well – giving them a presence either at the trade fair itself, in the talent hall [d3] design, or outside the exhibition grounds, where other design events give young designers and artists the opportunity to present themselves in an unusual setting. The organisers and hosts are Cologne galleries, furnishing stores, design bureaus, cultural institutions, colleges and museums, with the Spichern Höfe, the Rheinau Harbour with the Kap am Südkai and the Vulkan complex in Ehrenfeld playing a particularly important role. The series of design events has made Cologne famous as a market place for international showrooms that sell directly to their end-customers.
The KölnDesign association is a pool of around 120 designers, design service providers and partners like the Cologne Chamber of Industry and Commerce and was founded in 1997 to promote networking between creatives and improve the contact between design and industry. KölnDesign sees itself as a communication and marketing platform for the region’s designers and provides information about approx. 3,000 design firms in the Cologne area, both via its Internet platform (www.koelndesign.de) and in the DesignGuide Cologne, a publication containing more than 1,000 designer profiles.
The dynamic growth of the Cologne design industry documented in the Cultural Industries Report Cologne 2007 is proof that fostering networking between young designers and promoting newcomers on the one hand and support for the design market on the other is a promising strategy. We can expect great things from the Cologne design scene.
16. December 2008
Tags: Cologne, Cologne Chamber of Industry and Commerce, creative industries, Cultural Industries Report, design companies, design scene, DesignGuide Cologne, growth, KölnDesign, networking, newcomer, Orgatec, photokina, sales volume, Trendboard, [d3] design talents