Daria Topilskaya, CEO of 2050.LAB: “We are a country of Kulibins, space technologies are being created, but sometimes they look like they cannot be sold”

At the Eastern Economic Forum I visited the studio “Radio “Komsomolskaya Pravda”” General Director of the National Center for Industrial Design and Innovation 2050.LAB Daria Topilskayawho spoke about the development of industrial design in the country.


– The topic of industrial design is quite widely represented at the EEF. Has industrial design finally come to the fore?

– We definitely have it. The Soviet school has been preserved, known throughout the world thanks to some projects. But now is the time when we are not just reviving or developing industrial design. It really was heard at the highest level, including our president, who drew attention to the fact that industrial design is the very driver of the economy and sovereignty of industry in our country, which we all really need.

The National Center for Industrial Design and Innovation 2050.LAB has been working for almost five years to ensure that what Russian industry does, especially in terms of high-tech products, is convenient and beautiful.

– Has the level of industrial design increased in recent years?

– Absolutely, yes. And there are several factors here. We have never lagged behind, especially in recent years, from international trends. Even our studio, in the first two years of work, has already received “Oscars” in the field of industrial design – the Red Dot and IF Design Award. In other words, Russian designers can create world-class projects. This has been confirmed many times. Industrial design has indeed received more attention in recent years. They are betting on him. Studios are actively developing and project releases are being released. Therefore, there is no shame in the industry, especially in our team.


– Tell us about your latest releases.

– 2050.LAB is structured in such a way that we confirm our hypothesis that an industrial design studio, with all the necessary versatility, must have specialization. Because the high-tech industry is structured in such a way that it will be difficult for a design team to deal with all the regulations, norms, rules, Sanitary Regulations and other GOSTs. Therefore, specialized industrial design centers by industry are the right solution. And we are following this path.

Our center specializes in railway and rail technology. In our country, railway industrial designers are not trained. And if transport designers are taught, then, as a rule, it is road transport. When we opened the company, we recruited automotive designers to join the team. And together we mastered all railway GOSTs, rules, norms, and Sanitary Regulations. The railway industry represents the highest level of safety, responsibility for the lives and comfort of passengers, and therefore the industry is quite regulated. I had to really get to the bottom of it. And we are now the only studio in the country who specializes in this. We can take any project related to rail transport and make it from scratch. That’s what we do.

Among the latest high-profile releases… A few days ago, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin and Sergei Semenovich Sobyanin opened MCD-4. Trains that launched on a new route – with our interior design and mask. Another project is the St. Petersburg metro, where the new Baltiets metro train recently began running on the red line – this is also our design. At the recent railway forum in St. Petersburg, several of our releases were presented at once – “Ivolga 4.0”, electric train EP2DM, shunting locomotive TEM23. All these are projects of Transmashholding, our strategic partner. All significant major projects in the field of railway transport, as a rule, are now taking place with our participation.

In addition, we have a line of household appliances, a line of elevators for residential buildings, electrical appliances, and consumer goods. We can do everything. But railway technology is our main specialization.


– Do I understand correctly that the task of an industrial designer is to combine GOSTs, SanPiNs and other standards with functionality and beauty?

– That’s right. Let’s start with something simple. What is industrial design? It’s not just about everything being beautiful. And about making it convenient to use. So that you get on a train, commuter train, buy a phone or a kettle and feel a little happier than before you got it. You should feel comfortable, beautiful, easy. And your quality of life should improve by using this product.

If we are talking about railway equipment, then these are materials, ergonomics, seats, handrails, connectors for USB devices in the right places. And so that all this is wear-resistant and works. We must pay tribute to Russian Railways and the Moscow Department of Transport, now everyone understands very well that seamless movement is a priority for passengers. A person leaves home and must get, for example, to work with several transfers by different modes of transport. It should be so convenient that he does not waste time, does not waste his nerves, and calmly switches from one type of transport to another. So that this path passes automatically.

If we are talking about passengers on long-distance trains, then when they come to the compartment, it is important that everything there is comfortable – a shower, an office area where they can work, a children’s room. In order not to think about the nuances of your comfort, but to think about your affairs, about your tasks, about your life, to calmly arrive at your destination not tired, not irritated, but in a harmonious state. This is also our task as an industrial design studio.

– Do you have enough specialists?

– As I already said, in our country there is no specialization in the design of railway transport. We train specialists ourselves. And we took the path of least resistance. We received a state educational license and opened our own educational center. We developed a master’s program together with our partner – MISiS. By the way, this year the third intake has already taken place, and a competition has already appeared for the program. Many students undergo internships and practical training with us. Some stay to work. We came to this business for a long time, and we are playing the long game, building a development strategy. We understand what kind of people we need. No one teaches such specialists, so we teach them ourselves. Of course, we work with all universities where there are departments of industrial design: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod – everywhere.

I would really like to work with the Far Eastern Federal University. I hope that we will be able to intensify educational programs in industrial design here. Because in the Far East, the topic of personnel shortage in the field of design is also relevant.


– What are the main problems in the industry that you observe?

– The key point now is not to slow down. But this doesn’t even apply to studios, but to industry that needs design. Industrial design generates added value for the product, increases competitiveness, and helps create a sovereign product. We are in a situation where we need to quickly master different areas and branches of production. Here, industrial design helps both from the point of view of reverse engineering and from the point of view of creating your own technologies, directions, and projects. And you need to use these effects to the maximum.

But our industry is not always ready for this. We carry out active educational work for engineers, designers, and production workers. We explain that industrial design is not only about aesthetics. There is still an opinion: why spend money on industrial design? And design is not about beauty. Beauty is a consequence of thoughtful functionality. The product must be convenient, economical, at a given price, made from existing materials, but in the best configuration. And this is about technology.

We are developing design options for metro trains. And it’s important for us not just to create an aesthetic project, the main thing is to make it more convenient for passengers, to have more space, more traffic, more comfort.

To explain this, you need to involve a high administrative level. I mean such a mandatory factor as the inclusion of a design project in the product creation chain, as a necessary link. Let these be Russian design studios. It will be 2050.LAB, Smirnov Design, Karfidov Lab, Scale Bureau, anyone. But let it be a Russian design studio that well understands the legislation, norms and rules. There must be a design project, especially when it comes to high-tech products.

We have a country of Kulibins. We have many innovators and inventors, and space technologies are being created. But sometimes they are packaged in such a way that they cannot be sold at all. Everything looks square and perpendicular, with plastic buttons. There is a famous expression attributed to Academician Tupolev that “ugly planes don’t fly.” They may fly, but they don’t sell well. And the person who flies in them does not feel so happy. Let’s package it beautifully so that the form reflects the content.


– What measures to support the industry are required?

– I persistently promote the idea that the stage of creating a design project should be included in the chain of creation of high-tech products. Perhaps the regions will require subsidies for manufacturing companies or support for design studios that will create design projects. You definitely need to pay attention to education. For our part, we are doing everything we can. If we have government support, if there is support from universities, grants, subsidies for universities where industrial design departments are opening, we are ready to send our specialists, share best practices, and help develop programs. Let’s just teach people. Let’s make sure that the industry develops, including through human resources.

– You come from the Primorsky Territory. How do you assess the level of development of industrial design in Vladivostok?

– Whenever possible, I try to come to the EEF, because this is my native land. I was born in Primorye. My mother lives in Bolshoi Kamen; I lived in Vladivostok for many years and studied at the Far Eastern State University. I would like industry to develop here at a rate no less than what is happening in the western part of the country. I cannot confidently say that the level of industrial design in the Far East or Primorsky Territory is high. Perhaps one of the factors influencing this is the not so great development of production in the region. And these are interconnected things – demand creates supply.

I am sure that Far Eastern industrial design has good prospects and many growth points. We raise these topics at the industrial design session. There is definitely design, designers, cool design studios here. If we pay a little more attention to them, if we concentrate our attention on the development of this industry, I think that it can show fantastic results. But without the development of industry and without the support of production, industrial design in the region will not develop.

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