Tag Archives: bcd

La Vanguardia offers open online access to its archives


Instances of the word 'diseño' in La Vanguardia, 1881-2008

Barcelona’s major broadsheet newspaper, La Vanguardia, has opened up its archives (Hemeroteca) and now offers free online access. The full content ranges from 1881 onwards, can be searched by keyword, topic or date and downloaded as .pdf files.

As an interesting feature to note, the results interface offers a detailed interactive visual timeline of the number of occurences of the search word throughout La Vanguardia’s archives. A search for ‘diseño’ (design), for instance, reveals a striking development in the use of the word.

Its first noticeable appearances coincide with the 1920s / 1930s and the rise of Spanish modernism, and diseappear by 1936, at the start of the Civil War. The 1950s see a very slow, small but steady return of the word, whit its use growing noticeably from the mid 1960s. Between 1976, the start of the Spanish political transition, and 1989, the surge in the appearance of ‘design’ in the newspaper is extraordinary, from 1,194 instances in 1976, to 4,670 in 1989. After a short trough, usage peaks by the late 1990s, with 5,597 appearances in 1999.  Perhaps most surprisingly, there is a very sharp drop from 2000, and current levels of usage in 2008 are only equivalent to those of 1986, the height of the Barcelona design boom.

As I’ve suggested in La Barcelona del diseño, design and the city had a special relationship between the late 1970s and the late 1990s, which seems to have now lost some of its historical relevance.

And here is some eye candy from the archives:


Advertisement for clothes and underwear manufactured with synthetic fibers. May 1952.


Advertisement for Muebles Malda, one of Barcelona's furniture retailers. June 1966.


'We can't all use the same furniture'. Advertisement for Muebles La Favorita, one of Barcelona's furniture retailers. October 1973.


The FAD Industrial Design Delta Prizes of 1976. Images of designs by Miguel Mila, Jose Bonet and Studio Per.


January 1977. Barcelona Design Centre (BCD) moves to larger premises.


Colour supplement, July 1992: ‘The Games of the imagination. The Olympic project becomes the inspiration for the design of hundreds of objects’. In the main picture, Andre Ricard, designer of the olympic torch.


Devil in the details

It’s clear to me that Barcelona has a lot to be proud of.

I have a slight, undefinable (and very charming, I’m told) accent when speaking English, so when I was living in London people often asked me where I came from originally. ‘Barcelona’, I would say. To which everyone unfailingly replied: ‘Barcelona! Such a beautiful, exciting city! The food! The  weather! The architecture! The design! What the hell are you doing here in London?’

‘Pah!’ you will say (if you’re from Barcelona). ‘That’s the dreaded, evil “Barcelona Brand” effect. It’s crap. Big empty words. It’s ruining our city, and our lives.’

Perhaps so. But while the locals complain, the foreigners admire, and envy. They both have good reasons for their reactions.

What  brought me to this slight digression, was coming across a news release at Core77 about the announcement by BCD (Barcelona Centre de Disseny) of a new strategic design cluster in Barcelona. BCD’s press release, notes Core77’s Mark Vanderbeeken, is ‘unfortunately clumsily written and clumsily translated.’

We can have dozens of big strategic design initiatives, to promote ‘business excellence and innovation with international projection’ as this one claims to do. But unless their press releases are written in flowing and grammatically correct English, their international projection will suffer.

It’s a good thing when a city dares to have a big vision. Barcelona’s may have been clouded by commercial interests, but still its perception abroad is that of a vibrant cultural node, with an amazing amount of clever, ambitious projects underway, a city looking at the future and working hard to make it happen.

All I want to say is, I wish that a highly visible, top-level Catalan design institution like the BCD could make the effort to produce perfect English copy for its international press releases. Not doing so only serves to project a total lack of professionalism. If we want to be taken seriously, we need to behave like grown-up, serious players. And that means making the effort.

The devil is in the detail, and the future too.