Wiktoria Kijowska is a design historian and a designer. Her research primarily focuses on Polish design history which she wants to popularise to English-speaking audiences. Wiktoria’s goal is to make design history more accessible to non-academic audiences and relevant to contemporary design and lives.
Wiktoria’s journey with design history started during her undergraduate degree in BA Furniture and Product Design at Nottingham Trent University. There she was interested in how antiques (as at the time she did not even know the discipline of the history of design existed) can influence contemporary design practice. During her placement year, a cancelled internship led Wiktoria to dedicate all her time to developing her knowledge about antiques and the newly discovered field of design history. Her final year design projects were heavily influenced and inspired by this work. For example, Wiktoria designed and made a collection of flower vases inspired by the traditional Polish folk craft of cut-outs from Łowicz titled ‘Polish Folklor’. As the patterns found in this folk craft have been popularized and placed on many types of consumer goods, their history and meaning have been forgotten. The vibrant vases celebrate and bring back this forgotten history. The project even got featured on Dezeen, Aesthetica and at an online event where Wiktoria discussed the influence of traditional designs on her contemporary design practice.
During the MA History of Design course, Wiktoria continued to develop her specialism in Polish design history. Her design history work mostly focused on this geographical location, an area of research often overlooked by international audiences and under-researched in English. Her historiography essay explored 'The Changing Use and Meaning of Folk Arts and Crafts in Polish Design From the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present Day'. Through a rigorous research process, she was able to grasp a better understanding of the historiographical landscape of Polish design history, which became the foundation for her bigger research project - the dissertation.
With a huge interest in furniture design and its history, Wiktoria’s object essay investigated and analysed a furniture piece from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Titled 'Émile-Jacques Ruhlamann's Dressing Table - A Window Into the Role of Imported Exotic Materials in French Furniture Production During the Interwar Period’, it raises questions about the choice of materials used to make this furniture piece as well as their origin and meaning. A summary of her research was published on Design History Society’s ‘Provocative Objects/ Spaces’ blog.
Wiktoria’s dissertation was all about a not-so-well-known Polish piece of furniture, the tapczan-półka (couch-shelf). She investigated how is its design a symbol of post-war living conditions in Poland between 1945-1989 and how did the contemporary political regime impact its design, production, consumption, and mediation. In-depth research and analysis of primary and secondary sources found in the UK and Poland were completed. Wiktoria has worked rigorously and efficiently across two languages to create a cohesive, persuasive, and meticulously-researched academic argument.
She is keen to get non-academic audiences to engage with and understand design history and its importance in our contemporary lives. Therefore her work is not just academic but also creative, producing interesting synergies between both of her specialisms. Wiktoria is making design history a public-facing practice in multiple ways which you can read more about below.
Wiktoria’s passion for the popularization of the history of design and antiques as well as making them more fun and engaging now became her career. She continues to create content, such as photographs, infographics, and videos, curate exhibitions as well as write articles about various topics, ranging from how to combine the antique and the contemporary to menstrual products in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum!