Kilkenny Design

In 1949 Professor Thomas Bodkin, in ‘Report on the Arts in Ireland’ (commissioned by the Irish Government) recommended Scandinavia as a model for the development and improvement of Industrial Design in Ireland. More than a decade later, in 1960, the Irish Government gave responsibility to the State body Corás Tráchtála (CTT), The Irish Export Board, for the improvement of standards of industrial design in Ireland. The Irish Export Board commissioned an independent assessment of the position of design in Ireland to be carried out by a Scandinavian team of experts.

As a result the report on “Design in Ireland” was delivered. A ‘version’ of the recommendations was considered and was the basis for the establishment of Kilkenny Design Workshops in 1965. During the late 1960’s / 1970s Kilkenny Design Workshops was largely dependent on State assistance by way of annual grant-in-aid to support its activities. In 1974 the direct link with CTT was ended and Kilkenny Design Workshops came under the direct control of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. By 1980 Kilkenny Design Workshops’ design capabilities and work for the non-craft industries became dominant. Thereafter the activities of Kilkenny Design Workshops fell into four main programmes:

  • their design services provide both consultancy assistance to business organisations in auditing their design requirements and planning corporate design development;
  • they provided practical design and technical support services, to meet the specific needs of industry through their design development
  • they operated an on-the-job training to recently qualified designers provided at the Kilkenny workshop;
  • their design promotion programme was aimed at promoting the concept of good design by way of seminars, exhibitions and awards such as the designer of the year awards.

By the early 1980s the move to achieve full commerciality began – with a target of 1990 for its accomplishment. The Kilkenny Design Workshops Act, (1982) set the authorised share capital of the company at £1 million, of which £500,000 was put into the company before the end of that year. An ill-judged foray into retailing in Dublin and London resulted in disaster. During the period 1982 – 1988 more than IR£1.5 million was spent by the state but to no avail, Kilkenny Design Workshops was
wound up in 1988.


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