Ex-NCAD head and champion of disability design


Michal Ozmin:MICHAL OZMIN, who has died aged 70, was former professor of design, and head of faculty, at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. He later led the Barcelona Declaration project which aimed to encourage local authorities to make provision for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the community.

At the NCAD he developed a new department of industrial design, in collaboration with the National Institute for Higher Education at Plassey (now the University of Limerick). It was one of the first collaborative courses of any kind in the country, and represented a major step forward for Irish industrial design. The number of students increased tenfold, from 30 to 300 students.

His approach, however, ruffled some feathers. NCAD historian John Turpin wrote that Ozmin’s view was technological, functional and industry related, and very different from the arts and crafts ethos that had formerly prevailed. “ was at variance with the traditional undocumented ‘master-apprentice’ approach of craft teachers at the college or with the broadly liberal orientation of the institution.”

But David Baker, a former student of Ozmin’s and now a lecturer at Sligo Institute of Technology, remembers him for his lasting impact on Irish design education. “In establishing the importance of commercial design courses he performed a huge service for Irish industry.”

Born in Warsaw in 1940 he was the son of two artists, Josef and Lucia Ozmin. He qualified as an industrial designer from the Academy of Fine Arts. After completing his masters in 1967, he moved to Dublin.

Following two years with Lardner and Partners architectural practice, he went to the University of Manchester to study design methodology. Returning to Ireland he spent two years with Kenneth Tiernan Associates, Dublin, before setting up his own practice designing computer hardware, toys, silverware and graphics.

He taught at Dún Laoghaire College of Art and the NCAD before succeeding Lucie Charles as professor of design at the latter institution in 1975.

In 1985 he moved to Southampton Institute of Higher Education , serving as dean of the faculty of art and design until 1989. He was dean of external affairs from 1989 to 1993, responsible for EU educational programmes such as Erasmus, Tempus and Phare. Returning to Dublin in 1993, he joined the faculty of design at Griffith College, and in 2000 became director of the interior architecture diploma course.

The Barcelona Declaration project got under way in 2001. Ozmin’s team assisted local authorities implement pilot projects and other initiatives related to the needs of disabled people. Last December he was present at the inauguration of the Michal Ozmin Design for All Archive and Research Centre, at Ciezyn in Poland.

He was a member of the Polish Association of Writers, Artists and Composers, Royal Academy of Arts, An Taisce, and a founder member of the Institute of Designers in Ireland. He also was chairman of the board of the Institute for Design and Disability.

He is survived by his wife Elizabeth O’Reilly, sons Jan, Patrick, Adam, daughters Kasia and Hania and partner Hanna Ostrowka.

Michal Jan Ozmin: born June 24th, 1940; died January 23rd, 2011