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Something to talk about

April 13th, 2010

Filed under: ART & DESIGN


Eindhoven is sometimes proud of its history, yet stands with modesty about its achievements. It’s part of the no-nonsense attitude I hear that is endemic to the North Brabanter. The New York Times lauds little Eindhoven, and as an Eindhovenaar, I think this is worth talking about.

This week, the Milan Furniture Fair – Salone di Mobile – is on with all its glamour, cocktail parties and desiiiiiiign, darling. Does the world need another chair?, that’s the question.
I actually do need one for my new office, but I can only afford one from Ikea.

Rawsthorn talks about how Milan’s strengths and weaknesses lie in there not being anything special to be shown there. Hm, that’s a scary state of affairs for the design world. Is this just a result of economic pressures or is it always so? I don’t know, because I’ve never “been to Milan in April” (but damn it, I plan to go in 2011).

There is some salvation for design. Apparently while it is moving away from making useful stuff, it’s shifting towards applying design thinking to the really big important ethical issues, like sustainability and developing new technologies like data visualisation (um, I don’t quite know what that is … is it graphs?) But it’s here in the article where Rawsthorn gives Eindhoven a mention.

“The title of the exhibition to be staged by the hot Dutch design school, Design Academy Eindhoven, says it all – “?” (It isn’t alone. The Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York has named its forthcoming Design Triennial, “Why Design Now?”) “We thought it would be interesting to show how designers take an idea and make it real by asking questions, because that’s how they make sense of change,” explained Ilse Crawford, the British designer who co-curated the Eindhoven show as a department head there. “Design needs to be seen more as a critical process, and less about making things look good.” – Alice Rawsthorn, NY Times 11 April

I think it’s a good thing that designers do more than make things look good. Is this news, Alice?

This is something I learnt when I moved to Eindhoven, shortly after I started working for Philips Design. They’re all about making products for people, and improving their lives in doing so. They also do future research and explore how we might live in the future. And although they are mainly interested unlocking the truth so they can make appliances to for this future life, my education about design (as a non-designer) has helped me understand how deeply design can impact us all – from the simplicity of a toilet roll through to the navigation of my smart phone.

Thanks Eindhoven. Be proud, and modest at the same time, for being part of my education as an appreciator of things creative, cultural, functional and beautiful.

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