I haven’t quite got my head around London’s paradoxes. This morning, I enjoyed a walk through the trees in Holland Park, only to emerge and be greeted by the modern facade of The Design Museum. Different areas of the city sit back-to-back in geography, but feel completely different as you pass through them. It’s what makes the capital so exciting as a new resident, and something I hope I never take for granted.
Designer Maker User Exhibition at The Design Museum
Rather than put the spotlight on a particular brand or stylish cafe, this Beautiful Space focuses on the development of design itself (though, we did have a great lunch at Cafe Phillies, just around the corner). The Design Museum is home to a permanent exhibition called Designer Maker User – a collection of almost 1,000 objects of 20th and 21st century design from the perspective of designers, makers (manufacturers) and users (consumers). The exhibition allows visitors to consider how these roles are interlinked; how designers respond to users’ and makers’ needs and how users or consumers influence the design process. And how all are affected by technological progress.
The crowdsourced wall at The Design Museum – a collection of everyday designs that mean something special – they’re either functional, beautiful or hold personal memories.
Choice as a ‘user’
The collection of objects ranged from road signs to Olivetti typewriters and Apple products – a wonderful mishmash of the evolution of the design of everyday objects. The things we use frequently, but rarely give a second thought. The exhibition encourages you to step back and reflect on your role as a user in the design process. How our choices impact the success of designers, how we come to make these decisions and how what we buy determines our identity – who we are, or choose to be. Some choices are purely practical, born out of cost, efficiency, comfort or requirement. While others are made for different, less conscious reasons; for example, when we are influenced by advertising or an emotional response from a certain object.
What is good design?
While Designer Maker User encourages us to consider how we view and make decisions around design, it also asks visitors to reflect on the meaning of good design. Ultimately, it’s something that is very personal to each of us. While Modernists considered good design to be synonymous with function and usefulness, others feel good design creates an emotional response from the user or consumer. Some also see good design as something that does good. They recognise the moral responsibilities of designers and their ability to produce something that can improve our lives.
Although this may seem fairly straightforward, it’s a refreshing step back from consumer behaviour. The exhibition encourages us to think about why we make the decisions we do, as well as celebrate designs that have forever changed how we live in the 21st century. If you feel like being inspired, Designer Maker User is worth a meander, it’s very Instagram-worthy, and even better, it’s free!
with love, b.xo