Saturday, February 12, 2011

Designer as "change agent"

Paola Antonelli, a curator at MoMa, the New York Museum of Modern Art, discovered at a early age that relationships with objects were easier than with people. And so began a love affair with things.

Throughout her life she has tried to discover what is happening in the world and make the patterns explicit so others can benefit from the knowledge. 

In her role as a curator she is a "knowledge creator". Picking the trends. Suggesting better designs for a better life. Pointing towards the possibilities of low cost affordable designs, not just decoration.

Antonelli regards designers as mavericks who build bridges across the boundaries of ideas, a unique fusion or  confluence of the economic, the social, the cultural, the aesthetic and the scientific, where the result is greater than the sum of the parts. Each design makes some kind of point about what has gone before or amuses us, because it shows us the stupidity or quirkiness of past ideas that seemed a good idea at the time.

She thinks of heaven as "satisifed curiosity", a really comfortable cloud where design dreams are fulfilled. Some of the best designs are "humble masterpieces" where you discover the extraordinary in the ordinary, or even iconic, so that the design points the way to a new and better future.

She argues that designers are "agents of change" increasingly focused on inventing new ways for people to do things. So we behave differently. Remember to take our medicine. Interact more personally and joyfully. Or learn from our mistakes. It's all a kind of "civil disobedience".

Her next show will be about the intersection of science and design, our concerns and issues that design in a partnership with science csn solve, and point us in new directions.

1. Heaven is "satisfied curiosity" for Paola Antonelli. What is heaven for you?
2. If you could create a "humble masterpiece", your own private collection of extraordinary arrangements of ordinary objects, what would it be?
3. In what ways can design make a point? Or show a sense of humor?
4. If Spaniards invented the mop, Italians the pizza and Kentuckians moonshine, what iconic form was invented in your part of the world and why might that be important to you? 
5. As a designer, in what ways are you a maverick, and you pretend something never existed before, or what you create will change what people do?
6. Choose an artfect your wish to redesign. Brainstorm some new scientific aspects (materials e.g. buckbyalls, biomimicry), social aspects (emerging trends in what it means to be human, e.g. brain plasticity), economic aspects (emerging values, eg, wise application of knowledge, sustainability) and aesthetic stuff,(emergent styles, e.g, glamor at every pricepoint). And combine them all into a new idea.
7. What is the difference between design and decoration? Give examples.
8. Think of a big unsolved problem and an extreme means by which you may need to solve it. What "suit for civil disobedience" could you could employ to cause people to engage with you?
9. What could you design that has no real immediate purpose, that just seems a good idea at the time e.g a chair that protects you against radiation.