Monday, March 09, 2009

Some Ramblings on Design and the IMA's Symposium

[image is one of my personal favorites by one of the speakers, Jurgen Bey titled, Tree Trunk Bench, 2002]

Having spent a good deal of time at the IMA this past Friday and Saturday for their Design Symposium, my mind is swirling with thoughts several thoughts concerning design and to some extent my own alienation from these and other art forms. Note, this is something I am attempting to correct and educate myself about. I thought it would be pertinant to take some notes over the course of the two days so I could reflect upon some ideas here. First note in my sketchbook, "I am WAY underdressed". While this really is not of any importance what so ever, it was my first impression as I was surrounded by a sea of impecably dressed designers and professionals. Perhaps I should have stepped up my dress for this occasion too but hell, I was going to be sitting in a darkened auditorium half the day, so comfort was my key. But back on topic...

I very much enjoyed the a number of the lectures I heard with only a couple that left me a bit estranged or bored. On day one two of the lecturers, honestly, could have talked about anything and I think I would have been entertained and mesmerized. This ability for public speaking is something I certainly lack. Not coming from a design background, I often have some issues with contemporary design, that I was hoping to learn more about and get some sense of perspective by these experts in the design field. To start, one of my personal issues with design, something I am unsure whether I am over yet, is with conceptual or aesthetic design seriously overshadowing function. To me, design should and must first and foremost be functional. But let me take this a bit further, if it is going to be considered great design, then in my mind it must be able to perform its function quite well. The idea of a chair that you can not quite sit on or is simply uncomfortable, to me is just bad design. While I was hoping this line of dialog would be discussed during the course of the symposium, it was only briefly touched upon in one of the designers anecdotes where he told of how his girl friend had dropped and broke his toaster. He had wanted to buy a designer toaster by another designer but found he was unable to find one. It was revealed that the designer was even warning people from buying it because it simply sucked as a toaster. Despite its great aesthetics, its function was poor.

Some similar threads were brought up where the opposite I find to be true as well, concerning the American auto industry. The US makes some great cars, functionally, but there is a complete lack of creative design when it comes to the aesthetics of American cars in the past 50+ years. Of note, when several of the speakers were asked about American design in which they liked, (I should note that most of the speakers were European) the only example that was brought up was that of Apple. Then again, it was also discussed that Apple's design was simply a riff on already popular European design. What does this say about design in America? Is it simply that these designers not being from the US are just not as in touch with good American design or is America truly behind in design? I will leave that to you to decide.

The symposium ended with a talk given by Jurgen Bey, a designer who I actually was aware of before the attending. A shock to me too. Talking with a gentleman in the parking garage as we were both preparing to leave, we briefly discussed the weekends events and agreed that Bey's talk was a great way to end, as it was looking toward the future of design. Where will design take us and is it possible to still make the world better through design? Something I think is an important question in both design and in art. Utopian thining? Yes, but we should continue to strive for something we hope for even if it is unobtainable.

Rather than attempt to give detailed account of the event, something that I think I would do an injustice, I link you to the IMA's own blog on the subject, where you can read some of the feedback on the event. With some 500 or so attendees that first day, I am hoping to see more feedback on their blog soon. Check out the IMA's blog here.

As I stated before, I am certainly not a design person and I am just beginning to get to know more about that world, just as I am with the architecture and culinary worlds, perhaps one of our other contributors who are more design minded will give their accounts of the weekend as Craig and Chris were both in attendance this weekend as well. In summary, I think this exhibition and the symposium is a great beginning to the IMA's new forray into building its design collection, thanks to Craig Miller.

Couple of additional links:

Young and Brilliant on the opening of the new Droog store in NY. One of my favorite design groups.

PingMag on Jamo Associates, an interior design group I quite enjoy. Is interior design the appropriate title for what these group does?

3 Responses to “Some Ramblings on Design and the IMA's Symposium”

Nikki Sutton said...
March 9, 2009 at 11:32 PM

I too had a great time at this weekend’s symposium. I particularly enjoyed Eero Koivisto’s illustration of regional design approaches in Europe. My new design mantra is “What Would Sweden Do?” As separate presentations, I don’t think any of them were particularly strong but as a whole they provided a rich overview and complemented one another well. However, I was disappointed at the attendance of this event. As a designer, I hear a lot of belly-aching from our side of the table regarding the lack of taste and awareness in this city. You mention in your blog that design wasn’t exactly a topic you were completely familiar with yet you walked away with a new curiosity. I am glad to read that. I was so excited (if not completely shocked) to see this symposium come to Indianapolis and not Chicago or Cincinnati. I saw this as a great way to expose a fraction of the general public to an engaging period of design and from a place with amazing imagination and taste. When I rolled in on Friday morning I expected it to look like an AIA event with architects, designers and those working in the field of design littered throughout the lobby… but alas, that was not the case. While I did recognize a handful, there were specific architects and designers I assumed would be there that weren’t. Where were they? I feel, as a member of the design community, it is my responsibility to support these events. For me, attending the symposium is my way of voting “yes” for more of this type of thing to happen in Indy. Not to mention, Saturday allowed me a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear such an accomplished panel of presenters answer my question personally. Amazing. So, to my colleagues, I am asking, no begging you to support these events and ensure their success in our city.
PS - I dug the Tree Trunk Bench as well!

Canvas Printing said...
March 13, 2009 at 10:41 PM

I absolutely love that bench! Congratulations, the event seems like it was a huge success!

Anonymous said...
April 3, 2009 at 11:58 AM

Too bad the event was so expensive! Only those with the money or expense accounts could attend.

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