Design Gallery: The Vitality and Diversity of Design

In the past twenty years, design has branched out in new directions, galvanizing young practitioners, sparking novel business models, and attracting worldwide attention.

In the past twenty years, design has branched out in new directions, galvanizing young practitioners, sparking novel business models, and attracting worldwide attention. A designer today can choose to focus on interaction, interfaces, the web, visualization, socially minded infrastructures, immersive spaces, biodesign, sustainability, video games, critical scenarios, and, yes, even products and furniture. Outstanding examples of this vitality and diversity are on display at the MoMA, ranging from a mine detonator powered by the wind to the immortal spatial puzzle Tetris. Tetris is one of the first video games to enter MoMA’s collection, selected with thirteen others as a pillar of interaction design—one of the most important and oft-discussed expressions of contemporary design creativity.

One of design’s fundamental tasks is to help people deal with change. Designers stand between revolutions and everyday life: they make innovations manageable and approachable, so that they can be embraced and assimilated. For this reason, in the years to come, designers will increasingly be at the nexus of culture, politics, and society. Like physics, design will be loosely divided into the theoretical and the applied. Theoretical designers will be exquisite generalists, but ready to roll up their sleeves. Applied designers will continue to make objects, never forgetting functionality and elegance. Objects, however, will not always be physical; they will often be shared, not owned; they might be starters that people will complete and customize at home using 3-D printers and other on demand services; or they will be tools that allow scientists, policy makers, and citizens to visualize and manage complex systems.

Design is not only about making things, people, and places pretty. Like the artifacts of applied design on view at the MoMA, it is sometimes ugly, but it is always meaningful, and it encompasses all facets of human activity, including science, education, politics, and even war.

Applied Design
The Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries
March 2, 2013 – January 31, 2014

The Museum of Modern Art presents Applied Design, an installation in The Philip Johnson Architecture and Design Galleries showcasing approximately 100 objects from the Museum’s collection. Representing the new directions of contemporary design, the exhibition features outstanding examples of interface and interaction design, dynamic visualizations, products, furniture, 3D printed chairs and bowls, emergency equipment, and biodesign. A testament to this vitality and diversity, the objects on display range from a mine detonator by the young Dutch/Afghani designer Massoud Hassani to a bowl made by transforming desert sand into glass using only the energy of the sun. Also on display are the first 14 video games to enter MoMA’s collection as part of ongoing research on interaction design. The exhibition is organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Kate Carmody, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, and is on view from March 2, 2013 until January 31, 2014.

In the past twenty years, design has branched out in new directions that have galvanized young practitioners, sparked business models, and attracted worldwide public attention. Mine Kafon for example, Massoud Hassani’s dandelion-shaped mine detonator, is equipped with a GPS to record a safe path and designed to roll through mine fields. If the object, made from bamboo and biodegradable plastics, encounters a mine and detonates it, it will only partially destruct and can be salvaged and reassembled into a new specimen ready for deployment. Hassani grew up in the war-torn countryside of Afghanistan, where many of his friends were injured or killed by landmines. Hassani drew on this personal experience to design a universal and low-cost tool that can save many lives.

Markus Kayser’s Solar-sintered bowl was made using desert sand and sun. The process of converting a powder into a solid by heating is known as sintering, and it is central in 3D printing, a process by which computer-controlled machines deposit or solidify liquid or powdered resin layer by layer, to create a three-dimensional rendering of a digital design. Kayser applied this technology, which is closely identified with computers, robotics, and resins, to natural resources. He tested his first manually operated solar 3D printing machine in 2011 in the Moroccan desert, using silica sand, which turns to glass after heating and cooling. He completed a bigger, fully utomated, computer-driven version called SolarSinter later that year and tested it in the Sahara. The bowl in the exhibition was produced by the SolarSinter and will have an accompanying video that documents the process.

Wind Map, by Martin Wattenberg and Fernanda Viégas, is an online application that pulls information from the publicly available National Digital Forecast database, rendering a living portrait of the wind landscape over the United States. The Earthquake Proof Table by Ido Bruno and Arthur Brutter—Brutter’s final project while a student in the Industrial Design program at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem—is inexpensive, lightweight, and can provide shelter and protection during earthquakes by absorbing the impact of falling debris.

The 14 video games, the seedbed for an initial wish list of about 40 to be acquired in the near future, features: Pac-Man (1980), Tetris (1984), Another World (1991), Myst (1993), SimCity 2000 (1994), Vib-ribbon (1999), The Sims (2000), Katamari Damacy (2004), EVE Online (2003), Dwarf Fortress (2006), Portal (2007), flOw (2006), Passage (2008), Canabalt (2009). The criteria used to select these specific games emphasized not only the visual quality and aesthetic experience of each game, but also the many other aspects—from the elegance of the code to the design of the player’s behavior—that pertain to interaction design.

Interactive games such as Passage, Tetris, Pac-Man, Katamari Damacy, Vib-ribbon, Cannabalt, flOw, Portal, and Another World are playable using controllers, while games such as Eve Online, Dwarf Fortress, SimCity2000, The Sims, and Myst, are presented as walkthroughs or demos. Headphones will be provided for games that have sound; an ongoing game soundtrack that features the sounds of one game at a time will be audible in the galleries.