Posts Tagged 'Design Museum'

Terence Conran – The Way We Live Now

Marking Sir Terence Conran’s 80th birthday the Design Museum are showing a major exhibition which takes a look at his impact and influence on British life and design with The Way We Live Now.

The exhibition follows Conran’s career from his childhood growing up in post-war Kingston-upon-Thames through to his life as a designer, retailer, restauranteur, and all round entrepreneur.

Examples of his philosophy and design works are on show, elegantly summed up as “plain, simple and useful”.  It echoes the sentiment of the principles of good design by Dieter Rams who, in my opinion, is one of the greatest designers we’ve seen.

Evidence of Conran’s work process is on display too.  Numerous iterative prototypes and models refine the ergonomics and form to something beautifully simple and well designed.

As well as a good collection of some previously unseen work from his days at habitat.

As a designer this quote was particularly inspiring to read.  Why should somebody else have to work out how to make your design?  If you don’t know, then it’s probably either too complicated, or not yet finished.

Conran’s own office has also been painstakingly recreated here, over 1000 items show off a duplicate work environment that Conran uses, from photos and books to his desk and chair.  An insight into how he likes to work, and a real presenting touch that highlights even design heroes such as he are human too.

Terence Conran founded the Design Museum back in 1989 and his continual support of it was demonstrated last year when he gifted almost £18m to help fund the planned move of the museum to a new site in Kensington.  A sneak preview of the building and site can be seen.

The exhibition runs until 4th March, so if you’re down near Shad Thames in the next few weeks it’s well worth a visit.

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125 Years Of Coca-Cola

Ok, so the title of this post probably gave it away, but I’ll bet most of you were thinking it.

During a sunny walk at the weekend along Shad Thames I came across Coca-Cola‘s recent display outside the Design Museum.  Celebrating their 125th year the vaults of their Atlanta based HQ have been opened to reveal some “rarities from the Coke archives”.

A small, but carefully curated, selection of items from Coca-Cola, with some pieces particularly fascinating from a design perspective.

The logo itself was created in 1886 by Frank Robinson, and is lettered in the now so familiar Spencerian script.  Little known fact the reason for the script is due to the favouritism the typeface had amongst accounting folk of that era.  Frank Robinson was in fact Coca-Cola inventor John Pemberton’s book-keeper!

One of the most interesting elements of the display was the collection of bottles through the ages.  Despite some slight variations the visual identity has been largely unchanged in 125 years.

Well, you don’t become a globally recognised, iconic brand without some kind of longevity.

When the bottle was first designed, the curved frame of the Coke bottle was actually a nod to the shape of the cocoa bean (though the bean has nothing to do with the drink) and that general form has “sashayed in and out of fashion ever since”.

Some of the details of this relatively small display were fantastic too.  From the front you view an undulating wave of bottles throughout the years, but from the back you notice that the stands actually form the cross sectional contours of the modern day bottle.  Nice.

One of the great things about this display, was how well they utilised the space.  With, essentially, a glass box it can be tempting to cram objects and descriptions into the limited space.  But with equally limited space to optimise font size for distance reading, they successfully embraced some modern technology in the humble QR Code.

Just a simple tap on my phone and I had all the information in my hand.  Good work guys and girls.

Take the fascinating virtual and interactive tour through the remarkable Coca-Cola archives here to see much, much more.  I really can’t recommend it enough.

Designs Of The Year 2011

It’s that time of year again, and the “Oscars of the design world” have recently been announced, so to follow up last year’s post on the subject here is my take on the 2011 winner.

Even before the individual category winners were selected I had already chosen what I believed to be the two front runners of the accolade, championing both Barclays Cycle Hire, overall winner of the Transport Award, and Plumen 001, eventual winner of the Product Award.

The Barclays Cycle Hire scheme (aka Boris Bikes) is a fantastic scheme and has been hugely successful, but earlier this week the Plumen 001 was eventually crowned the overall winner of the Brit Insurance Design Of The Year holding off strong competition from more than 90 other entries.

As a lighting designer myself the Plumen 001 holds my particular interest more than most, but this isn’t the reason I believe it to be a worthy winner.  Not the sole reason anyway.  I believe that it won perhaps more for what it represents than what it actually is.  The product itself has been dubbed “the world’s first designer lightbulb” which says a lot.  In a world where we are increasingly being encouraged to save energy and use electricity more efficiently it really is a wonder it has taken so long to get here.

The two intertwined swirls have been designed by Samuel Wilkinson and they really offer the general consumer public an opportunity to utilise an aesthetically superior bulb, which is conveniently a great sustainable alternative.  It’s no secret that previous ‘low-energy’ bulbs have been designed such that they look clumsy, and quite frankly ugly, so getting people on mass to use them as been somewhat of a struggle.  Until now.  The Plumen 001 has been designed to be on view, it deserves to be seen.

The lamp itself is said to use 80% less energy and last eight times longer than the more traditional incandescent bulb tucked up under the shade in your dining room.  These figures are typically on par with existing low energy lamps, but given the choice I know which I’d have.

Chair of the jury panel Stephen Bayley has got it spot on, noting that “the Plumen lightbulb is a good example of the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well, bringing a small measure of delight to an everyday product”.  That, and that alone, is reason enough for it to triumph over all other entries.

Without light, we really wouldn’t see anything, so it’s no wonder that light is considered primary to design.  The design of the light sources themselves are therefore absolutely crucial and a core component of design aesthetic, it’s time people took note of this and used it as a basis to drive forward.  We are, after all, still relatively early on the era of low energy bulbs.  Creating a shape that is as functional as it is beautiful is no easy feat, combining the artistic element with a form that still achieves sustainable efficiency and maintains the best colour of light.  I’m entirely sure one day the Plumen 001 will be bettered, but it may well be a while before we see it.

‘Anything that is made betrays the beliefs, preoccupations and fears of the people who made it, never more than this year. There’s a strong sense of austerity, responsibility and realism here.’  Couldn’t agree more.

All of the shortlisted entries can be viewed in person at the Design Museum until 07 August this year.


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