The Campana Brothers' exhibition at New York City's Friedman Benda gallery marks not only the duo's first solo show in the U.S. but also the 30th anniversary of the studio. Simply titled Concepts, the exhibition delivers exactly that with a collection of superbly well-executed one-off pieces made from exotic materials and their signature labor-intensive handcraft techniques. At first glance, it's a natural materials-fest: showstoppers include the "Pirarucu Cabinet," a free standing dresser upholstered in pirarucu fish scales; the Boca (Portuguese for "mouth") collection covered in patches of cowhide; and an incredible "Alligator Sofa," 'upholstered' with tiny stuffed leather alligator toys by Orientavida, an NGO that teaches underprivileged women embroidery skills.
The heavy emphasis on material experimentation and any notions of sustainability are reinforced with the galleries walls and floor covered entirely in a coconut fiber matting, imparting a womb-like warmth and suggesting a humble setting for what can only be described as design collectibles. Freed from the constraints of designing for production, the brothers have taken the opportunity to explore ideas, processes and forms without concern for outcome, in fact it feels very much like the objects themselves (be it a table or chair) are just a means of demonstrating proof-of-concept for new techniques.
One of the most iconic pieces in show—a tough call, given how much everything begs for attention—is the "Racket Chair (Tennis)," featuring a hand-stitched motif made from remnant backings of Thonet chairs. Another striking piece, made from leftovers, is the "Detonado Chair," which is crafted out of the scraps of caning that are discarded after a chair is repaired (At the press preview, Humberto joked that it took a lot of persuasion to convince the artisan to seriously consider producing a chair for them with these worthless scraps).
The exhibition runs till July 3rd and all the highlights can be seen in our latest gallery here.
Caroline Woolard's furniture designs might be considered to be works of art—not in the sense that they are highly limited collectibles but rather as critical commentary. Billed as a "post-media artist" by Eyebeam (where she was a fellow last year), Woolard generally regards objects as a means to an end, and her broad practice reflects her research-based, collaborative approach to making. Per her site: "In 2009, Woolard cofounded three organizations to support collaborative cultural production: a studio space, a barter network, and Trade School." These projects might be described as socially-conscious in the sense that they are intended to be scale models of society.
Woolard has set up shop in the Museum of Modern Art for her latest project, the Exchange Café, hosted by the institution's Department of Education through the end of the month. "Taking the form of a café, the Studio encourages visitors to question notions of reciprocity, value, and property through shared experiences. Tea, milk, and honey—products that directly engage the political economy—are available by exchange. Instead of paying with legal tender, Exchange Café patrons are invited to make a resource-based currency."
Showcasing a vibrant mix of young international designers, studios and a few industry heavyweights, WantedDesign has quickly established itself as the most interesting destination on the design calendar. The 3-day event kicked-off with a blow-out party that had a line around the block leaving many design fans to some creative hustling to get in. The scope and quality of work has improved each year making a noticeable dent on the ICFF's exhibitor list. Checkout out our gallery for highlights from SVA's Products of Design students' design interventions, the El Salvadorian showcase "The Carrot Concept," RISD's furniture retrospective, new work from Great Things to People, Joe Doucet and some elegantly crafted design objects from Quebec.
This year saw the debut of NYCxDESIGN, a 12-day citywide initiative to present New York's Design Week under one umbrella—finally—and as a result, the exhibitions gained noticeably more exposure and interest from the general public. Top on our list of favorites was Frederick McSwain and François Chambard's collaboration "Off the Grid" which presented a series of beautifully engineered design objects playing with the theme of designer camping—literally. The show runs till June 6th at Gallery R'Pure and is well worth a look if you're in town.
Other shows of note included INTRO NY, which hands-down had the best range of pendant lamps seen in one place (you get a much better sense of space in our recent post here). Bezalel Academy's traveling exhibition showcasing work from the past five years made a stop in NY, and while the projects might be a little high-concept for some, they are extremely well-executed and thought-provoking.
Checkout more highlights in the gallery here and catch all the New York Design Week coverage here.
Now in its fourth year, Noho Design District has taken on a few different permutations over the years, encompassing various pop-up exhibitions from a tiny Japanese butcher shop to a four-story lumber company headquarters (which happen to be on the same block, no less), reflecting both the changes within the neighborhood and the landscape of American design as a whole. Once again, our friends Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov of Sight Unseen have masterminded a neighborhood-wide celebration of young and emerging designers. In addition to partnering with several co-conspirators such as Future Perfect and American Design Club, they've also curated the flagship Noho Next group exhibition, featuring 13 handpicked studios that comprise a showcase of design talent.
The exhibition took place over the weekend at Subculture, the event space in the basement of the 45 Bleecker Street Theater, which hosted Tom Dixon's London Underground exhibition last year. (I don't know if I'm dating myself with the reference, but I remember going to the Crosby Connection sandwich shop when they occupied the cafe a few years back...). Although it happens to be closing as I write this, hopefully our documentation can serve as future reference.
Just over a week ago, we had a chance to catch up with Jean Lin and Jen Krichels of Reclaim NYC, who opened the doors to their second exhibition today and will be hosting an opening reception shortly. While the first edition of the group exhibition focused on reclaimed materials in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the show takes the much broader theme of collaboration this time around. (Once again, proceeds will go to the Brooklyn Recovery Fund.)
As Lin told us last week:
What started as a hurricane relief effort will hopefully grow into a larger initiative that could benefit a wide range of social and environmental causes, as well as support our independent design community. Our industry is filled with truly good, charitable and socially-aware people who are looking for ways to help. We hope that Reclaim can become an outlet for these talented designers to focus their charitable and creative energies without commercial pressure, and with a higher goal of giving back to a worthy cause.
This is a near-comprehensive survey of the work on view now at the third-floor event space at 446 Broadway. Tonight's opening is all but guaranteed to be a good time, but if you can't make it to Soho this evening, we highly recommend stopping by tomorrow or on Saturday morning before Reclaim x2 closes; hours & full address below. (Worst case, you can browse and buy the work at Lin-Morris.)
This past weekend, we took the water taxi to Randall's Island for the second edition of Frieze New York, which has established itself as an extremely well curated and produced art fair. The 250,000-square-foot temporary tent by SO - IL architects provides generous space for exhibitors, amazing natural light, and stood up remarkably well to the rolling thunderstorms that struck on Saturday afternoon.
Not one to shy from controversy, visitors were greeted by Paul McCarthy's giant 80 feet tall inflatable 'Balloon Dog', a dig at Jeff Koons' failed attempt in court to get exclusive rights to balloon dogs worldwide, if you're skeptical of the stakes, McCarthy's homage sold for $950,000.
LA-based Pae White won hearts with her suspended installation of tiny upward facing mirrors reflecting their bright geometric patterns underneath. Dan Colen's circular sculpture made from basketball backboards at the Gagosian booth provided awesome photo opps for 2001 style shots, and as far as found objects go, it's hard to beat the cement mixer by Alexandre da Cunha.
There was an abundance of bold new work on display with a lot of galleries choosing to promote the same artists they represented last year. Tom Friedman's solo show was hugely popular; we were really into Daniel Arsham's volcanic ash and broken glass cast resin pieces; and Liam Gillick's 'Scorpion or Felix' decorative door screens would probably do quite well at the ICFF this weekend.
Clearly, the organizers know their audience partnering with food vendors—Frankies Spuntino, Prime Meats, Roberta's, Mission Chinese Food and Blue Bottle Coffee, to name a few—and we were really impressed with the amount of water taxis they secured to ferry visitors to-and-from Manhattan. We'll see if The Armory Show, which takes place in March at the crowded Pier 92+94 complex, steps up its game in response next year...
Starting this Friday night, the students of the new MFA in Products of Design will be appearing at WantedDesign from May 17–20, where they will present ALSO!, a series of interactions that explore how we experience new design.
Through a roving set of mobile interventions—both cart-based and human-worn—visitors to the show will participate in "an unfolding narrative around celebration, sustainability, digital mediation, storytelling, and scale, each expanding the conversation around design beyond form, function, and materiality." There are teasers up at www.alsoproject.com, and ALSO! on Facebook, but here are some intriguing particulars:
A smartphone kaleidoscope and lift apparatus expose the distortion of constantly consuming experiences through our screens; a set of ViewMasters lets us peer into speculations around the unseen, "un"wanted, and marginalized; a sound crew with microphones and headphones invites visitors to listen in on the untold stories of objects; a digital microscope on a remote cable reveals hidden design details invisible to the naked eye; and a die-cutting station prompts guests to transform their printed materials, ennobling ephemera and inviting visitors to reflect their experiences to one another.
Through this series of moving, participatory installations, the work hacks the exhibition at large, prompting visitors to see design through a variety of new lenses.
The event is free. Located at 269 11th Avenue, New York City, WantedDesign is a creative destination for the design community that offers innovative installations, student workshops, and engaging discourse.
This year, WantedDesign is being held in concert with NYCxDESIGN, New York City's inaugural citywide event to showcase and promote design of all disciplines.
The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center won't be opening its doors for the 25th annual ICFF for another week, but the NYCxDesign festivities are well underway as of this weekend, and besides the second edition of Frieze New York and its satellites, today also saw the opening of BKLYN Designs at St. Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO. After a brief hiatus (including a stint at the Javits in 2011), the showcase of independent designers from the borough du jour is back in Brooklyn for its tenth anniversary.
Organizer Karen Auster and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce have wisely opted for first weekend of the inaugural NYCxDesign festival so as not conflict with ICFF—the exhibition will be on view through this Sunday, May 12. (BKLYN Designs is rather more accessible than Frieze, both geographically and metaphorically, though we recommend the humble bicycle as the most pleasant mode of transportation to either location; rest assured most of next week's events are clustered in the more central districts of Soho and Noho. Check out our NYDW Guide for more details.)
Here are some of the standouts from our quick tour of the space this morning:
Palo Samko, an elder statesman of the Brooklyn scene, has been exploring with casting in earnest ever since he started making his own brass hardware (drawer pulls, table legs).
As with many of the woodworkers at the show, Bien Hecho was a custom/contract studio for years before debuting their first collection at BKLYN Designs.
Founder John Randall noted that "Water Tower" was made of reclaimed wood from the very same; it's intended to hold a standard five-gallon water bottle, as an alternative to the mundane water cooler.
These projects are the culmination of a course I've been teaching in conjunction with Sandrine Lebas, Chair of CCA-ID, building on a 'research' semester last fall, which I co-taught with Raffi Minasian. Per the syllabus:
This studio will investigate the role, mechanisms, history, and potentials of the concept of comfort. We will leverage this foundation into a particular project in which the students will use the mechanisms and conceptual paradigms of comfort to challenge, lead, or disrupt a chosen facet of human life. We will use comfort to alter behavior through the practice of Industrial Design.
The application of comfort as a theme for the studio was to explicitly address the emotional component of product design. Comfort is a deliberately slippery theme—highly variable from client to client and context to context. Students immediately grappled with the 'goal' of the products, the various means by which that goal may be physically manifested, and the mechanisms which lead and reinforce feelings and behaviors. It allowed the group to ask the deeper questions, not just "What's a better version of device X?" but "What's a better solution for problem Y?" The theme also lent clear guidance to decisions of detail, material, and brand aspirations—how does this engender that?
The students really ran with the theme. Each applied their own interests and career aims to the effort. Responses range from hyper-ergonomic cutlery, open-ended construction toys—ahem. the world's best blanket-fort kit—new notions in play and childhood fear, furniture that encourages the new habit of working from bed, novel snowboard bindings and a superior chemotherapy sling.
CCA's Industrial Design class of 2013 is excited to share its thesis work: Comfort Objects, the culmination of eight months of design and research covering a wide array of expertise, including soft goods, furniture, sports products, and homewares. Come hang out, eat some good food, and don't miss the opportunity to see 24 unique projects in the field of Industrial Design.
Last week, a vacant industrial loft was magically transformed into an elegant gallery space for the evening, as the Rhode Island School of Design's Department of Furniture Design celebrated its graduating Masters Candidates in a show titled, 'The New Clarity.'
The title of the exhibition drew its name from "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke:
...Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating."
Each designer took a fresh approach to that understanding, re-envisioning what furniture could be and giving a glimpse of what that development looked like on the path to their final work.
Bent-wood room divider by Elish Warlop
Pieces ranged from the bent-wood room divider above to a chair to facilitate sex with multiple partners simultaneously--running the gamut of what comes to mind (and doesn't) when one thinks of 'furniture design.' The diverse array of work explored not only a new understanding, but varying motifs of tradition, from daily traditions of the everyday to ornate, woven tapestries re-imagined in plastic.
One of the most memorable pieces from the evening was the latter, the work of Colantonio, which looked at commodities of the past, seeped in ancient tradition, and adapted them utilizing contemporary tools and technologies.
Plastic Persian carpet by F Taylor Colantonio
"Most of my work deals with historical 'types' of objects, at least as a point of departure," said Colantonio. "I'm interested in taking a thing like a Persian carpet, and all the baggage that comes with it, and abstracting it beyond the qualities we would normally associate with a Persian carpet. I wanted to create a kind of a ghost of the source object, something that is both familiar and entirely strange. In many of the pieces, this is done with a shift in material, often as a result of exploiting a manufacturing method in a new way."
F Taylor Colantonio
Patterns on patterns on patterns by F Taylor Colantonio
The Beer Bag, by Marco Gallegos
The aptly titled "Beer Bag" was part of Gallegos' "Rethinking the Familiar" Collection, which looked to further the relationship and value people place on everyday objects. With the capacity to carry a six-pack of beer, the bag fits snugly onto one's bike. Beer holders included.
The Lilu Table, by Marco Gallegos
The Lilu Table is also the work of Gallegos, who sought to create a self-supporting structure, where each part provides vital support to the rest--working together as a system. The power-coated steel legs fit into the top, locking them all together in a secure fit.
The breadth of the work left little to be desired in terms of heterogeneity, leaving the future work of each designer just as varied and unpredictable as the collection produced. We'll be eager to see what divergent paths they take after graduation this June!
The Graduate Furniture class, photo by Anelise Schroeder
More photos from the opening night after the jump.
This time around, the theme is "design that's more than the sum of its parts," and we're excited to see that many of our favorite designers and studios are teaming up to bring new work to the table (so to speak). Our friends at Token and UHURU are among the 50+ participants in Reclaim x2, and as longtime occupants of Red Hook—a neighborhood that was submerged under 3–4 feet of water during the storm—they had firsthand experience of the wrath that Sandy wrought. "We were very excited for the opportunity to get together and put collective energy behind this collaborative project," says Emrys Berkower of Token. "And being that it is in support of such a great cause makes it even more meaningful." UHURU's Horvath shares the sentiment:
It's too bad that it took a hurricane that trashed both our spaces, but I'm glad we are finally able to make it happen and that we can represent Red Hook at the show. It has been great working together so far, both in the initial brainstorming sessions and during our afternoon in the hot shop blowing glass into crazy forms and setting them on fire.
Ladies and Gentlemen × Nicholas Nyland
Once again, we had a chance to catch up with Jen and Jean on the occasion of Reclaim x2, which will take place in the middle of the first annual NYCxDesign festival (see the first Q&A here). Some two dozen pieces by twice as many designers—per the collaborative theme of the show—will be on view from Wednesday, May 15, through Friday, May 17, at 446 Broadway, 3rd Floor, with a reception on the night of Thursday, May 16.
Core77: How did the inaugural Reclaim event go? Lessons learned? Any good stories to tell?
Jean Lin: We had so much fun organizing and executing the first exhibit. I think a lot of its success can be credited to pure adrenaline after Hurricane Sandy. We all wanted to help so desperately that all of us—both Jen and I, and the initial group of designers—sort of fed off of each other's energy and enthusiasm for the cause. I still marvel at the fact that we were able to pull it all together in little more than a month.
Jen Krichels: Because the first event came together so quickly, we didn't have much time to think about whether Reclaim NYC would have a future after the first show. But the night of the event and in the days after we were asked so many times when the next show would be (both by designers who wanted to participate and by people who wanted to attend or support the cause) that we started planning a Design Week show right away.
With the luxury of more time, we are launching an online presale before Design Week, which will be followed by the exhibit and sale on May 15–17. We also have a range of price points to allow people to make a range of donations to Brooklyn Recovery Fund. The presale, which will be hosted on at60inches.com and shop.lin-morris.com, will give collectors more time to consider some of the heirloom-quality pieces that are part of the show.
JL: Honestly, my biggest regret was not buying anything at the first show. I was so busy during the auction that the items I had my eye on were snatched up from under me. Jen bid on and won a gorgeous UM Project lamp for an amazingly reasonable price. I kick myself every time I see it in her apartment. Hopefully the presale will prevent this from happening again.
Egg Collective × Hangar
Even the fabrication of the objects has been a collaboration—Hangar brazed the initial bronze masters, from which we created molds and plaster castings. Both the collection of masters and the cast objects will be displayed together as a landscape at Reclaim x2.
We've been proud to partner with the School of Visual Arts' Design Criticism department over the past several years, and 2013 is no exception. The curriculum for the two-year MFA program culminates with an afternoon-long conference in which the graduating class presents their thesis research alongside the likes of faculty members Paola Antonelli and Adam Harrison Levy, as well as guest speakers such as Michael Bierut, Julie Lasky and Rob Walker to name a few.
counter/point: The 2013 D-Crit Conference, moderated by NPR's "The Takeaway" host John Hockenberry, and featuring graduating students of the SVA MFA in Design Criticism, will take place on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at the SVA Theatre in New York City.
Paola Antonelli, senior curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, will deliver the keynote lecture, launching an afternoon of rich, polyphonic exchange between the D-Crit Class of 2013 and a headlining roster of design curators, practitioners, theorists, critics, educators, and planners. D-Crit students will be presenting their thesis research in counterpoint with: Walker Arts Center curator of Architecture and Design Andrew Blauvelt; British interaction design firm Dunne & Raby co-founder Fiona Raby; architect and theorist Mark Foster Gage; director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City Toni Griffin; and architect and activist Michael Sorkin.
Topics to be addressed include: the persistence of segregation in today's built environment; the problems inherent in exhibiting graphic design; the spectacular framing of nature in the urban environment; product design's social and participatory dimension; and how some emerging architects are using literal representation in new ways.
As always, the D-Crit Conference features an all-star lineup of speakers, but the students themselves have remarkably diverse backgrounds and each is a sure to make their voice heard within the design criticism community. Thus, Counter/Point is the perfect opportunity to see these rising stars present their latest work as they look forward to their next endeavors.
SVA D-Crit presents Counter/Point
Visual Arts Theatre
333 W 23rd St (between 8th & 9th Ave)
New York, NY 10011
Saturday, May 11, 2013
We were duly impressed with David Soukup's painstakingly detailed stencils when we first saw them back in 2011—I could hardly believe that some of those ultrafine lines were stenciled and not applied by an implement (or at least masked off). He's pleased to announce a solo show at Maxwell Colette gallery in his current hometown of Chicago: "This show is one of my most personal to date, and marks a return to some of the imagery and technical precision that I became known for."
I hadn't realized that he lost his way (the mural project, pictured above, dates to October of last year), but earlier this year, Soukup wrote that "I had been cutting stencils for so long that I really lost what made them most important to me, and why I started doing them in the first place."
In any case, we're glad he's back on track with his first exhibition in 16 months, featuring "over 20 pieces of new work (both stencils and screenprints)." The title, Perennial Escapism, is an obvious play on the subject matter, but the rather literal take on an exit strategy belies the integrity of the subject matter: the imagery is "derived from the artist's own photographs of early 20th century wrought iron fire escapes in Chicago." To hear Soukup tell it:
This work represents a personal 'escape' so to speak. I went back to what first made me passionate. I drew inspiration not just from the city imagery itself, but from the textures, the grit, and the distress that makes up a city. Perennial Escapism marks the beginning of a new direction, one I've never been more excited to pursue.
Where his previous work was more collage-y and surreal, the stark new compositions evoke film stills, superimposed on a baselayer of impasto on the wood panels to achieve the effect of a vaguely patina'd or otherwise weathered surface. Per the press release:
Soukup's paintings combine visual elements of graphic design and collage with the tactile elements of paint and reclaimed materials to create decidedly urban motifs. He hand-cuts the elaborate stencils, some up to four feet in length, that are utilized to create his paintings. The resulting latticework of iron bars and shadows echoes the visual experience of his everyday life, and reflects his obsession with meticulous detail.
We're pleased to present an exclusive preview of Perennial Escapism:
To borrow a sports metaphor, this intimate exhibition of author and motivational speaker Kevin Carroll's personal travel memorabilia, punches above its weight offering a surprising amount of inspiration for both designer and layperson. The Art of Sport + Play focuses on Kevin's collection of hand-crafted balls from across the world. The balls' materials, construction techniques and various states of wear are provocative and beautiful but the resourcefulness of their creators—often children in dire conditions—is the real subject and inspires the viewer to pursue their own can-do path of DIY self-sufficiency. The collection makes tangible our undeniable human need for play and the motivating power of passion. If you are in Portland, catch it while it's still up:
When you think about what you might encounter at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Pac-Man and Tetris are generally not first on the list... if they're on the list at all. Last month, MoMA opened the doors on their new exhibition 'Applied Design,' showcasing a range of designed objects, interfaces and interactions dealing with nearly every facet of society. One of the major highlights of the show is the controversial addition of 14 video games to MoMA's permanent collection. The acquisition seems to toe the line between obvious and ridiculous, but we have to admit, MoMA is right on target for envisioning the modern museum collection of the digital age.
The 14 games, showcasing an array of videogames from traditional arcade, single-player fantasy to MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) were selected not on their graphic quality or aesthetics, but as exemplary pieces of interaction design.
Applied Design is the brainchild of Senior Curator of Architecture and Design, Paola Antonelli, who is no stranger to stretching the boundaries of the contemporary art museum (she was responsible for such shows as Talk to Me and Design and the Elastic Mind; for years she had been pushing to include a Boeing 747 in the permanent collection). The physical museum display of the games feels a little strange, appearing to transform part of the gallery into an arcade. From the collection of 14, about half of the games are playable for museum guests. Games employing longer narratives (Myst and the Sims among others) are displayed with a pre-recording to show the scope, while not letting guests interact directly.
The process by which such unconventional works are selected and acquired for our collection can take surprising turns as well, as can the mode in which they're eventually appreciated by our audiences. While installations have for decades provided museums with interesting challenges involving acquisition, storage, reproducibility, authorship, maintenance, manufacture, context—even questions about the essence of a work of art in itself—MoMA curators have recently ventured further.
It's that time again—with ICFF and its ever-evolving constellation of satellite shows, New York Design Week is nearly upon us. We're certainly grateful that the City Council has seen fit to promote the first ever NYCxDesign 'week'—an 11-day extravaganza that includes Frieze Art Fair on the weekend before ICFF—but it'll always be NYDW to us...
Anyway, they've been doing a great job with their event guide, but we're looking to supplement their comprehensive listings with our own annual guide, which, as always, will serve as both an authoritative guide and a quick reference to the design ongoings around town.
As with last year, we've streamlined the event submission process so all you have to do is fill out the form at http;//Core77.com/NYDW and we'll process your entry shortly.
We're looking to go live with the NYDW guide—which, as some of you may remember, works as a mobile app—in early May, so submit the details of your event ASAP! (No worries if you're a few days late—we'll accept submissions on a rolling basis, so here's the permalink to the submission form, just in case.)
The Museum of Modern Art and open hardware startup littleBits are pleased to unveil a new collaboration, on display in the windows of MoMA Design Store locations in Midtown and Soho as of today, April 9, 2013. Developed in conjunction with brooklyn design studio Labour, the "4’-tall kinetic sculptures [are] made of wood, cardboard and acrylic, [brought to life] with 'Bits' measuring less than 1 inch square."
Although littleBits have been billed as "LEGO for the iPad generation," founder Ayah Bdeir notes in her TED Talk (embedded below) that the transistor has been around since 1947—predating the the iPad by over six decades. Rather, the modular bits comprise a full ecosystem of input/output functionality, such that littleBits cannot be classified strictly as a construction toy or an electronic one. Bdeir elaborates:
The idea behind littleBits is that electronics should be like any other material, paper, cardboard, screws and wood. You should be able to pick up 'light,' 'sound,' 'sensing,' etc., and embed it into your creative process just like you do foam and glue. We sit at the border between electronics, design, craft, art and mechanical engineering, and we are constantly negotiating those boundaries. I believe the most interesting things happen at the intersection of disciplines and the borders need to become more porous for us to see the most incredible uses of electronics in the world. littleBits is a library. We now have three kits and over 35 Bits and are working on the next 30, so this is literally just the beginning.
We had the chance to catch up with Bdeir, an interactive artist and engineer by training, about the past, present and future of littleBits.
Core77: I understand it's been roughly a year and a half since you originally launched littleBits. Have you been surprised by the response? What achievement or milestone are you most proud of thus far?
Ayah Bdeir: The response has been incredible. When I first started the company in September 2011, I knew that we already had fans who were waiting for the product, but I had no idea the response would be what it was. We sold the first products on our site on December 20th of that year and we sold out within 3 weeks of starting. [In 2012, we grew over] a series of events: we won best of toyfair, I gave a talk on TED that got a great response, we had a documentary on CNN and at every juncture, demand shot up. It was really incredible to see people from all over the world, parents, teachers, kids, designers, artists, hackers getting excited about littleBits for different reasons.
I think my most proud milestone is that despite all I heard about the toy industry being competitive, jaded and without mercy, we won 14 toy awards in less than eight months (including Dr Toy 10 Best Educational Products, Academic's Choice Brain Toy, etc)—in some cases, we bested some of the most popular toy companies in the world.
World renowned, Parisian-based trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort sat down with Core77 to share insight into the show she curated for this year's Design Indaba, Totemism: Memphis Meets Africa. Showcasing the works of 53 South African designers, the exhibition drew connections between the pop aesthetic of the Memphis movement and contemporary trends in South African design and craft. Founded by Milan-based architect and designer Ettore Sottsass in the '80s, the work of the Memphis Group was characterized by a democratic philosophy, bold colors, simple geometries and stacked forms produced with industrial materials. As Sottsass proclaimed, Memphis, "is everywhere for everyone."
Vumela Umsebenzi Totem, Rudolph Jordaan and Micah Chisholm
Post-Apartheid South African designers reappropriated African icons in their use of animal prints, spears, wooden masks and African crafts in interior design. As the movement became saturated, the South African design community turned to art, crafts and textiles instead. As Edelkoort writes in the call for entries:
Now these long-lasting trends can gain inspiration from new ideas working with colour, craft and pattern, liberating themselves in pretty much the same way that Memphis did. Working on my trend forecasts for 2014 and beyond, it suddenly became very clear to me that there is a kinship between the Memphis ideas and South
African style, between shantytown colours and Italian kitchen laminates from that period. The use of tactile matter, coloured patterns, wild animal skins, fringes and finishes, lightbulbs and neons are all reason to believe that we can expect an '80s inspired revival of some magnitude.
The Picnic, Keri Muller (simpleintrigue)
In the video below, Edelkoort speaks about a resurgence of interest in the Memphis movement as evidenced in fashion, interiors, color palettes and pattern while highlighting the innate humanity in creating totems.
Check the jump for more images from the exhibition:
With European car sales in decline, it should come as no surprise that many manufacturers are increasingly focused on growth in China and the US. Couple this with the fact that many brands now opt for CES as a showcase for their latest connected car technologies, and this year's Geneva Motor Show was never going to be the showstopper of old.
To save you the trip, we've pulled together our highlights from the show—a selection of some of the finest design executions and some food for thought on an industry going through some massive changes.
The Crass Italian Super-cars
The mass drooling over this year's pin-ups—the Ferrari LaFerrari and Lamborghini's eccentric Venero—is perhaps an indication of what is wrong with the car industry. Testosterone prevails and with price tags of €1.3m for the LaFerrari and €3.12m for the Venero, it's also clear to see that the global recession is having little impact on high-end luxury purchases—if anything it's spurring on ever more ostentatious forms. Lamborghini no longer even seem concerned with aesthetic coherence, a frenzy of hard facets being 'complemented' by confused looking softer forms. Ferrari's counterpart, although slightly more refined, is plain awkward looking, a common result when attempting to flex F1 credentials too literally on consumer cars.
Mixed Fortunes for British Luxury Brands
Over at Aston Martin, the Rapide seems to have lost a little of it's predecessors' understated elegance. The deeper, more aggressive face gives the car a burly presence that you might not usually associate with the brand, but it is a measure that will surely increase its appeal in China, a key market for the brand if it is to survive in the future. At a cool £250k, Rolls-Royce's Wraith Coupe had what was probably the most sophisticated interior on display. With a nod to modern boating materials, the 'Canadel' wood options are named after the South France cove where company founder Sir Henry Royce and team spent time developing their wares in the 1910s—nice story and nice execution.
Last and perhaps least, Bentley looked every bit a manufacturer in transition while new studio boss Luc Donckerwolke begins his task of reinventing the brand. The new Flying Spur looked unconvincing from many angles, though especially the rear—a duller and more slab-sided take on Maserati's distinctive derrière. It was hard to pinpoint exactly, but it just seemed to be lacking character—something Donckerwolke brought to Lamborghini in spades. Let's hope he can do the same with Bentley moving forward.
Over the course of three posts, we take a look at the highlights of the second edition of the Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW), which took place from February 16–24, 2013.
Colorful "Midgets" by Bastian Müller at the downtown Filser & Gräf gallery
Historical wardrobe area transformed into exhibition displays
Lifting the "Blackbraid" bicycle with a single finger
At the Alte Kongresshalle, we found a collection of exhibitions and company presentations. One of the highlights was meeting the lightest bicycle in the world. Manuel Ostner from PG explained how they developed a new procedure to produce braided carbon frames with Munich Composites resulting in the "Blackbraid" bicycle that weighs less than 5 kg, all (hand)made in Germany. [Ed. Note: Designer Jacob Haim also used this manufacturing process, as seen in our exclusive look at the RaceBraid bicycle from last November.]
The recent Ecodesign exhibition received no fewer than 140 entries but only a handful of them made it to the exhibition in Munich. Luckily, poster presentations explained the 14 winning products in detail (which can be seen here). Nevertheless we hope that this year's Ecodesign competition features more tangible entries. More information about the competition is available at the Bundespreis Ecodesign website (in German).
Welcome words by Ralph Wiegmann (iF design's Managing Director) at the reception.
Gianluca Armento (Brand Director of Cassina) explaining the importance of their archive
Over the course of three posts, we take a look at the highlights of the second edition of the Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW), which took place from February 16–24, 2013.
"Die Neue Sammlung," an impressive museum run by the Free State of Bavaria, houses the largest collection of industrial and product designs in the world. We found it difficult to concentrate on curator Corinna Rösner's introductory remarks about the museum as we walked by amazing products that most of us only know from design history classes. During our 20-minute walk, it felt like we are traveling through time, passing by Gerrit Rietveld's chairs, Richard Sapper's TV and AIBO dogs. Suddenly, we found ourselves in front of a huge paternoster system featuring the "secret archive of Cassina" with a dozen items from the Italian manufacturer, which has been archiving products and prototypes since the 1930s. Gianluca Armento (Brand Director of Cassina) elaborated on the importance of an archive and how it can help brand management. As a company, you need to keep track of your history in order to make strategies for the future.
The "Refuge Tonneau" reconstructed by Cassina
Basic kitchen inside the Refuge Tonneau
The exhibition also features the so-called "Refuge Tonneau," designed by Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret in 1938, during the threatening early years of World War II. The space-shuttle like mountain shelter has been reconstructed by Cassina for the exhibition to demonstrate that design is not only about objects but also about vision and ideas.
Over the course of three posts, we will take a look at the highlights of the second edition of the Munich Creative Business Week (MCBW), which happened from February 16–24, 2013.
The R32, BMW's first motorcycle
BMW clay model
Our time in Munich kicked off with a guided tour through the BMW museum, led by designer Antonia Cecchetti, who passionately explained how the brand started making motorcycles and engines in 1917 and expanded throughout the years without loosing its identity. The first motorcycles used to be available in only in black with white stripes, followed by a color alternative of "white with black stripes." Today, the brand (and its colors) have expanded enormously without compromising its signature design elements, such as the iconic round headlights and kidney-shaped air intakes. We were lucky to have Antonia guide us, being a great BMW fan. We enjoyed it when she told us how the new BMW7 tail lights makes her heart beat faster.
One of the highlights at the museum is the kinetic sculpture, which was used in an advertisement for the BMW 5 series:
We're very happy to announce that Lindsay Howard and Igal Nassima of 319 Scholes are hosting the second annual Art Hack Day at the Brooklyn gallery space. Starting next Thursday, February 28, event founders Olof Mathé, Paul Christophe and David Huerta will work alongside 50+ fellow artists, designers and hackers in the converted warehouse to collaborate and produce as many projects to be exhibited two days later, when the one-night-only exhibition will be open to the public. "Visitors are invited to engage and interact with the works as they are uploaded online throughout the hack and join the teams on Saturday March 2nd starting at 7:00PM for an exhibition, live performances and party."
This time around, Art Hack Day has a theme—one that geeks, nerds and technophiles of all stripes are sure to appreciate:
What would you do if you were granted the power of invincibility? It's an age-old question and one that game developers have been playing with since the early 80s by incorporating a feature called "God Mode" which offers players unlimited strength, seconds of invulnerability, a change in camera perspective, or access to previously unreachable areas. Since then, God Mode has reached beyond gaming and become pervasive in digital life. It's the secret backdoor embedded in all our electronics, it's the jailbreak, it's how phone companies know where you are, it's how ISPs know where you surf, and it's how the NSA can eavesdrop on your communications.
Photography by Junya Hirokawa, Text by Kai Mitsushio.
Checkout our highlights from the Tokyo Designers Week and DESIGNTIDE TOKYO exhibitions here. We're always excited to see what's coming out of Japan and this year's work emphasized natural materials, used a playful integration of emerging technologies and traditional forms that delight in new ways.
Billed as "the gear we like and how it works," Wired's month-long pop-up exhibition has been a perennial holiday destination in NYC for as long as we've published our own Ultimate Gift Guide. Entitled "What's Inside," the curated 'experience' is not a direct retail proposition—littleBits starter kits are the only thing that can be purchased on site—but it's tightly integrated with their online store, featuring nearly double the amount of products in their gift guide (including most of their 85 wishlist picks this year).
OtterBox's special 'exploded view' display of an iPhone
It also happens to be just up the block from Core HQ this year, and even though lower Broadway can seem like an outdoor shopping mall at times, it's more manageable than Times Square, where they'd set up shop last year. It's well worth a visit if you happen to be in the neighborhood, visiting another noteworthy Pop-Up Shop.
The prominently-displayed Faraday Porteur wasn't available for a test ride when I stopped by, but it's one of the few items that is visible from the street. Given the openness of the front third of the space, I was surprised to find densely packed shelves and display cases upon walking in; so too is the lower level packed with goodies (I'd overlooked several products my first time around; even Store Manager Noah Norman had trouble keeping track of where each and every item was located).
This will be difficult for Generation Xbox to comprehend, but it used to be that when kids wanted to get their game on, they had to amass a bunch of quarters and take the subway to a videogame arcade. And arcades used to be something like dive bars for kids—they were always shady, filled with cigarette smoke exhaled by miscreants, and there was always the possibility you'd get your ass kicked or have your jacket forcibly taken from you. Even still, arcades were awesome.
Perhaps the strangest thing compared to today's sleek gaming system boxes were the huge cabinets games used to be mounted in. They were phone-booth-sized particle board affairs sometimes laminated with fake woodgrain, as if some artisan had carved Ms. Pac-Man out of mahogany. The fact that they were in cabinets had at least one positive long-term effect: Shigeru Miyamoto, game god and Donkey Kong inventor, started out as an industrial designer tasked with creating cabinets for Nintendo.
The collection provides a rare visual documentation of the thinking behind the design of Atari's coin-operated games at a time when the arcade was the hub of the video game industry and Atari was the leading producer of arcade games.
According to ICHEG Director Jon-Paul Dyson, "These drawings offer a rare look into how designers created Atari's iconic arcade cabinets. Researchers will find new information about the development of these games, and the vivid visuals of these designs give them great potential for public exhibit displays."
Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York
Speaking of which, when will they be displayed? We contacted ICHEG and they're saying possibly this summer, though no hard date has been set. Sadly all we've been given are the paltry teaser images here, which weren't even scanned, but appear to be cell phone pics of drawings laid on a table. Shocking, isn't it, to see how these primitive marker drawings created a generation of dreams?
Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York
Rochester's a good six hours away from NYC, but if ICHEG posts some more compelling teaser images, I'd consider taking the trip up there. I'd like to see the drawings displayed in a gallery populated by civilized adults, where I could walk in wearing whatever jacket I wanted and not have to worry about walking back out in a T-shirt and with a fresh black eye.