Vintage wallcoverings…

My earliest memory of wallpaper designs was in the apartment that I grew up in. It was a muted color landscape with metallic highlights. Strange how I could remember the details so well, and now I'm thinking the metallic touch was quite brilliant actually. What prompted me to write this post wasn't really about wallpaper actually, but rather Lucienne Day's textile designs. As I was reading an article about Robin & Lucienne Day, the fabric images that were shown in the story reminded me so much of a wallpaper exhibition that I went to in 1995 at the Cooper-Hewitt. So I went through my archive and dug up the booklet (shown above) from that exhibition – titled "Kitsch to Corbusier, wallpaper from the 1950s". Did you know Le Corbusier designed a line of solid-color wallpaper in 1932? The National Design Museum started collecting wallpaper in 1900 and now houses over ten thousand wallcoverings dating from the late 17th century to the present. Below are just a few of the designs from the booklet that I scanned in, some of them are still very much relevant, don't you think? Click here to view their collection online if you are interested to see more.

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Where Is Design Now?

 

AdSpecs, Zon hearing aid, Gripp glasses
 
Oxford Centre for Vision in the Developing World, left; Starkey Laboratories, Inc., center; Karin Eriksson, right.From left: Self-adjustable prescriptive eyewear created by Joshua Silver; minimalist hearing aid designed by Stuart Karten; universal-design glassware by Karinlevy Design.
 
I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my exploration into some of the projects and designers at the Cooper Hewitt “Why Design Now? exhibit.  There is an active movement rethinking the purpose and role of the designer.  Good design is not only for those who can afford it.  Rather, it should solve problems, and offer betterment, both socially, economically and environmentally.  Creating meaningful objects that solve functional challenges, with an eye to contributing to the greater good, practitioners might design a process, procedure or experience.  Although the focus of the process is not aesthetic, I believe that these solutions should be beautiful.  One of my favorite quotes by R. Buckminster Fuller  states it eloquently:   "When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty, but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong".
 
The New York Times addressed this topic recently in conjunction with visiting the Design Triennial at the Cooper Hewitt:
"“Why Design Now?” is an important show because design is in a strange place… "It’s a dilemma closely mirroring that of the larger American economy, which has been shifting steadily from manufacturing to service."  www.nytimes.org  
 
Design schools such a Stanford University are offering curricula in Design Thinking philosophy that moves away from traditional approaches to design creating multidiciplinary innovation. Progressive organizations like Emily Pilloton's Project H Design, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, teaches Design Thinking to high school students, fundamentally changing the culture and community in which they live.
 
It has been said that  “Kids today don’t care about the big house, the big salary. At the heart of their value system is ‘I want to make a difference.’”    www.nytimes.org
I believe those words are the catapult for change.
 

 

images/excerpts courtesy of www.cooperhewitt.org

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AdSpecs

 

This is a photograph of a pair of Adaptive Eyecare spectacles. It is labelled showing that the lenses are filled with fluid. On the one arm of the glasses there is a pump and a wheel to allow the user to adjust the amount of fluid in the lenses.
 
To continue my exploration into the Design Triennial exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt in NYC, I would like to share the incredible ADSPECS project.  

 

 
"The World Health Organization estimates that over half a billion people around the world need vision correction, but have minimal access to trained eye-care specialists and affordable eyeglasses. The majority of these people live in the developing world, on less than two dollars a day. The educational and economic impact of uncorrected vision is profound, limiting people’s ability to read, write, learn, work, and participate actively in daily life. In 1996, Joshua Silver, a physicist at the University of Oxford, created AdSpecs to offer low-cost corrective eyewear to underserved patients, who can “fill” their own prescription without the need for expensive optical equipment. A few years later, Silver introduced a prototype of his self-adjustable glasses, which he developed for small-scale mass production. In 2007, he added a lens power scale, an important feature to allow a user to know their prescription.
 
The glasses’ technology is simple: as the curve of the lens changes, so does its refractive power. Silver created fluid-filled lenses—a clear, circular sac of silicone oil, which has a high refractive index, is sandwiched between two clear and durable plastic membranes. The lenses are connected to a tube and a small syringe fitted with a dial, which wearers use to adjust the amount of liquid in each sac, custom forming each lens’s curvature to their prescription. Once adjusted, the sacs are sealed off with a small valve and the syringes are removed. The technology can correct nearsightedness and farsightedness, but not astigmatism, and the lenses can only be circular. Currently priced at $19 a pair, the glasses demonstrate how a low-tech solution can bring costs down and allow for easy deployment of a health device. Silver hopes that with his self-refraction approach, half a billion people will be wearing the eyeglasses they need by 2020".
 
The gift of sight.  Simple materials.  Recycled content.  Innovative thinking. Challenging the status-quo.
 
Another example of the power of design to profoundly change lives.
 

About the Exhibition

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street, NY, NY.
On view through January 9, 2011.

 

 

- excerpts courtesy of www.cooperhewitt.org

AdSpecs. Joshua Silver (British, b. 1946), Adaptive Eyecare Ltd. and Oxford Centre for Vision in the Developing World. Distributors: Education Ministry of Ghana, U.S. Military Humanitarian and Civic Assistance Program. United Kingdom, initiated 1996, gauged version 2007. Plastic tubing, aluminum rings, silicone fluid, polyester thin film, polycarbonate covers. Courtesy of designer via www.cooperhewitt.org

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Witches Kitchen Collection Design with a Conscience Series.

 
Currently on display at the Cooper Hewitt as part of the Why Desgn Now? National Design Triennial, is the work of renowned design producer Artecnica.   Partnering with the nonprofit organizations Aid to Artisans and the British Council to identify artisan communities around the world with which to pair internationally respected designers such as Hella Jongerius and Stephen Burk, to create viable products for the global design market. Faced with a dwindling market for local artisan work, the Design with a Conscience collaboration successfully combines fair-trade practices, sustainable and recycled materials, and design insight to increase work and revenue for these impoverished communities. A true partnership, the designer’s work is influenced by the artisans’ materials, methods, environment, and culture.
 
Witches’ Kitchen, a handcrafted kitchenware collection, is the most recent project in Artecnica’s ongoing campaign. Inspired by the darker side of Western fairytales, industrial designer Tord Boontje worked with Brazil’s Coopa-Roca women’s cooperative to make an all black, hand-sewn selection of kitchen couture; with Guatemalan artisans to make hand-carved, double-ended wooden utensils; and with Colombian potters for a group of hand-formed black ceramic cookware. At the center of Artecnica’s series are the people who sustain the traditional crafts, building ongoing relationships with each group. The Coopa-Roca women’s cooperative, which previously made a Boontje-designed chandelier, makes the hand-sewn Witches’ and Wizards’ Apron and Glove collection. Boontje introduced a natural pattern from the forest as a new graphic addition to traditional Colombian black pottery. Leaves are pressed into the wet clay and burn away when fired, leaving an imprint. Made without glazes, the cookware—a casserole and saucepan—are naturally lead- and toxin-free. Each of the carved Guatemalan utensils is made from sustainable and reforested wood sourced locally.

 
Witches’ Kitchen collection, Design with a Conscience series. Tord Boontje (Dutch, b. 1968), Studio Tord Boontje. Client: Artecnica. France, 2008. Excerpts and images courtesy of www.cooperhewit.org.
 

About the Exhibition

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street, NY, NY.
On view through January 9, 2011.

 

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Project H Design

About the Exhibition

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street, NY, NY.
On view through January 9, 2011.

Emily Pilloton on \"The Colbert Report\", January 18, 2010

Last week, I wrote about the Design Triennial exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt in NYC.   The fourth in a series of design exhibitions, it presents some of the most innovative designs at the center of contemporary culture.  The projects on display in this triennial program explore the work of designers addressing human and environmental problems across many disciplines;  from architecture and products, to fashion, graphics, new media and landscapes.

One of the designers on exhibit is Emily Pilloton.  Emily and her colleagues are changing the world, one design problem at a time.  Whether across the globe, or in her adopted home town of Bertie County, North Carolina,  the work of Project H design is inspiring and educating using a Design Thinking process.   I have been following the work of Emily Pilloton for some time. This is not only innovative thinking. These projects are impacting people just like you and I, all around the world.  A true testament to the power of design to change lives.

The mission of her organization is to design initiatives  for Humanity, Habitats, Health, and Happiness. Project H uses the power of the design process to catalyze communities and public education from within.

Within all of Project H's initiatives, they work with a few values in mind. Here are the six tenets that inform the design process:

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