The Design Museum has the UK’s only collection devoted exclusively to contemporary design and architecture. For the first time in the museum’s history, a wide range of its collection will be accessible as a free, permanent exhibition. Designer Maker User is a landmark exhibition telling the story of contemporary design and will sit at the heart of the £83m new home of the Design Museum on Kensington High Street.
Designer Maker User features almost 1000 items of twentieth and twenty-first century design viewed through the angles of the designer, manufacturer and user, as well as with a crowdsourced wall. The exhibition covers a broad range of design disciplines, from architecture and engineering, to the digital world, fashion and graphics.
Designer Maker User has been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). A grant of £4.9m has made a substantial contribution towards the construction of the Design Museum’s new building and the realisation of the display.
Visitors arriving at the gallery will be greeted by a crowdsourced wall of exhibits. Consisting of more than 200 objects nominated by the public from 25 countries, the wall displays a diverse selection that demonstrates the intimate relationships that we have with the everyday objects that shape our lives. Items on show include a Bible, a Coca-Cola can, the £5 banknote, a pair of rubber gloves, and a plastic garden chair. Among the nominators, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has selected the London Underground roundel for its bold and simple design that has made it one of the most iconic symbols of London.
An introductory display outlines 50 key moments in the history of design from Josiah Wedgewood’s factory to the Bauhaus and Memphis movements.
The ‘Designer’ segment of the exhibition is based on the phrase by the Italian architect Ernesto Rogers: from the spoon to the city. It explores the ways in which the thought-process of the designer informs projects at every scale, from the smallest to the largest. Architect Richard Rogers is represented by his work on the Centre Pompidou in Paris, a building that defined an era and introduced hi-tech architecture. A full size reproduction of a gerberette used in the construction of the building will hang in the display, offering visitors a point of reference for the scale shift between small domestic objects and large scale plans. Zaha Hadid also features in the display with models and images of her ground-breaking designs.
From buildings to everyday objects, the display will also look at the designs that form the backdrop to our daily commutes and the ways in which we move around our cities. David Mellor’s traffic light, Kinneir and Calvert’s British road signage system and a 1:1 scale prototype for the new London tube train designed by PriestmanGoode will be on show, alongside Moulton bicycles and London Underground Tube maps.
In the ‘Maker’ section, the exhibition traces the evolution of manufacturing, from Thonet bentwood cafe chairs and Model T Ford cars to robotic arms, mass customisation and 3D printing. Everyday objects such as tennis balls as well notable designs including the London 2012 Olympic Torch are presented at different stages of production offering a glimpse at the behind-the-scenes forms that are rarely seen.
A display on the ‘User’ explores the interaction between the consumer and the brands that have come define the modern world. Dieter Rams, who led Braun’s design team for three decades is presented through his ‘ten principles of design’ and how this philosophy shaped a diverse range of products from vinyl players to razor blades. This is contrasted with the outputs of Sony and its impact from the 1970s through to the early 1990s with landmark pieces on display including the Walkman and the Minidisc. Apple and Olivetti are presented through iPhones and Valentine typewriters demonstrating how design has changed how we communicate and the impact new technologies play on the lifespan of an object.
This section also explores the impact of design on politics, fashion and music. A pair of Gucci tennis shoes and a series of political protest banners sit side by side with commercial advertising and logo designs. A fashion display highlights the pieces that have come to define our evolution of style, from Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking Tuxedo to early punk pieces by Vivienne Westwood and Christian Louboutin’s pigalle high heels. A look at pioneering magazine The Face and a full scale advertising board explores how the idea of ‘taste’ is defined and communicated.
A digital display looking at Laver’s Law will offer the visitor a chance to interact with fashion trends throughout the decades. Conceived by fashion historian James Laver in 1937, the theory explores how social and industrial change impacts women’s fashion and how outfits and trends are subsequently viewed in later years. Providing visitors with a nostalgic look at past fashion highlights, guests are able to select a retro product from a wall display and a digital reflection will present the holder in an outfit in-keeping with the time period of the object.
A section entitled ‘work in progress’ located at the end of the exhibition will place the visitor in the seat of the maker as the museum’s Learning team curates a series of activities that allow the public to design, build and innovate. The ‘work in progress’ section is generously supported by the Royal Commission Exhibition of 1851.
Occupying the top floor of the museum’s new home on Kensington High Street, Designer Maker User features a bold, colourful and engaging display designed by Studio Myerscough, creating a dramatic contrast to the building designed by John Pawson.
Deyan Sudjic, Director of the Design Museum added:
“The museum’s collection display is not a chronological timeline or simply a collection of design’s greatest hits. We are investigating what objects and products mean, and demonstrating to our visitors that the story behind how they are made is as important as their final appearance. It’s an exploration of design from the point of view of the user, and the maker, as well as the designer behind them.”
Stuart Hobley, Head of HLF London, said:
“British design is famed throughout the world; truly a byword for style and originality. It’s also a very significant contributor to our economy. Moving the Design Museum into the heart of Kensington makes perfect sense and the new site now reflects the subject matter with its sleek lines and outward-looking vibe. We’ve invested nearly £5m of National Lottery players money into this ambitious project because we believe the story of UK design needs to be better told and to a wider audience. The new Design Museum is set to do exactly that and we wish it much success in the coming months and years.”
Expected to attract over 500,000 visitors in its first year, Designer Maker User combines architecture, product design, technology, transport and fashion in a display that investigates the form, function and meaning of the world around us. Offering a snapshot of the varied and sometimes eclectic world of design, the exhibition will grow and evolve over time to reflect the rapidly changing world outside the museum walls.