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Functional Design for a Dysfunctional World

by Brian Fichtner
on 19 April 2008

One of the best parts of the annual Salone del Mobile is the chance to view design work from university students. More than a few star designers quickly rose to fame after being discovered at one of the student exhibitions during this week-long fair. Of the several group shows, That's Design! is a relative newcomer, showcasing 14 schools this year and set within the Zona Tortona. Easily the strongest collection in this cobbled together mess of an exhibition space was from the Swedish school Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design.

The show, “Functional Design for a Dysfunctional World,” takes as its starting point a relatively grim perspective on global affairs. From the introduction: “We are facing a planet that is slowly disintegrating by pollution and global warming. We live in a society that is sadly corrupted by violence and inequality. And in which poverty goes hand in hand with over consumption. Our world certainly is a dysfunctional world.” But the work showcased is neither grim, nor without its share of humor. It also illustrates how personal and critical response to the ills in our society not only has a place in design, but is one of its essential ingredients.

Of the eight projects/collaborations presented, the following are a few of the highlights.

Erika Janunger: Weightless, 2007
Weightless is a short film that explores our relationship with furnishings and interiors by literally skewing our perception. Through filming the scenes with the camera tilted at an angle, Erika has been able to capture her subjects in seemingly impossible relation to the surfaces they explore. Watch the video on YouTube and see more images after the jump.

Haidar Mahdi: Cakedish, 2008
Hybridization and mutation of traditional ceramic ware has been a popular gesture in recent years. Many designers seem to simply combine classic and contemporary, or the beautiful and the ugly, for sheer novelty. Haidar's Cakedish is no mere mix of styles. An ode to excess, it employs vibrant colors, thick glazes, and mixed metaphors to comment on the superabundance of our times. (Click images for detail.)


Pernilla Jansson: A New Proposal, 2007
Until LED technology trickles down to mass availability, we're pretty much stuck with fluorescent lighting as the green solution. Pernilla's drooping, deformations of the fluorescent tube offer an antidote to the life sucking white light; if we have to stand under a whitewash tube, it should at least elicit a smile or raise an eyebrow.

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