Breaking down barriers between disciplines

Later this month you can assess the results of the first collaboration between Design Week and the RIBA Architecture Centre. The show Products of Desire, which opens at the London centre on 24 January and runs for a month, will highlight the work of a handful of architects who take on product design projects and promises to be the forerunner of many such liaisons with the design world. Our preview next week will give you a taste of what it’s about.

No, we’re not repositioning Design Week as an architectural magazine, any more than the Design Museum is taking on the Royal Institute of British Architects by staging a major Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition from May. Our involvement with the RIBA in this month’s show is based on a mutual concern with breaking down the barriers between design disciplines so heartily reinforced by the education system in this country.

And while Products of Desire rounds up many of the usual architectural culprits, it makes the point that the Italians are not the only nation capable of crossing the boundaries in 3D design.

Not all product designers will be happy with a show at the RIBA of projects that, on the face of it, encroach on their traditional territory. But many of the world’s best designers are all-rounders – take Philippe Starck, Mario Bellini, Javier Mariscal or our own Sir Terence Conran – and their contribution to design’s success over time is far greater than the average. While some, such as Bellini, take their cue from architecture, others, like Conran, have careers rooted in product design. Either way the limitations of their origins haven’t stopped them branching out.

We would like to see more interdisciplinary events, bringing together, say, 3D set design and TV graphics, or signs with posters, at venues such as the RIBA, the Design Museum or the Royal College of Art. What better way of broadening designers’ horizons and boosting public interest than by juxtaposing the work of different disciplines and highlighting cross-over talents.

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