It is well understood within the industry that design is a process, and not just about objects or graphics. We know it’s true, but do the uninitiated get it?
We know that exemplary private sector clients do, though work remains to be done to convince many in the public sector. But what about the public at large? While they may be attracted by a big design name, how many realise that there is a team behind even the greatest star, collaborations, not least with the client, and a very coherent process?
The simple truth is that they don’t unless we show them. Some of you will remember the Channel 4 TV series of the late 1990s, ‘Designs on your…’, fronted by larger-than-life designers Richard Seymour and Dick Powell. Working with manufacturers on products as diverse as the bra and the loo, they explained exactly how projects come about to a peak-time viewing audience.
But that was a long time ago and though much has been done on a smaller scale since to explain design, particularly to client businesses, there has been nothing quite as spectacular.
This is why the current exhibition of Patricia Urquiola’s exquisite ceramics for Rosenthal at London’s Design Museum is so good. Small, but perfectly formed, the show featuring the Milan-based Spanish designer tracks the four-year project for the German porcelain manufacturer, with rough models and moulds as well as final pieces.
The Design Museum team has done a superb job – as, indeed, it has with the adjacent Alan Aldridge exhibition, a stunning array of rainbow graphics. The only downside is the inevitable array of ‘Do not touch’ signs set against the alluringly tactile ceramic pieces.
The added bonus of the Urquiola show is that it will be seen by ordinary folk, including schoolkids, as well as by design buffs. Perhaps it is the place to take your clients – or where the likes of the Design Council should hold their briefings. The curatorial approach certainly brings design to life.