Object lessons

Andy Gilgrist looks at some programme highlights of the International Festival of Design in Glasgow. For programme details and tickets, call 0141-287 0196.

THE Glasgow International Festival of Design gets under way on Monday with something of an identity problem.

Its unofficial billing as a mini dry run for the city’s 1999 jamboree as City of Architecture and Design is almost guaranteed to be the first excuse its protagonists cling to should impressive attendance and critical acclaim elude the month-long series of events and exhibitions.

However, although small in scale and populist appeal compared to 1999’s potential, the 1996 festival is still arguably the most notable UK design gathering since 1993’s Design Renaissance congress, also held in Glasgow.

While the roll call of names is impressive – Alberto Alessi, Terence Conran, Ken Grange and Paul Smith to name four – Glaswegian awareness of the festival is apparently not.

The Blue Peach-designed posters seem to pop up in Glasgow’s trendier restaurants, shops and bars where the design cognoscenti no doubt hang out. Hardly the stuff to fulfil the “public appreciation” promise which helped Glasgow get the Arts Council nod.

But, to be fair, given the horrendously short notice Deyan Sudjic (director of the festival) and the rest of the festival team has had to work to, the programme is jam-packed with stuff that should appeal to designers and, more importantly, the business community.

It will be a complacent business that passes up the opportunity to find out how design can help their bottom-line at the one-day Design Promotion for Industry Profit conference on 31 August at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Design promoters from design centres in Bremen, Nuremberg, Barcelona and Helsinki will share the platform with industrialists from Spain, Germany and Italy.

The Danish Day on 3 September at the Hunterian Museum promises an insight into the Danish appreciation of design-led products. Speakers include Carl Henrik Jeppesen, executive vice president of Bang & Olufsen.

Further business masterclasses worth noting are presented by Sir Terence Conran on 4 September, Tony Key on 9 September, and Tom Scott from Ford’s research facilities in Detroit on 26 September, all presented at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

And Alberto Alessi’s lecture on 13 September at Strathclyde University must be the festival’s favourite for a sell-out, no doubt closely followed in ticket sales by Paul Smith at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 17 September.

If the festival catches the general public’s attention at all, it will be through the promising array of exhibitions being held at the former Post Office building in George Square from 2 to 28 September.

The building is one of those lingering shells which should excite some level of curiosity among Glasgow’s citizens, who have probably been wondering what has become of such a landmark building.

Whatever Ben Kelly and co create with the exhibitions’ design, having the Design Museum’s hugely successful Paul Smith, True Brit in situ should pull in the punters. In the same venue, Objects of Desire should prove entertaining. All kinds of people, (including designers!), have chosen examples of what they think is good design, a selection of which is shown here.

1 Dyson DC01 vacuum cleaner

Designed by James Dyson

Selected by Elaine C Smith, Glaswegian actress

“I have just bought a Dyson cleaner and its design is excellent. It does everything it says it will do. I like to see the workings and I admire the designer for taking on the big boys.”

2 Olympus O Product camera

Designed by Olympus

Selected by Paul Smith, designer

“A perfect example of retrospective and modern design coming together – with an unusual use of materials.”

3 Renault Twingo

Designed by the Renault Design Team and Patrick LeQuement

Selected by Marie Hopkins, Glaswegian mother and women’s art group organiser

“I chose this car because although it’s not yet available in Britain, it is small and great for driving in the city. I love its shape, it’s fun and cheeky and more interesting than your average car on the street.”

4 Dualit toaster

Designed by Mark Gort-Barten

Selected by Tom Scott, US designer

“In the form of a 1940s aerodynamic steam engine. At first it seems a totally inappropriate juxtaposition, but then why not! Turns a mundane daily task into a bit of fun and the ‘form follows function’ argument into a nonsense.”

5 Apple Macintosh

Designed by Apple Computer

Selected by Maggie Glassford, student

“I have chosen a computer because having just completed a one year course at the women’s technology centre, I can appreciate how valuable a computer can be for information and education as well as providing a great source of enjoyment.”

6 Protools

Designed and manufactured by Digidesign

Selected by Goldie, dance music pioneer

“The dog’s bollocks in musical ability to manipulate sample sound at source, and fantastic for live, full-on, straight-in recording. The bottom line, the digital future – no tape, no waste, little storage.”

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