Designs of the Year 2012 at the Design Museum preview

‘The Design Museum used to be a bit up its arse, shying away from popular culture. This is very much popular culture’, says designer Andy Altman, of his Comedy Carpet, created with artist Gordon Young.

And he’s right – the incredible array of pieces from all disciplines on show at the 2012 Design of the Year at the Design Museum is anything but exclusive, or, indeed ‘up its arse.’

Exhibition designer Michael Marriott, curators Gemma Curtin and Ria Hawthorn and project manager Melanie Spencer have succeeded in putting together a show that will capture the imaginations, and hopefully aspirations of those familiar with design and the wider public alike. The deliberately topsy-turvy feel of the show, with lovely exhibition graphics by A Practice for Everyday Life, reflects the breadth, scale and adventurousness of this year’s nominees.

Kokoro and Moi's Stockmann packaging
Why Not Associates and Gordon Young’s Comedy Carpet

The enormous ‘reject slab’ of the Comedy Carpet is one such bold, brilliant, hilarious and deceptively simple looking work.

Nominated by Creative Review’s own Patrick Burgoyne , along with Micha Weidmann, the Comedy Carpet is a 2200 m2 granite and concrete artwork made up of jokes, songs and catchphrases from British comedians and comedy writers arranged into specific strands such as music-hall, Monty Python or catchphrases.

Weidmann says, ‘Its beautiful typography is as fun and engaging as the concept and was produced with great care and attention to detail despite the enormous scale.’

Each strand’s typography and design is specifoc to its era and heritage – for instance, the music-hall strand omits the blue from the red, blue, black and white colour palette, leaving just the red and the black, densely packed letterpress style lettering that would have been used at the time.

Gordon Young says, ‘We spent nine months talking about the materials with chemists. This has been on the front page of concrete mags. It’s serious chemistry.’

Andy Altmann, of Why Not Associates, adds, ‘Blackpool is all over-the-top density and baroqueness. It’s from a really specific tradition of graphics and posters. We were working with the history and trying to find jokes that were historically, culturally and place relevant, but also that were funny on their own.’

Dentsu's Suwappu toys
Yves Behar’s Jambox

Alongside more visible works such as Barber Osgerby’s Olympic Torch and Kate Middleton’s dress (which we have to admit we were mildly disappointed not to actually see, never mind try on) was Noma Bar’s ever-wonderful image-making machine hound and less obvious nominations including Dentsu’s adorable Suwappu toys.

Dentsu's Suwappu toys
Dentsu’s Suwappu toys

Yves Behar, no stranger to the Design of the Year shortlist,is featured with his Jambox wireless speaker; while we were we were also thrilled to see Hackney’s LN-CC fashion store interiors – the only interiors in the fashion category – with the hugely innovative store design created by illustrator and set designer Gary Card.Described by it’s nominator fashion writer Bronwyn Cosgrave as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey-meets-enchanted-forest-feel’, it really exemplifies what a great fashion boutique should be.

Kokoro and Moi's Stockmann packaging
Gary Card’s LN-CC boutique interiors

Barber Osgerby were very well-represented – also featured in the nominations are the duo’s Tip Ton sleek stacking chairs, which can be tilted to seamlessly transform from comfy chair to professionally upright work chair; and some light pieces from a Haunch of Venison gallery show last year.

Kokoro and Moi's Stockmann packaging
Barber Osgerby’s Haunch of Venison work

Comfort, however, isn’t the word for the risqué-sounding XXXX_Sofa – at least in its bed-of-nails-like appearance. Designed by Netherlands designer Yuya Ushida Eindhoven, it’s a formidable looking piece of furniture which can be contracted or elongated to fit the size of the room.

The National Maritime Museum’s interactive High Arctic installation, by United Visual  Artists is superb even in miniature – it’s a magical, Tetris-like piece of art – in full-size, it must be incredible.

Dentsu's Suwappu toys
United Visual Artists’ High Arctic installation

Representing the design capital for 2012, Helsinki  (more on this later in the week), is Kokoro & Moi, who designed the Helskini Design Capital identity, with the gorgeous packaging for Finnish retail group Stockmann replete with nondescript ‘creatures’ nestling within the sharp, clean lines of the graphics.

Kokoro and Moi's Stockmann packaging
Kokoro and Moi’s Stockmann packaging

Antti Hinkula, of Kokoro & Moi, says,  ‘[The way the show is set out] is all rough layers – you’ve got all the disciplines together – it’s not too clean and polished. It combines very different fields. It’s great for people who aren’t really from a design background to be able to come in and see what design is all about in 15 minutes.’

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