Curator Q&A: Peter Collard, Design Museum
How many years has Design Museum been running Designs of the Year?
Designs of the Year is now in its sixth year, previous winners to date have been The Olympic Torch (2012), Pulmen light bulb (2011), Folding Plug (2010), Barack Obama Poster (2009) and One Laptop Per Child (2008).
What can the public expect from this year’s Designs of the Year?
Designs of the Year offers a varied mix of design from a host of different practices – displaying not only accomplished designers such as Thomas Heatherwick and Zaha Hadid but also the unknown prototypes that could change the way we live.
What key themes are there in the list of nominees this year?
The idea of open-source design – essentially do-it-yourself designing and making – comes through as a strong theme this year. One of the most significant advances in the last 12 months or so has been the transition of 3D printing technology from R&D labs to the home. With the arrival of Makerbot’s Replicator 2, it’s now possible for people to manufacture their own designs, bypassing the traditional chain of mass-manufacturer to shop to consumer. One of the other designs, a mobility apparatus, coined ‘Magic Arms’, being piloted at a children’s hospital in Delaware, demonstrates the benefits of this bespoke, small-scale style of manufacture, which is the subject of the museum’s forthcoming exhibition The Future is Here: A New Industrial Revolution, opening 24 July.
How evident is British, especially London design in the exhibition?
London’s skyline has been changed irrevocably but also divided public opinion with the Shard, a debate we hope to continue at the Design Museum. Other notable projects include Studio Egret West’s Clapham Library, a new source of civic pride for the area and Dixon Jones’s redevelopment of the Exhibition Road area, a demonstration of possible future transport infrastructure for the capital. Random International’s Rain Room at the Barbican has been one of the most talked-about installations in recent years and the most successful attraction in the Barbicans history with queues of up to 12 hours. The success of the Olympics is featured with Heatherwick’s triumphant Cauldron that at its point of unveiling had billions of viewers watching in anticipation and Tfl/LOCOG’s Wayfinding System that guided visitors through London from the airport and the Underground to their seat in the stadia.
How does the nomination process work?
We invite a selection of trusted friends and colleagues from around the world to nominate their favourite projects from the past 12 months. These are practicing architects and designers, academics and design tutors, journalists and writers plus curators from other museums and institutions.
How long does it take to get the final nominations together?
We spend about a month going through all the nominations before selecting the final nominations.
h5. Are the nominators just UK based or do you have nominators from around the world? What are they asked to look out for?
We have a central ‘pool’ of nominators from around the world who we asked to nominate every year but we are always meeting new people and if we think they have a good ‘eye’ and have something to say then we invite them to nominate. As the nominators come from different areas of the design community, they are often looking out for different things. A designer might be impressed by an innovative use of new materials or a design tutor might spot the raw potential of a graduate project.
Who is in the Jury that selects the winner?
The jury this year consists of the founder of Disegno Magazine Johanna Agerman Ross, architect Amanda Levete, CBE Olga Polizzi, Journalist Sarah Raven, actor and presenter Griff Rhys Jones and winner of the D&AD Black Pencil Nicolas Rooper, and they will be chaired by head of Studioilse Ilse Crawford.
How much involvement do the nominees have in the displays of their nominations?
Myself and the Design Museum curatorial team work closely with each designer nominated to create the best way to display their designs. This year we have worked with Raspberry Pi to think of the best way to demonstrate the potential of this small single-board computer. We sent out an open call to receive the publics Raspberry Pi inventions with a select few being shown in the exhibition. We received a large selection of different and interesting creations which will provide a new angle for the public to appreciate and recognise why it has been nominated.
Out of all the nominees, what nomination do you feel is the most revolutionary or unique?
This year’s nominations have produced a lot of designs that could be referred to as revolutionary, two that stand out in this area are Raspberry Pi and ColaLife. Raspberry Pi is a brilliant creation as it actively encourages people to design at home and ColaLife provides a revolutionary solution to the problem of delivering medical goods to rural areas. By creating a product that fits perfectly in to the gaps left in Coca Cola delivery crates, it effectively piggy backs on existing supply chains to create a low cost and live saving solution.
What is the status of the awards in other countries? Is the awards globally recognised in design?
The awards are a globally recognised design award, a fantastic opportunity for the established and upcoming designers alike. The awards really present a unique opportunity for designers from all different professions and practices to compete for the award. One of the main factors of the award is that the designers can’t enter themselves so it really creates an unbiased chance for any designer to compete.
What impact do the awards have on emerging designers?
Designs of the Year creates a platform and an opportunity for young designers to be recognised and displayed alongside established design names. Previous winners such as the Folding Plug and the Plumen light bulb have seen prototypes and original ideas become mass manufactured consumer goods sold throughout the world.