The Centraal Museum in Utrecht is featuring 14 designers from the Saved by Droog event presented at Salone del Mobile in Milan this year. We look at the Wannabe Mirror.
The financial crisis that struck the Netherlands in 2008 was the worse since the 1930s depression. Companies were lining up to declare bankruptcy leaving behind millions of dollars worth of abandoned office products. In an authentic design response, Droog posed a question regarding what happens to such products when the company leaves the premises.
Following through, Droog attended various liquidation sales purchasing 5135 leftover items, allocating them amongst 14 participating designers. The designers were asked to consider the products as raw materials in need of some creative reinterpretation.
The exhibition both in Milan and now at the Centraal Museum catches the genius of Droog. It is a contemporary yet critical embrace of design in a difficult era. “I think the whole thing takes humorously advantage of a changed cultural and financial landscape,” says Stefan Sagmeister who printed words on a wallet about money and happiness that combined into different meanings depending on whether the wallet was open or closed.
Italian/Japanese design duo Mario Minale and Kuniko Maeda both graduated from Eindhoven Design Academy in 2004 and were also invited to participate. Their work has come to be characterized by tapping into their own respective cultural heritages and applying what they see to a broader global context.
Often in conflict about how and what to design in the current era, Minale says he tries to avoid the creation of new disposable products. Breathing new life, injecting marketability and making what might otherwise be considered garbage attractive again is exactly the sort of brief that inspires him.
Droog offered Minale and Maeda eight bathroom mirrors. “They were typical bathroom mirrors with those big fat rounded plastic frames from the late 80s,” he says.
The obstacle for the pair was that such frames afford the mirrors a strong and unavoidable identity. “We could not in anyway overcome that,” Minale says. “The original design is very powerful.”
Initially they thought they could paint the frames. “Or get crafty,” Minale says, “but in the end we decided that that gave the frames too much attention. We wanted something more simple.”
Stuck, Minale and Maeda found that they really needed to delve into what they believed in as designers to find a solution. “It’s easy to make something attractive,” says Minale. “Things come into and go out of fashion for simple reasons. The small details change.”
Further ideas using colour as a way to manipulate mood and feelings were discussed, and although colour ended up being their answer, it was for an altogether different effect.
Titled “Wannabe Mirrors” Minale and Maeda ended up attaching coloured foil to the actual mirror, which contrasted strongly with the bold white frame. The result was to not only change the colour of the mirror, but everything reflected in it. Eight pieces were made in total covering the whole colour spectrum.
“These objects change one’s whole perspective on the environment,” says Minale, “and it is a simple intervention, which is what our aim was.”
Both designers are thrilled with the results, which turned a seemingly quirky comment on design’s main quandary into a viable approach to product design and development. “We like the whole project because it is an observation about design yet also commercially successful,” says Minale. “That is a rare combination … They had to stop selling the pieces in the end because they wouldn’t have then had anything left to exhibit.”
Stefan Sagmeister does not think his wallet will change design thinking just yet. “It wont change anything as far as the manufacturing world itself is concerned,” he says. “But considering Droog is a rather influential force, the strategy of reusing an existing product - rather then designing a brand new one - might trigger similar projects within the broader design community.”
Saved By Droog runs until the 31st October. Other designers included are Atelier Remy & Veenhuizen, Atelier Ted Noten, Ed Annink, Eric Klarenbeek, Erna Einarsdóttir, Luc d’Hanis & Sofie Lachaert, Maison Martin Margiela, Marian Bantjes, Marije Vogelzang, Mieke Gerritzen, Roelof Mulder, and Studio Makkink & Bey.
Images by Stefanie Grätz.
Please click on small images at side to enlarge.
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