Jurgen Bey discusses design trends at RCA
Jurgen Bey talked to RCA students and Professor Nigel Coates about the future of design, the importance of the everyday and why he likes white so much.
Jurgen Bey knows the Royal College of Art in London (RCA) well, having been a tutor at the college’s Design Products course. Design education has always run through Bey’s working life as a designer and since September he has been Director of the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, the MA division of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie.
Bey also continues to teach at the Hochschule fur Bildenden Künste in Karlsruhe, and it is from Germany that he feels the new ideas on design will come in the future. After reunification, the country is partly built under a social umbrella and partly built on kapitalism. It is this fusion, or conflict, that he believes will create the new movement in design.
The ‘new thinking’ Bey describes comes from his observation that due to the recession, design is having a ‘paper design time’; with no commissions rolling in, designers create new concepts that aren't necessarily produced. He notes that the same doldrums hit architecture in the 1990s and as a result, "architects were able to think and find out other ways", and the profession moved on significantly.
Bey talked about the importance of ‘Daily Life’ and showed a series of images of the unpretentious homes of older people, in which the interiors may have taken 50 years to grow and develop, all based on need and function. The results are strikingly different to how an interior designer operates, coming in and creating everything in one go. Bey is showing how ideas evolve over time, but as a designer it would prove impossible to suggest a client wait 50 years for the perfect design solution! For Bey, "the biggest achievement is to build your own world".
Bey also spoke to the students about how the natural word fuses beauty with science and how design solutions cannot be realized in a vacuum – design is all around us. Bey showed an image of the alphabet, made up from butterfly wings, telling us "any image can be found on the wings of a butterfly", and if designers had been given a brief to produce the butterfly by its characteristics, it is highly unlikely to have turned out as beautiful or as functional as the real thing.
In a section entitled MIDDEL ages, Bey spoke about the incredible minds of the European Middle Ages, generally considered a period in which nothing important happened. He showed an image of the Garden of Earthy Delights - the famous triptych by Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch - complete with its fantastic creations. The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel was shown to illustrate the concept of how limiting having one common language would be, with Bey describing the world of many languages as creating "the beauty of misunderstanding". However, he did add that unlike music, design has yet to find a way to create a universal language – and that constant translations tend to slow down the speed of conversation and comprehension.
Images of Bey’s trip to India kept reoccurring, emphasizing on what we could learn from the country. For example, he showed how landscapes could be made up of a single small product, such as a brick factory, where the whole complex was completed from a multitude of humble bricks. Or, he displayed where crafts people had studios on the street, allowing others to learn by watching them.
Bey also spoke about the way Dutch traditions influence designers and how the concept of ‘amateurism’ - usually viewed in a derogatory way by designers - can be seen as a new way of looking at why we design. As an example Bey showed images of his local village flower festival in the Netherlands, where people work from December to August to create a flower display, coming together just before the festival to put all the pieces together. It makes us rethink; we should only be doing this if we like it and not expect huge monetary rewards.
Nigel Coates asked Bey why so many of his design products and landscapes are white, to which Bey replied that he felt it came from the concept of starting with a white sheet of paper, and yes, it was also ‘a sign of utopia’ and of ‘cleaning up things’. Bey finished by showing MUTO, a video by BLU of wall-painting animation - white running riot on the walls of a city.
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