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Milan 2013: Text as product, product as text

In the second  Milan Breakfast hosted by The New Institute and Design Academy Eindhoven, the topic of narrative was approached from two angles. From the designers’ perspective, what story does a design tell and how can that story be understood other than from the finished product? 

By Jeanne Tan / 18-04-2013

How important is the story to one’s understanding of the design? And from the media, what is the role of narrative and design criticism in design media like magazines and blogs and in a time where a mass cloud of images circulates over us daily, is this beneficial for the designers or do they suffer from this overdose of media attention?

Opening up the conversation, Tamar Shafrir, who had worked closely alongside designers during her her Masters at Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) explained how this consequently informed her views on design journalism. Shafir used the graduation project of fellow DAE Alicia Ongay-Perez to illustrate the complex relationship between critic and designer.

Comprising a series of overturned ceramic objects that reference domestic archetypes, Ongay-Perez’ project aimed to investigate the nature of conceptual design: the function of function. Stripped of their function, are the objects conceptual design or art and what role does context play? “People criticised the designer for not making the objects functional. There’s a danger in isolating an image from the complexity of the actual process and story of what happens in the object. Critics must be aware of which filters they’re using, reflect on their responsibility, and define their role. There is a strange give and take: journalists have a voracious attitude to new work, designers look to journalists as sort of gate keepers.’’

Within design criticism observed Joseph Grima, editor-in-chief of Domus, there’s some soul searching going on and a lack of self confidence regarding its own identity. In the past, design media like Domus were traditionally very top down whereby the magazine editors – the gatekeepers – decided the content. ‘’Dialogue was entirely mediated by the publications of which a certain restricted group of editors had total control. Then something happened and everyone had a voice.” The internet democratized the publishing and dissemination of information which had a definite effect on magazines  who had to find new ways to engage in dialogue with their readers.

Read more of this article at The New Institute.

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