The design exhibition Stylectrical. On Electro-Design That Makes History (26th August 2011 to 15th January 2012) at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg takes a look at the complex process of industrial product design in the context of contemporary culture.
The focus here is on the landmark design era ushered in by Jonathan Ive (b. 1967), Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple, who has overseen the design of all of the devices of the California company since 1997. His products are of incomparable popularity on account of their extremely consistent and recognizable design. A quarter of the approximately 400 exhibits in Stylectrical are Apple products, which are shown for the first time in a comprehensive exhibition overview.
The exhibition traces a retrospective of works as well as of the company's internal development of design, and provides a comprehensive insight into research questions of design history by means of this popular design. Along with the products designed by Ive, numerous exhibits from the collection of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg will be shown, among them works by Herbert Hirche, Hans Gugelot, Dieter Rams, Peter Raacke, Michele De Lucchi, Hadi Teherani and Tobias Grau. The economic and environmental significance of design will be examined in cooperation with the red dot institute and the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA).
To give a product its shape goes well beyond Luis Sullivan's oft-quoted phrase "form follows function". Various demands such as material, form, aesthetics, function, handling and usage must be taken into account during the design process and combined. Stylectrical reveals the complex steps and procedures of product design on the basis of the collected works of Ive, granting new perspectives on modern design.
The exhibition is the first to show all products that were created since Ive took the helm of design at Apple. Among the exhibits are rarely seen devices such as the eMate300, a laptop from 1997 designed to be used in schools, the iMac Blue Dalmatian, and the company's first flat screen. New products such as the iPhone 4, the MacBook Air, and the iPad 2 will also be shown. The exhibition lets the visitor trace the company's design process of the past 14 years. Moreover, by means of these innovative products, it opens a discussion on questions of design theory about form, about use of material and about the manufacturing process. One excursus is devoted to the history of the company's product development since its founding, with the intention to highlight the working method and special position of the design team within the company. Exhibits of the designers Hartmut Esslinger and Robert Brunner will be shown in this context, and the so-called "Snow White Design Language" will be discussed.
After the return of company founder Steve Jobs in 1997, Apple was restructured and the young designer Jonathan Ive became Senior Vice President of Industrial Design. Before long, Ive and his team caused a stir with their innovative iMac, the iBook and the Power Macintosh G3, which were all milestones of a modernized electronics design in the late 1990's. Ive's team turned its back on the established, uniform gray beige as a colour for computers of the past decades, and developed a colourful design made of translucent plastics.
Stylectrical shows the formal links between Jonathan Ive's design and the works of leading creators of electronics design history, and it thoroughly addresses the close relation to products of the German company Braun. In this context the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg will be showing some first-rate items from its own comprehensive collection of post-war industrial design. Early works of the designers Hans Gugelot, Herbert Hirche and Dieter Rams, but also works from recent decades by Michele De Lucchi and Tobias Grau will be on display. After the evolution of design in Germany had come to a near halt during the Second World War, there were various attempts in the 1950s to pick up again where the programmatic developments of the Weimar period had left off. The probably most significant initiative was called into life in 1953 by the founders of the Ulm School of Design. Otl Aicher, Inge Aicher-Scholl and Max Bill adopted for this school the approach of the Bauhaus, which had been closed by the National Socialists. When Max Bill left the institution in 1957, the so-called "Ulm-Model" took the place of the original concept of the school. It had three relevant criteria: a new and systematic methodology of design, the promotion of interdisciplinary teamwork, and a close cooperation with the industry. Important approaches evolved during this time, which are being pursued to this day. Amongst others, the Ulm school worked for electronics manufacturers. The cooperation with the Kronberg-based company Braun is especially relevant; the designers from Ulm developed important guidelines that influenced the design of Braun until the 1990s, when Dieter Rams was the chief designer.
The significance of Jonathan Ive's and his team's ideas for the history of American industrial design, as well as their influence on all industrial products, are another focus of the exhibition. By means of the outstanding example of Apple it is possible to show how consistent design can sustainably determine the image of a company and contribute significantly to its economic success, as well as influence 21st century society and culture. Video interviews with Mathias Döpfner, Tobias Grau, Guus and Benjamin Gugelot, Thomas Meyerhoffer, Jesko Perrey, Laurenz Schaffer, Paul Smith and Hadi Teherani will open up further exciting perspectives on the topics of the exhibition.
Campus Suite will be opening a branch with free wi-fi access in the Museum of Arts and Crafts for the duration of the exhibition. Tickets for the exhibition will be on advance sale at Campus Suite branches in Hamburg, Flensburg and Kiel starting August 24th. Every ticket purchased comes with a voucher for a free coffee, to be redeemed at the Campus Suite branch in the Museum of Arts and Crafts. For the first time, the Museum of Arts and Crafts has developed an app, available in the app store from August 15th. This guide will accompany visitors through the exhibition and provide plenty of background information. The soundtrack of the exhibition, produced by Hamburg-based musician Monroe, will be playing at the exhibition and can be downloaded via iTunes.
On the 3rd and 4th of September, 21 internationally renowned Mobile Digital Artists will be offering an open finger-painting session. All visitors can draw, paint and sketch with a program developed for smart-phones and tablet computers by software company Autodesk, try out the iPod as a sketchbook and get together with the finger-painters. This session shows once again how essential a reduced design is for multifunctional electronic devices, and how their functionality can be expanded infinitely by digital applications.
Dieter Rams, Hans Gugelot, Hartmut Esslinger, Herbert Hirche, Jonathan Ive, Michele De Lucchi, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Robert Brunner, Steve Job, Stylectrical. On Electro-Design That Makes History, Tobias Grau