Mastering Design

The new exhibition at MUDAC in Lausanne presents 24 works by graduates and alumni from The Design Academy Eindhoven and the London Royal College of Art.

How is design taught today? Do design schools have a particular style? What idea of design are they trying to convey? What becomes of the students who graduate from design schools? Do these graduates have any influence on the market, the industry or our behaviour? Has the way design is taught evolved over the decades? What do the projects by recent graduates tell us about current design?
Top: Anton Alvarez, Thread-wrapped Furniture, RCA, Design Products, 2012. Image © Märta Thisner. Above: Aurelie Hoegy, Between Normality and Abnormality, DAE, Contextual Design, 2013. Image © Aurelie Hoegy
The “Mastering Design” exhibition presents 24 works – 12 per school – by graduates and alumni from two internationally reputed European design schools: The Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) and the London Royal College of Art (RCA). This event is much more than just a promotional opportunity. It offers the possibility of examining the themes chosen by the designers of tomorrow and of capturing the very essence of design as it is taught in these two establishments.
On the left: Bora Hong, Cosmetic Surgery Kingdom, DAE, Contextual Design, 2013. Image © Bora Hong. On the right: Tristan Girard, In-Between, DAE, Contextual Design, 2013. Image © Tristan Girard
Every two years, from 2003 until 2011, the Mudac hosted the Swiss Federal Design Awards (Prix fédéraux de design) which featured the winning projects as chosen by the Federal Design Commission. We have thus been used to throwing open our exhibition areas to recently graduated designers. Moreover, the mudac has always worked closely with ECAL – University of art and design Lausanne – regularly exhibiting work by its students. So it seemed a logical next step to look further afield and offer the chance for international schools to participate in one of our exhibitions. The original way in which design is approached by both the Design Academy Eindhoven and the London Royal College of Art quickly narrowed our choice down to these two institutions.
Wei-Lun Tseng, E-Components, DAE, Social Design, 2013. Image © Ming Han Tsai
The works are grouped together by theme, independently of which school has produced them. We discover problems and solutions which go well beyond the notion of simple functionality generally associated with design. In this respect we can mention a whole series of propositions around the manufacturing process or attempts to employ new materials: the desire to master and simplify the creative process, from the very beginnings of the project to its practical realisation without having to conform to industry constraints (Mischer/Traxler, Anton Alvarez, Ohaly/Vailly, Jorge Manes Rubio); the updating of traditional craft techniques for the modern age (Studio Formafantasma); the creation of new materials through self-invented techniques (Silo Studio) or the application of cutting-edge technologies to established materials (Tristan Girard).
On the left: Tuomas Markunpoika Tolvanen, Engineering Temporality, DAE, Contextual Design, 2012. Image © Tuomas Markunpoika Tolvanen. On the right: Anton Alvarez, Thread-wrapped Furniture, RCA, Design Products, 2012. Image © Paul Plews
In an entirely different approach, some designers have become interested in our patterns of behaviour and seek to redefine our relationship with the object in question. In this vein the show is exhibiting some projects whose outcomes are destined for a minority audience (Lingjin Yin). The questioning of established norms and objects which have been approached in an off-beat fashion (Sandra Fruebing, Aurélie Hoegy, Bora Hong) rub shoulders with the symbolic, comfort object, or those which give rise to certain emotional states (Hilda Hellstrom, Jon Stam). Finally, the timeless division between design and art, the utilitarian object and the object as statement, is continually re-examined and reinterpreted (Alicia Ongay Perez, Tuomas Markunpoika).
PoChih Lai, Stair-Rover, prototype and production model longboard, RCA, Design Products, 2012. Image © Petr Krejči
Design as it is taught today doesn’t think twice about incorporating new technologies within a prospective, critical and speculative approach. The question of our future practices in medicine and biology has not escaped some designers (Koby Barhad, Agatha Haines). The past revisited by the present (Marguerite Humeau), information processing (Monica Alisse) or the absurdities of the white and brown goods industries (Thomas Thwaites) are also themes which have captured the attention of some of these designers. Finally, other designers have imagined intelligent and well thought-out objects, which are sometimes in the form of do-it-yourself kits (Tom Jarvis, Wei Lun Tseng, Tristan Kopp, PoChih Lai).
Sandra Fruebing, The Individual’s Pursuit, shoe-boat and video RCA, Design Products, 2013. Image © Sandra Fruebing
In their own way, both the Design Academy Eindhoven and the London Royal College of Art offer us a kaleidoscopic vision of design. It is at once curious, provocative, inventive, thoughtful, insolent and occasionally fictitious, but it is always… by design.
Claire Favre Maxwell

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