From Object to Purpose

A great many visit the annual design fairs to discover progress, often talking about the impact that design might have on the world. And yet many returns without any sense of change left with a saturation of already established ideas. There is a sense of urgency, as people leave these events disappointed, responding negatively to the industry’s lack of ambition to re-invent, manifested in similar looking collections, short-lived colours schemes and trendy finishes.

For Stockholm, during the Design Week in February, it was evident that nobody from the industry was going to discuss the investment in similarities seen at the fair? No doubt, however, that some designers and architects would preserver with critical thoughts, and motivation to endure alternative perceptions on design and making.

To meet the demand for criticality, +Halle hosted a special hour-long panel conversation, exploring ethical questions related to design and architecture today. The panel of experts included Creative Director Martin Halle at +Halle, John Löfgren, Creative director at Form With Love, and Marius Myking, Director of Product Design at Snøhetta who discussed what it means to ‘experiment without aiming at making a product’ and ‘making more than what we have’ — looking at a purpose, meaning, improvement and constructive thinking within the design process. The conversation began with a provocation led by design writer Lia Forslund.

 

How do we best approach design for the next ten years?

There are many urgent reasons to re-imagine the design discipline going into the 2020s. As this year marks the centenary of Bauhaus, we ought to revisit the ideas of ‘constructive thinking’ and Josef Albers’ ethos to experiment without aiming to make a specific object. Mirrored today in Curator and Artistic Director, Jan Boelen's contemporary reflections during Istanbul Design Biennale 2018: ‘I'm not interested in design objects, but in topics, things that affect us, how we sit, how we interact, monitoring shifting social structures,' Boelen argued.

 

How do we make a healthy depart from an industry that continues to promote ‘just another chair’?

Martin Halle, Creative Director at +Halle, opened up by commenting on the saturation of object-driven Scandinavian design, claiming: ‘The blurring of private and public space has opened up for many of the home furnishing companies to enter the contract market. However, it is time to think beyond the generic domestic influence on our public spaces, instead, we really should look at the actual needs in public spaces and let behaviours inform our environments.'

The Panel

The panel of experts included Creative Director Martin Halle at +Halle, John Löfgren, Creative director at Form Us With Love, and Marius Myking, Director of Product Design at Snøhetta. The conversation began with a provocation led by design writer Lia Forslund.

"It is time to think beyond the generic domestic influence on our public spaces, instead, we really should look at the actual needs in public spaces and let behaviours inform our environments"
Martin Halle, Creative Director +Halle

Are we experiencing urgency
for a re-set?

‘The design industry is conservative, defective and lazy, even vain,' John Löfgren, Creative director at Form With Love said. The weight of his words echoed amongst the crowd, standing around the large Nest System Table as an audience of an amphitheatre or an open forum. ‘Things will have to change sooner or later. In Sweden we use the idiom of a bear sleeping: people will wake up only to realize that we have to tackle things differently, all the way from material to quality control,' Löfgren continued: ‘At Form Us With Love, we typically start with a material or a context that we want to explore, then we look at how the characteristics and conditions informs how the design will look like, to start with an object is not resilient enough today.’

 

Where do the elements of context appear in the process?

Marius Myking, Director of Product Design at Snøhetta spoke of the importance of internal criticism: ‘we take every opportunity to test our ideas, with architects and users, by setting up an open table with things we are working on. The comments we receive from other Snøhetta teams across the globe are bad and excellent at the same time.’ The rest of the panel concurred with a smile. ‘It is a privilege to have architects and industrial designers working together, as our differences make us more versatile. Troubleshooting ideas directly to an audience with the same mindset as our target market gives us a head start in understanding what architects out in the field are really looking for.’

 

How do we re-invent the design model? 

The theme of the night seemed to be concentrated on a diverse brain trust, building consensus and design as learning but also about radical ideas and speculating for a better future. Martin Halle explained: ‘as a manufacturer, +Halle are looking to bring multidisciplinary teams together that normally would compete and not work together. In our Annual briefing, which is set to address a given spatial purpose, we believe a collective mind has the opportunity to challenge the traditional object-driven industry. By bringing together designers, cultural entrepreneurs and anthropologists we can create a platform for interventions of new behaviours.

‘We often deliver three versions of a concept to a client. One that is more speculative than the other. In the case of the Annual Briefing with +Halle, we were all motivated to push into the radical realm, to make sure that even the less unconventional option became distinct,’ Löfgren explained.

‘It is about finding a creative height in every project and then work backwards, the ideal scenario is, therefore, to allow for the exploration phase to be as imaginative as possible, just like Josef Albers suggested, this to prevent short-cuts and saturated, object driven ideas.’ Martin Halle concludes.

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