Friday, June 11, 2010

Postcard from the Design Museum

In every day life good design goes unnoticed.  Only when an item's not quite right is it detected, cursed and improvements desired.  The Designs of the Year exhibition at the Design Museum in London has selected a collection of items and concepts which make significant or radical improvements to life, or will once they are translated into products.

You'll be wondering how a tank full of plastic pandas fits into this.  They're old style WWF collection boxes - the type which used to gather dust on shop counters.  Largely ignored.  Well, this installation of them can't be passed by.  The pandas are mounted on sensors which know where you are.  They detect the presence of an observer and swivel to look you in the eye.  The photo shows them in the process of turning to look at someone approaching from my left.  The iconic logo of the WWF interacts with you and demands your attention.  Forget charity collections by students with clipboards on the street, the pandas' stare cannot be ignored.  Charity donations - as improved by design.

The range of items on display was surprising.  From commodes to concept cars, there is no aspect of life which escapes the designers' attention.  The winning design was for a folding plug - as slimline and lightweight as the laptop it's carried with.  That wasn't my favourite though.  I liked the political commentary such as the Cafe of Equivalent Cost, where a bowl of soup which would cost a farm worker in Mozambique twenty cents was sold to London bankers for £111.  Trouble is that while that cost shocked me, the city boys probably lapped it up; literally.  What I really loved though was Sugru.  It's a fabulous new material which you use to adjust, amend, fix and generally make the products you have better suit you.  It's cheap, it works on everything and it could change your life.  If you're the sort of person who's always swearing at your tin opener, that is.


Lexi said...

Student charity collectors - huh. I've been known to fell one with a look. Give me pandas any time.

The last time I was approached by a chugger in Old Street, I said, 'The only time a nice young man rushes up to me wreathed in grins is when he wants my money, and frankly, I'm not happy about this.'

postcardsfromk said...

They always approach me as well, Lexi. I like to think it's because I look like a pleasant sort of person. My reaction however is to give them the brush off as quickly as possible, in as pleasant a manner as I can manage.
It was a sad day when I realised that I'm no longer the person on the street who is handed flyers about the latest club nights, but the person who is approached by questionnaire clipboard carriers, chuggers and people who'd like to talk to me about their religion.


Lexi said...

You're right!

I get the odd religious tract (I thank them nicely; kind of them to care about my soul) and people asking for train fares (no).

When she was in London, my daughter got spotters from model agencies accosting her all the time. Much nicer.

postcardsfromk said...

How lovely for your daughter. Long may it continue.

Interesting that you're asked for train fares. With me it's always whether I can 'spare the price of a cup of tea?' I would happily buy someone in need of a drink a cup of tea, but won't hand over the 'price' of it to be used for the purchase of Special Brew. I went to a cafe once (wish I could remember where) where you could buy a drink and 'leave one hanging'. Basically your change went into a pot then the next person in need to come by would ask if a drink had been left for them and the staff would use the pot's contents to buy it. Much better than being accosted for all concerned.

Lexi said...

That would suggest, K, that I look richer than you, given the respective prices of tea and train tickets.

All I can say is, appearances are deceptive.

Timberati said...

My brother used to give McDonald's meal certificates. Many of the homeless didn't like that. Me, I'm a sucker for mendicants. Have I ever mentioned to you my faith in...

postcardsfromk said...

Even while strolling the corridors of my own blog I'm not safe!