Inside London’s all-new Design Museum

On a recent visit to the all-new Design Museum in London in its new home in Kensington, London, I was very pleased to find a much-improved exhibition space and lots of inspiration. I thought I should share some of the most interesting things I found there.

First, there were a few stirring statements that can help us get to grips with design and the role of the designer:

When we think of design we often think of established disciplines such as graphic design, architecture or fashion. But these categories don’t do justice to the scope and diversity of design. A century ago the role of a designer might have been illustrated by a collection of furniture, glass or ceramics but today it spans issues as diverse as transport, healthcare and software. The Italian architect and designer Ernesto Rodgers once said that the role of the designer stretches ‘from the spoon to the city’

The big question: What is design?

In essence, design is a process or way of thinking that can be applied at any scale.

What’s so good about designers?

It is the ability of designers to understand our needs, both practical and emotional, that sets them apart from other creative professionals.

Then there was some fascinating insight into how companies thrive when they put design at the heart of their business:

Some of the world’s most successful companies use design as the foundation of their business. They carefully control the look, feel and identity of their products. They employ design across every aspect of their activities from branding, to shop interiors and staff uniforms. In companies such as these design will often drive technological development and innovation. By placing design at the heart of product development, rather than just responding to market forces, such companies are able to forge a unique identity. The value of these brands does not accumulate overnight but is carefully nurtured and defended.

During my visit, I spotted the Internet of Things (IoT) board. To my surprise, this included numerous things that I hadn’t remotely considered as IoT material, plus quite I few things I had never even heard of! The simple fact that this is in the design museum tells us that whether we like it or not the Internet Of Things is making big strides into our mass culture, perhaps in a way that smart technology has not? How many things can you identify from the design museum’s IoT board from your daily life?

Finally, there is the building and its stunning conversion. The former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington has been transformed in a feat of modern engineering, the main building was completely rebuilt underneath the distinctive copper covered, hyperbolic paraboloid roof. The building has a completely new floor structure, which meant there was an extraordinary temporary structure holding up the incredible roof while the old structure was removed, to create the new building. It was quite an impressive feat of engineering. The result is an absolutely stunning piece of architecture which is most befitting to house the design museum. It is a vast improvement over its previous pokey, dated home in Shad Thames.

So what can we take away from this, here are my thoughts:

  • Design is diverse – not just graphic design, architecture or fashion, people working in AV and smart building design are also designers!
  • Design is a process – a way of thinking that can be applied at any scale
  • Internet Of Things – IoT devices are permeating into society at an ever-increasing rate.
  • If you live in London or find yourself there on a visit, I would strongly recommend popping into the new design museum. There are some fascinating things to discover and the building’s architecture and beautiful conversion are worth a visit in their own right.

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