Currently on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art is the 2010 California Design Biennial: Action/Reaction, an exhibition that highlights some the most significant and innovative designs created in California.
This year's exhibition is divided into categories of fashion, transportation, industrial and graphic design and--for the first time--architecture. Curated by experts in each of the fields, the works in the show focus on how California's established and emerging designers are responding to current economic, political, and environmental challenges.
Alissa Walker, a design expert and journalist who writes for Good, Fast Company and Core77 (and Dwell!), curated the Biennial's Industrial Design category. Below, she shares her insights into current design issues, what she thinks the future holds for design, and let's us in on some of her favorite works in the exhibition.
Have the different design disciplines represented in the show approached today's economic, political, and environmental challenges differently?
I think there are two major trends you'll see across all the categories. One is attention to craft, which is both a physical desire for this handmade, anti-machine age aesthetic, but also can be seen as a political statement, reacting to our over-processed lives. And another trend is the very careful choice of materials, whether it's a return to natural, reclaimable materials that have a lower impact on the planet, or the engineering of new, high-tech materials that perform more efficiently and responsibly.
What are some of the main trends you see in design?
Especially for product design, there's a move away from designing objects and towards designing the entire product experience, from working with manufacturers to create more responsible materials, to choosing the most efficient way to package and ship something, and even getting feedback from users and improving the product after it hits the market. It's very different than the past when a designer just dictated the form of a gadget.
What do you think the biggest single challenge has been for designers today?
I think designers are often much more progressive than their clients when it comes to sustainability, and they are charged with becoming more and more active in helping their clients make more responsible choices. It's challenging for sure, but hopefully more clients will realize how designers can become this incredible resource and use them more effectively.
What message would you like viewers to leave the show with?
That's a great question. I want people to discover the incredible design projects that are happening in their own community. I think the fact that this show is local really reveals to people how many designers are working right there in their neighborhood and it gives a lot of insight into how those designers are improving where they live. I know I've learned a lot about the products and experiences that are designed in California and it definitely gives me a sense of pride for my state.
What are some of your favorite works in the exhibition?
The "This too Shall Pass" video, 826 Valencia and 826 LA products, Method Laundry Detergent, Tanya Aguinga's Felt Chairs, FitBit and Abject Object are some of my favorites.