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How We Work, new Dutch Design at the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch

February 26th, 2015

Interesting as many design objects unquestionably are, the story of their development is invariably more interesting.

Especially in the case of contemporary Dutch design objects, for as we noted in our post on the exhibition Domestic Affairs – New Voices in Dutch Design in Cologne, there are currently only very few designers in Holland who simply produce objects. Rather contemporary Dutch designers tend to develop concepts that, occasionally, result in objects. Needn’t however. A fact which tends to make the development process more narrative and heterogeneous than is the case in more classical product design.

Until May 17th insights into the multifarious nature of such design processes, the type of decisions designers have to make and the problems that need to be overcome in realising a project and/or developing a concept are being presented in the exhibition How We Work, new Dutch Design at the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

How We Work new Dutch Design Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch

How We Work, new Dutch Design at the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Curated by Tatjana Quax from Amsterdam based Studio Aandacht, How We Work, new Dutch Design presents fourteen projects which stand as representative for “a new wave in Dutch design”: an exhibition concept which obviously implies being able to define what you understand by “a new wave.” Tatjana Quax and the Stedelijk Museum have chosen to focus on works which explore the “role and function of design in a world full of excess”, and more specifically the organisers have placed an emphasis on projects which focus on a combination of traditional crafts with new production processes and which promote reuse rather than recycling.

Projects such as Dirk vander Kooij’s ever genial Melting Pot Table, a project which began as a way of reusing the waste generated in the course of Dirk’s research and production work and which has evolved into a deceptively simple method for reusing plastic waste. The version on show in How We Work having been created from the melted plastic remains of computers and typewriters salvaged from the former Scryption Museum in Tilburg and thus endowing the resultant table with the most delightful post-industrial grey tones.

Similarly Pepe Heykoop’s Skin Collection project in which salvaged furniture is upholstered with remnants of leather from industrial furniture production to create new objects with a charmingly disorientating sense of vague familiarity is based on a relatively simple concept, yet one which posses a depth which belies its superficial simplicity.

How We Work new Dutch Design Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch Melting Pot Table Dirk vander Kooij

Melting Pot Table by Dirk vander Kooij, as seen at How We Work, new Dutch Design, Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Being an exhibition about contemporary Dutch design conceptual and experimental projects obviously feature heavily. Red Wood from Eindhoven based design studio rENs, for example, explores how different wood species absorb red pigment. Why you’d want explore that is naturally a question many will, and indeed should, pose. But sometimes the why is less important than the what, and despite the admittedly abstract background to the project itself, the resulting table collection featuring objects of different sizes and forms in the various woods and so individual tones is absolutely charming.

Equally abstract in its origins yet charming in its outcome is Drawn from Clay – Noordoostpolder by Lonny van Ryswyk and Nadine Sterk a.k.a Atelier NL. In the course of a project which wouldn’t look out of place in the Myvillage‘s portfolio Atelier NL took clay samples from some 2000 fields in the so-called Noordoostpolder region of Holland from which tiles, crockery, tableware and similar accessories were subsequently created: each with a colour and texture unique to its location and as such endued with the emotion of place that transforms an industrially produced object into a treasured personal possession.

Yes, one could just make pottery in a range of clay tones and paint wood planks in different shades of red. But that, as we say, simply isn’t the sort of thing contemporary Dutch designers do. To be honest, we don’t believe it would even occur to anyone in Eindhoven that such was possible.
If the sort of thing contemporary Dutch designers do is sensible and meaningful, or indeed if it is actually still design, are however questions for another day.

How We Work new Dutch Design Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch

How We Work, new Dutch Design at the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch

How We Work, new Dutch Design does however also feature what one can refer to as more targeted, deliberately developed products, in particular Chris Kabel’s Blue Sky Lamp project which seeks to create a lamp which combats winter depression and Joris Laarman’s Makerchair, an open source 3D printed chair composed of 77 different elements and which can be freely adapted to create a personalised piece of self-producible, self-build furniture.

Elsewhere we were very taken with the interactive presentation of Diptych by Lex Pott which sees the softer summer rings sandblasted from a piece of Douglas Fir to leave just the harder winter rings and a visual impression that provides a whole new perspective on what wood actually is and Valentin Loellmann’s Fall/Winter Bench project which fascinated, and continues to fascinate, us even if to be honest we still don’t really understand it. We hope however to grasp it real soon.

And a special mention must go to Phenomenon by Pieke Bergmans, for us one of the genuine highlights of How We Work and a project which, well, makes light disappear. And then reappear.

In addition to presenting the fourteen projects How We Work also features an information table with a little more background on the designers while a series of short films about the designers and/or their work on constant loop in the ground floor auditorium perfectly compliments the exhibits.

How We Work new Dutch Design Stedelijk Museum 's-Hertogenbosch Phenomenon Pieke Bergmans

Phenomenon by Pieke Bergmans, as seen at How We Work, new Dutch Design, Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch

A neatly formed, well conceived and very entertaining and informative exhibition How We Work, new Dutch Design for us falls however just a little bit short of that what it should be. For us too many of the projects are explained too briefly, yes we understand that in some cases there may not be that much more that can be conveniently visually presented in the confines of the exhibition space, but a little personal input from the designers would have been welcome: motivation, biggest problems, inspirations, most satisfying moments, lessons learned, errors made, assistance received. Then it would truly have been an exhibition about How We Work. As it is it is an excellent exhibition about What We Made.

And, and perhaps more importantly, a very accessible introduction to some very interesting protagonists of contemporary Dutch design.

In which context, the Stedelijk Museum is in the same complex as Het Noordbrabants Museum, thus easily allowing a visit to both How we Work, new Dutch Design and Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters – Designers meet van Gogh.

Buy the combi-ticket for both museums and make a day of it. That would be our tip.

How We Work, new Dutch Design runs at the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch, De Mortel 4, 5211 HV ’s-Hertogenbosch until Sunday May 17th

Full details can be found at

Munich Creative Business Week 2015: Hit the Future – Metropolitan Design

February 25th, 2015

Munich Creative Business Week 2015 is being staged under the motto “Metropolitan Ideas”, a banner under which the organisers aim to explore themes such as urban mobility, urban planning and the future of urban spaces generally. A central component of this focus is the exhibition Hit the Future – Metropolitan Design.

Munich Creative Business Week 2015 Hit the Future Metropolitan Design

Munich Creative Business Week 2015: Hit the Future – Metropolitan Design

Much as it may often appear that demographic and technological changes have awoken our cities and urban spaces from a deep slumber and that they have suddenly started evolving, the truth is our cities have always evolved. And always will evolve. The trick however is not to recognise this evolution the way a startled rabbit recognises oncoming headlights, but to be prepared for the evolution. And to accept and understand that we need to evolve with our cities if we are not to be suffocated by them.

New technology, new scientific understanding and new social conditions mean the nature of how we approach this evolution is itself continually evolving. A state of affairs which places a little extra tension in the equation, meaning as it does that we have to adapt to both a changing cultural landscape and changing ways of viewing and interacting with this landscape. But then our forefathers didn’t haven’t any different, just more analogue.

In these pages we’ve recently posted on exhibitions such as, for example, Haus-Rucker-Co – Architectural Utopia Reloaded, International Village Show – Alle Dörfer an einem Ort or Matter of Life Growing new Bio Art & Design, which all deal with aspects of this preparation.

Hit the Future – Metropolitan Design is Munich Creative Business Week’s contribution to the debate.

Curated by Sarah Dorkenwald from the Bavarian regional design agency bayern design and Alexandra Weigand from Munich based Studio Satellit, Hit the Future is a follow up extension to the exhibition Hit the Future – Design Beyond the Borders staged during MCBW 2014 and presents 12 projects from young designers and architects which explore themes such as the future of food production and processing, future energy generation strategies, urban building possibilities and social relationships and projects which in their own ways are helping us prepare for the urban landscapes of the future and which provide possible answers to possible questions of how our world can and should develop.

In contrast to the more global perspective of the 2014 exhibition Hit the Future – Metropolitan Design brings the debate down to a more personal level and primarily showcases projects which in the words of co-curator Sarah Dorkenwald, “focus less on the larger systems and networks but much more on the smaller scale, where the individual is the the forefront.” Projects such as, for example, The Energy Collection from Marjan van Aubel which involves glassware with inbuilt solar cells which not only generate electricity but when placed on the specially constructed shelving system store the generated electricity for future use, Microbial Home by VHM Design Futures which explores the future home as a self-contained ecosystem where nothing is wasted or Edible Growth by Chloé Rutzerveld which proposes food processing based on a personalised 3D printing technology.

The global isn’t completely ignored however, at least not in context of social networks and projects such as, for example, Mobile Hospitality by chmara.rosinke or the Pumpipumpe urban sharing platform neatly underscore that the individual is always part of a collective and that ultimately we’re all responsible for shaping and managing our urban future. Individually and collectively.

Something the organisers hope the exhibition visitors take with them. “Ideally the visitors should be inspired and receive an impulse as to what is possible”, says Sarah Dorkenwald, “and hopefully also receive a little inspiration as to what one can do oneself, in terms of, for example, materials, resource usage or waste.”

A neatly conceived, well presented and easily accessible showcase that makes good use of videos, objects and documentation to explain the featured projects Hit the Future – Metropolitan Design isn’t extensive in scale, but it more than makes up for that in scope and depth and as such is best placed to meet such aims.

Hit the Future is being staged in the so-called MCBW Forum where in addition to a series of conferences, workshops and talks, visitors can also view Formosa Forms – Design trends from Taiwan, FragMAG, an exhibition of students magazines and Metropolitan Fictions, a series of film-clips which present various aspects and perspectives on urbanity.

Hit the Future – Metropolitan Design runs at the MCBW Forum, Alte Kongresshalle, Theresienhöhe 15, 80339 München until Sunday March 1st.

Bayerischer Staatspreis für Nachwuchsdesigner 2014: Winners

February 24th, 2015

Among the regional German design awards the Bavarian Design Award is particularly notable being as it is an award exclusively for young design talents.

Inaugurated in 1987 the Bayerischer Staatspreis für Nachwuchsdesigner is in addition, and as far as we are aware, the only design award anywhere to also include a category dedicated to Gestaltendes Handwerk – Applied Crafts. The inclusion of the category is invariably a subtle nod to not only the strength of traditional crafts in Bavaria but also the strength of the small and medium sized business in Bavaria, a business form that relies heavily on co-operations with specialist trades.

Regardless of why it exists we find it important that it does as it highlights not only the differences between design and craft but also the very close relationship between the two and the way one feeds off the other.

The recipient of the second Gestaltendes Handwerk Award in 1988 was a certain Konstantin Grcic, with Grcic’s former assistant Stefan Diez receiving an Honorary Recognition in 2002. Of late jewellery designers/goldsmiths have tended to be the recipients including laterally Munich based, Melbourne born Laura Deakin in 2010 and Carina Chitsaz-Shoshtary in 2012

The 2014 competition saw two prizes awarded: one to Akademie der Bildenden Künste München graduate Barbara Schrobenhauser for the project “Eine Zeitlang” which comprises a series of paper storage jars crafted to resemble stone, and the second award to smow blog alumni and DMY Berlin 2013 Young Talent winner Philipp Weber for his “Strange Symphony” project in which he has developed a new form of glass blowing tube featuring three individually controllable tubes and which thus allows the glass blower a world of new possibilities.

Aside from getting to catch up with Philipp again what was particularly pleasing about his win was the fact that the jury member who presented the award was Nils Holger Moormann, who praised the experimental nature of the project, the playfulness with which Philipp approached and developed it…. and also how neat and orderly Phillip’s application was. Which is a nice little tip for anyone entering a competition where Nils Holger Moormann is a judge. Or indeed planning submitting a design proposal to Moormann.

In addition to the Applied Crafts category the Bayerischer Staatspreis für Nachwuchsdesigner 2014 was awarded in the categories Industrial Design, Communication Design, Fashion Design, Textile Design and Interior Designer, the winner in that category being Markus Kurkowski with his concept caravan “Beyond”, a project which of course also won an aed neuland 2013 award.

Winning an award such as the Bayerischer Staatspreis für Nachwuchsdesigner doesn’t mean instant success, fame and fortune. Even Konstantin Grcic took 8 years from winning his award until his first products with Authentics and SCP.

But it does mean that you’re probably heading along the correct path.

We’ll have a little more on the one or the other award winner real soon, but for now, the winners.

Congratulations to all!!

And should you happen to be in Munich in the coming weeks an exhibition featuring winners, honorary recognitions and nominees can be viewed in the foyer of the BMW Museum, Am Olympiapark 2, 808009 München until Sunday March 15th.

Bayerischer Staatspreis für Nachwuchsdesigner 2014: Winners

Industrial Design:

Lisa Reichardt – MIMA, a minimal invasive observation tool for beekeepers

Ivo Wawer – TIO Diving system

Communication Design:

Marina Widmann – Späher, New perspectives in visual perception

Interior Design:

Markus Kurkowski – Beyond, caravan concept

Fashion Design:

Sara Kadesch – Conquest of nature

Textile Design:

Nicole Kiersz – Reduce Material Waste

Applied Crafts:

Barbara Schrobenhauser – Eine Zeitlang

Philipp Weber – Strange Symphony

Bayerischer Staatspreis für Nachwuchsdesigner 2014 Winners Honorary Recognitions Jury

Bayerischer Staatspreis für Nachwuchsdesigner 2014: Winners, Honorary Recognitions & Jury

Depot Basel: This is work. Redefining creative life stability.

February 23rd, 2015

In what sounds like a truly monumental example of critical cultural analysis meets mid-life crisis and self-doubt, Depot Basel and members of the global creative network Fictional Collective will spend March exploring the modern nature of creative work and for all the nature of the relationships between creative work and private life and between creative work and financial reward.

As anyone who works creatively will know, and as anyone who doesn’t will no doubt have long suspected, contemporary creative work doesn’t necessarily pay very well. It can. It can pay very, very well. But generally doesn’t. And certainly not as well as it used to. Or indeed still should.

At the risk of generalising to the point of distortion, in the past it was much easier: there were fewer “creatives” and a less widespread understanding of the economic value of creative input. Those creatives who were practising could command a living wage on the basis that those clients who were contracting creatives understood and valued the work being done, and there was a lot less competition amongst creatives, be that copywriters, graphic designers, curators, layouters, programmers, designers, photographers, whatevers.

Today however ever more companies and institutions want creative input, often without actually understanding why, what is actually meant by creative input, far less what is involved in producing “creativity”, and globally ever more schools and collages churn out ever more graduates in ever more creative fields: albeit graduates with often only the most cursory understanding of business acumen and commercial practice and so unaware of their worth and how to secure such.

The result is a market where for every creative who demands a decent wage for a decent job, there are a hundred willing to do it for less. And every client knows that. And if they’re honest every creative knows that as well. Knows they’re partly to blame for the situation, but don’t feel empowered or capable of changing the situation.

Consequently many creatives take badly, or often unpaid, work, generally accompanied by truly appalling conditions, restrictions and deadlines, just to maintain a profile, while supporting their creativity through less creative but properly paid work. The unending cycle of unpaid creative work, paid non-creative work & pitching for paid creative work making anything resembling a normal, structured private life all but impossible.

Other creatives meanwhile ignore such death spirals, devoting themselves fully to their creativity, pushing harder and harder against reality and hoping that the door to wealth and security opens before the whole exercise explodes in their faces.

All claim to be happy. Anything else would be tantamount to admitting defeat.

The situation is clearly absurd.

Not least against the background of the agreed economic value of design led practice for industry and the global movement towards easier and more democratic sharing of cultural, political, social and economic information enabled by digital technology and the need for creative talents to create systems and platforms to maximise the collection, presentation and dissemination of such: systems that by their very nature are largely free and as such must be financed over new, alternative channels.

In context of an exhibition accompanied by a series of discussions, performances, films and lectures over the course of the four week project, Depot Basel and Fictional Collective will explore the economic, sociological and psychological aspects of the contemporary creative economy and in doing so attempt to highlight key issues and find new solutions which restore a sense of balance to the cultural/economic equation as well as providing long-term social and financial security for creatives.

What particularly interest us in how far the results and conclusions of the project will read like a critical, independent analysis of the current situation, and in how far a partisan manifesto and call to arms.

The angel in us is hoping for the former, the devil in us is rooting with all its worth for the latter.

And regardless of what results we are looking forward to a healthy and entertaining debate.

This is work. Redefining creative life stability opens at Depot Basel, Voltastrasse 43, 4056 Basel, Switzerland on Friday February 27th and runs until Saturday March 28th.

In addition from 27.02 the development of the project can followed on the website

This is Work Fictional Collective Depot Basel

Depot Basel & Fictional Collective present: This is work. Redefining creative life stability.

Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters – Designers meet van Gogh at Het Noordbrabants Museum, ’s-Hertogenbosch

February 21st, 2015

Throughout 2015 some thirty European museums and cultural institutions will mark the 125th anniversary of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh’s death with a series of exhibitions, events and cultural exchanges.

As previously noted, just as we have an innate mistrust of “lifetime achievement awards” for the living and lively, so to do we find “celebrating” deaths somewhat macabre. Especially in the case of Vincent van Gogh given the gory and tragic circumstances of his passing.

But we famously don’t make decisions as to what should be celebrated when. We just report on the resultant festivities.

One of the participating institutions is the Noordbrabants Museum in the magnificently monikered town of ’s-Hertogenbosch, and until April 26th the Noordbrabants Museum are presenting the exhibition Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters – Designers meet van Gogh.

Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters Designers meet van Gogh Noordbrabants Museum

"Nature" featuring, amongst other exhibits, Paard by Barbara Polderman and the spader by GBO Design, as seen at Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters - Designers meet van Gogh at the Noordbrabants Museum

The exhibition title takes its inspiration form van Gogh’s 1885 painting “The Potato Eaters” and rather than setting itself directly in a dialogue with Vincent van Gogh and his works the exhibition presents some 85 works by contemporary Dutch designers which the organisers feel reflect three central features of Vincent van Gogh’s oeuvre: simplicity, farmland and nature.

The “Design from the country of” part of the exhibition title comes from the fact that not only was Vincent van Gogh born and raised in the Noord-Brabant region of the Netherlands, of which ’s-Hertogenbosch is the municipal capital, but “The Potato Eaters” and related works were inspired by the peasant life of the region, and as such in addition to marking van Gogh’s passing one of the museum’s aims with the exhibition is to present the diversity and quality of design work currently being produced in the region, and so stimulate interest in local designers amongst both a lay and a specialist public. A noble undertaking, and of course exactly what regional museums should do. Yes, we’d be the first to complain if a museum got all parochial and only presented works by local designers and if they only did so in context of blatant marketing exercises rather than positioning the objects in a relevant and interesting discourse. However, it is important that museums and cultural institutions interact with and react to the talent that surrounds them.

Against the background of this double brief exhibition curators Yksi Ontwerp have created a very open and accessible exhibition concept in which the three subjects are handled in individual sections and with a very pleasing, self-confident simplicity; and an exhibition concept which is also a wonderful, if in our opinion incomplete, who’s who of designers in and from the region – largely, and as to be expected, Design Academy Eindhoven graduates and Eindhoven based designers. 

In addition to established smow blog favourites such as Steven Banken, Arnout Meijer, Dirk vander Kooij or Daphna Laurens, Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters also features works by the likes of, for example, Piet Hein Eek, Ma ‘ayan Pesach, Paul Heijnen, Lex Pott, Sander Wassink, Maarten Baas, Studio Job, or Earnest Studio & Emilie Pallard, thus creating a very pleasing mix of established and establishing designers and also an excellent mix of disciplines and design approaches: from the pure industrial over fundamental experimental research projects, explorations of innovative approaches for future technologies, reinventions of traditional crafts and onto projects we’d technically class as art.

The result is an exhibition which although guided by the unseen hand of Vincent van Gogh and his passion for the natural and simple, is much more about the natural, simplicity of the objects on show, the design processes which led to them and the motivation for producing them, and which thus makes Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters an excellent starting point for all looking to understand and experience contemporary Dutch design.

Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters Designers meet van Gogh Noordbrabants Museum

"Simplicity" at Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters - Designers meet van Gogh at the Noordbrabants Museum

Up until now tributes to Vincent van Gogh had been largely restricted to tat: be that inappropriate and ill-advised replications of his most famous paintings or inappropriate and ill-advised records about Starry Starry Nights

Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters – Designers meet van Gogh may not be a direct tribute to Vincent van Gogh per se, but in so effortlessly transposing the themes of his works to the contemporary world it beautifully illustrates not only how relevant the themes of van Gogh’s work remain but how van Gogh viewed and understood the world around him, van Gogh as a man looking for answers rather than one looking to capture the beauty of what he saw. And thus reminds us that his was a talent, an understanding and a life worth celebrating

Parallel to Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters, the Noordbrabants Museum is also presenting “Hockney, Picasso, Tinguely and Other Highlights from the Kunstsammlung Würth”, an exhibition which does pay much more direct tribute to the man and his work, including the fascinating “Three Trees near Thixendale” chronological timescape by David Hockney, a series of paintings which not only underscore Hockney’s talent but also more than honour the memory of Vincent van Gogh.

Design from the Country of The Potato Eaters – Designers meet van Gogh runs at Het Noordbrabants Museum, Verwersstraat 41, ’s-Hertogenbosch until Sunday April 26th

Hockney, Picasso, Tinguely and Other Highlights from the Kunstsammlung Würth until Sunday May 17th

Full details can be found at:

smow introducing reloaded

February 18th, 2015

Name: smow introducing

Born: Leipzig, 2010

Alma mater: University of life

Featured designers:
Christoffer Martens

Erik Wester

Christian Lessing

Eva Marguerre

My Own Super Studio


                           Stephan Schulz

smow blog: smow introducing?

(smow) blog: A series we used to publish in which we featured, younger, less well known, but in our opinion extremely talented and interesting designers and “introduced” them to a wider audience

smow blog: “Used to publish”, and so why did you stop? Did you run out of young, talented designers by whom you were impressed?

(smow) blog: Far from it! But we did run out of time and space to properly devote ourselves to the task…..

smow blog: ….. and that’s now changed?

(smow) blog: We’ve changed that. We always regretted not being able to continue with the series and have now taken the active decision to pursue it with the seriousness and propriety it deserves.

smow blog: And we imagine having dropped the parenthesis from the blog name probably helped as well, or…?

(smow) blog: Unquestionably. It’s really freed up the production process, added a certain youthful vigour and esprit to our stride that has been lacking of late.

smow blog: Much as you may have enjoyed smow introducing, was it really worth it? Looking back what has become of those designers previously featured?

(smow) blog: The very first smow introducing interviewee was Burg Giebichenstein Halle graduate Stephan Schulz and since we spoke with him Stephan has completed a scholarship from the Kunststiftung Sachsen-Anhalt and the Klosterbergischen Stiftung and realised new projects for Calvin Klein Home and Betoniu. Following Stephan Schulz we featured Baden-Württemberg based manufacturer maigrau a.k.a. Kunstakademie Stuttgart graduates Nik Back & Alexander Stamminger, who have since kept good their promise to expand the company with works by external designers and in doing so have made maigrau an even more interesting brand than it was when we first met them. Our favourite Portuguese designer TM Rui Alves has continued to make Portuguese design contemporary and currently has products in production with Italian manufacturer Valsecchi1918 and Danish label menu – who also produce and distribute the BookBinder bookend by Berlin based, smow introducing alumni Christoffer Martens. Düsseldorf based Christian Lessing continues with his quest to bring the fun back into the living spaces, and balconies, as well as being a member of Düsseldorf creative collective teilmöbliert, Oslo based Erik Wester is, inexplicably, still looking for a manufacturer for his Standing Task lamp has however expanded his repertoire to include graphic design and Hamburg based Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe graduate Eva Marguerre has teamed up with Marcel Besau as the imaginatively titled Studio Besau-Marguerre and amongst other projects have recently completed a family of lamps for Frankfurt based manufacturer e15.

smow blog: Not entirely unimpressive, but are you happy with the way the featured designers, and for all their careers, have developed?

(smow) blog: On the whole yes, very. Looking back however one continually comes across objects that we remain as convinced as ever should be million selling standards, but aren’t. A situation that for us wonderfully sums up the vagaries of the design industry and just how hard it is to establish oneself. We however haven’t completely given up hope that one of the ever increasing number of smaller manufacturers might find interest in one or the other unpublished design.

smow blog: Looking back what continually occurs to us is that smow introducing appears to be the only occasion in which you use official press photos rather than your own photos. A deliberate decision?

(smow) blog: Yes. As we say its hard enough to establish yourself as a designer without us sabotaging careers with our photography!

smow blog: And so when can we expect the return of smow introducing?

(smow) blog: Any day now…. watch this space!

IMM Cologne 2015: Richard Lampert

February 16th, 2015

Established in 1993 with a primary focus on producing the designs of Egon Eiermann, including most famously the re-edition of Eiermann’s 1953 table frame, Stuttgart based furniture manufacturer Richard Lampert have quietly developed over the intervening twenty plus years into one of Germany’s most distinctive and idiosyncratic furniture producers, and a manufacturer with a portfolio that effortlessly mixes contemporary design with older, established, pieces. Often in the same object.

IMM Cologne 2015 Richard Lampert

IMM Cologne 2015: Richard Lampert

Whereas Richard Lampert’s IMM Cologne 2015 stand design may have indicated a fantastic, unpredictable journey to the odder corners of the universe: on the stand itself it was a lot more about consolidating the collection.

Feet firmly on familiar ground, as it were.

Not that that should be be seen as a criticism, far from it. Furniture manufacturer’s shouldn’t continually bring out new lines or new collections, sometimes they should further develop what they have and so encourage people to retain what they have; not least because encouraging customers to hold on to what they have is to encourage socially and environmentally responsible behaviour.

And what could better illustrate the spirit of holding on to what you have than children’s furniture that grows with the child.

At IMM Cologne 2011 Lampert introduced the “Kids Only” collection of children’s furniture, including the so-called Famille Garage system from Alexander Seifried – essentially a baby’s changing table that can be transformed into a kids table/desk and a separate storage system once nappies cease to be an issue. At IMM Cologne 2015 Richard Lampert and Alexander Seifried unveiled an extension of the Famille Garage family in the shape of a cot that is height adjustable, length adjustable and form adjustable: as junior grows the cot mattress can be successively lowered so that escape from the cot is, theoretically, impossible and then once the risk of escape is no longer a problem the cot can be transformed into a bed which can be simply extended as the child grows. One child. One bed. Many years. Besides adding to the Famille Garage family Lampert have also adapted the original Famille Garage baby changing table through the option of drawers and thus allowing one to move on from the bright, chaotic aesthetic of a child’s world to a more reserved and structured adult aesthetic.

In addition we were very taken by the new solid oak version of the Milla bar table Lampert originally presented in MDF at IMM Cologne 2014, the new Mr Round mobile stool struck as a very obvious and welcome addition to the Lampert portfolio, and a delightful product in its own right, but, and perhaps fittingly given the company’s origins, one of the most pleasing new additions was related to Egon Eiermann. In 2013 Richard Lampert presented the so-called Frame Regal by Alexander Seifried, a shelving system which took the classic Eiermann Regal that Egon Eiermann created in context of the 1932  exhibition “Das wachsende Haus” and placed it in a “frame”. As a logical extension of the system, and a logical consolidation that encourages users to keep what they have, Alexander Seifried has developed a series of modular storage units which can be freely combined with both the Eiermann regal and the Frame Regal and which turn a simple shelving unit into a simple storage and organisation system.

IMM Cologne 2015 Richard Lampert Eiermann Regal Frame Boxes Alexander Seifried

Eiermann Regal by Egon Eiermann and Frame Boxes by Alexander Seifried through Richard Lampert, as seen at IMM Cologne 2015

IMM Cologne 2015 Richard Lampert Mono Step Stool Steffen Kehrle Papaver Somniverum Alexander Seifried

Mono Step Stool by Steffen Kehrle and Papaver Somniverum by Alexander Seifried through Richard Lampert, as seen at IMM Cologne 2015

IMM Cologne 2015 Richard Lampert Famille Garage Alexander Seifried

Famille Garage by Alexander Seifried through Richard Lampert, as seen at IMM Cologne 2015

IMM Cologne 2015 Richard Lampert Famille Garage Cot

Famille Garage Cot by Alexander Seifried through Richard Lampert, as seen at IMM Cologne 2015

smow blog compact: Munich Creative Business Week 2015. Preview.

February 14th, 2015

Premièred in 2012 as a platform to help connect design with business and to encourage greater design thinking by and acceptance of the value of design for industry, and as a sort of supporting fringe event to envelop and accompany the iF Design Award ceremony following the decision to host the event in the Bavarian capital, Munich Creative Business Week has developed over the years into a very interesting event which, although still largely promotional in character, does from time to time venture into territory other design festivals rarely reach.

Underscoring Kathrin Böhm, Antje Schiffers and Wapke Feenstra’s observation that discourses on urban environments are more common than on rural communities, the thematic focus for Munich Creative Business Week 2015 is “Metropolitan Ideas” – so urban planning, urban mobility, urban healthcare et al – and in addition to a series of presentations, films and lectures, a central component of the “Metropolitan Ideas” programme is the exhibition HIT THE FUTURE – Metropolitan Design. Curated by Sarah Dorkenwald from the Bavarian regional design agency bayern design and Munich based Studio Satellit a.k.a Alexandra Weigand, HIT THE FUTURE – Metropolitan Design promises to present inter-disciplinary solutions for sustainable urban development and features contributions from, amongst others, Studio Formafantasma, Justin McGuirk, Julia Lohmann and Berlin based design studio Shapes in Play.

The second thematic focus of Munich Creative Business Week 2015 is partner country Denmark and in addition to a series of presentations in the Munich flagships of key Danish manufacturers such as Fritz Hansen or BoConcept, the Denmark programme also features a very interesting sounding talk on “national stereotypes and marketing strategies” from Dr. Erla Hallsteinsdóttir.

Munich Creative Business Week 2015 HIT THE FUTURE – Metropolitan Design

Munich Creative Business Week 2015: HIT THE FUTURE – Metropolitan Design

Beyond the programmatic foci Munich Creative Business Week 2015 also features a wide and varied exhibition programme; the majority of which fall into the in-store, promotional type, including nice sounding showcases at Leica, Alessi, Vitsoe, Nymphenburg and Rosenthal; but which also features a few very promising sounding “independent” shows including Design for all Generations from the Handwerkskammer für München und Oberbayern, Czech Design Works at the Tschechisches Zentrum, Tools for A Break: Korean Crafts and Design at the Keum Art-Projects and a further opportunity to view the aed neuland 2013 exhibition – and a timeous opportunity at that with entries for 2015 aed neuland young designer competition needing to be submitted by March 31st!

In addition Munich Creative Business Week 2015 also promises a special programme aimed at “Start-ups”, a series of conferences, talks, podium discussions, workshops and tours: in which context, for all in Munich on Saturday February 28th don’t miss the bus tour with Nils Holger Moormann and Nitzan Cohen, a ninety minute tour during which the pair will discuss creativity in Munich and their own personal associations with the city. Munich is the city where Nils Holger Moormann had his first youthful design experiences, and given his comments on the contemporary German furniture industry in our recent interview with him, we’re sure he’ll also have something to say about “creative business” and for all the current balance of power and influence between “creative” and “business”

Munich Creative Business Week 2015 runs from Saturday February 21st until Sunday March 1st at various locations throughout Munich.

Full details can be found at

Munich Creative Business Week 2015

Munich Creative Business Week 2015

smow Interview: Nils Holger Moormann – We desperately need a new revolution!

February 12th, 2015

In our post from the exhibition Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre at the Bröhan Museum Berlin we noted that, for us, the two most important legacies of the Neues deutsches Design movement and 1980s German Postmodernism are and were the number of protagonists from then currently teaching at German design schools, and those manufacturers who arose from the heady, damp haze of the period. Manufacturers such as Nils Holger Moormann.

Established in the early 1980s from the youthful design experiences of the bored but otherwise upstanding law student Nils Holger Moormann, the eponymous company has evolved over the past three decades to establish itself as one of Europe’s most interesting and challenging contemporary furniture producers.

At the 2015 Ambiente interiors fair Nils Holger Moormann will be awarded the “Personality” lifetime achievement award by the Rat für Formgebung – the German Design Council. Much as we have an innate mistrust of design awards, and for all of lifetime achievement awards for the living and lively, the combination of the award and the exhibition offer the perfect excuse to speak with Nils Holger Moormann about furniture design and the furniture industry then, now and in the future, but we began by asking how he found his way to furniture design……

Nils Holger Moormann: Pure chance. I’d studied law for 8 semesters, wasn’t really enjoying it and then, and as so often happens, through chance and acquaintances I was introduced to this world of contemporary design, and was immediately enthralled. There were terrible things, fantastic things, high-tech creations, Bauhaus and more traditional furniture mixed with objects which had been completely ripped out of context, and I found that all absolutely fascinating. I didn’t really understand any of it, but the spirit of adventure and freedom allowed even those without a relevant academic or professional background to get involved and simply through learning by doing to find your own way.

smow blog: And were you aware of what one could call a “scene”, or how did you experience the situation?

Nils Holger Moormann: I wasn’t aware of a scene as such. It was a relatively small, informal community, and one simply drifted through it. You met people, were subsequently invited somewhere, were introduced to new people, heard that they were doing this or that and from that work learned of other designers. For me it was like a huge festival with a 1000 surprises, everything was possible, you were puzzled, dumbfounded, surprised, didn’t understand; one was simply aware of being part of something new and invigorating.

smow blog: Does the fact that you found your way to design via Neues deutsches Design mean you had no interest in the more functional design, for example the so-called gute Form, that up until then had largely dominated German design?

Nils Holger Moormann: No, no not all. For me this Neues deutsches Design was wonderfully shrill and bizarre and one was aware of celebrating a revolution; but what principally interested me was a reduced design that had an added value, a design which contained an idea, an idea that caught my imagination. And much as I would often fall in love with shrill and wacky objects, I was only a true proponent of the more reserved design objects

smow blog: And were you designing yourself in those days?

Nils Holger Moormann: Initially no, I set myself up more as a sales rep, and would travel through Germany and Europe meeting designers and architects who were producing their own designs and would take on the distribution for them; the idea was to become similar to a publisher for extraordinary books.

smow blog: The only object from that period still in production with yourselves is the Gespanntes Regal from Wolfgang Laubersheimer, is that the only “extraordinary” book that has survived the ravages of time, or perhaps better put, why has it survived the ravages of time?

Nils Holger Moormann: When one looks back to that period the Gespanntes Regal is in general one of only very few pieces that are still in production. The Gespanntes Regal is one of those pieces that fascinated me from the first moment I saw it: an unstable construction that can’t support itself but which then receives its tension, stability and functionality from a simple steel cable, and it is a piece that not only remains as fresh and relevant for me today as back then but is an object which still stands for our philosophy.

smow blog: Which of course poses the obvious next question, is there anything from the spirit of then to be found in the contemporary German furniture industry?

Nils Holger Moormann: Unfortunately not. It was a protest and a revolution and an attempt to forge something new, but that is history and now we have a situation where we’re largely driven by industry; many of the current manufactures don’t even have owners but rather are part of larger concerns, exist in effect simply to generate profit, and the result is the furniture that is being offered all looks the same. Everything has become very homogeneous, so much so that sometimes I have the feeling that if you were to go to IMM Cologne at night and mix up the furniture, take pieces from one stand and place them on another, hardly anyone would notice. And that is a shame because it means the esprit, the curiosity, the aspiration is missing. Sometimes I have the feeling that the only passion that is there is to make sellable products, and that’s not the the way forward. Yes you have got to have the luck to make a profit and remain financially stable, but you also need to search for new ideas and new approaches and for me that currently occurs too infrequently. For me there is too little protest, too few attempts to try something new, even when you know that it might not work, to at least try. In my opinion we desperately need a new revolution!

smow blog: Need, but will we get?

Nils Holger Moormann: I’m of a naturally positive disposition and I believe that it will come. Not least because the young designers today must increasingly take everything into their own hands and so will be forced to find new ways, new solutions and new systems. And much like in the 1980s through that searching will come the changes.

smow blog: We sense however the spirit of then still forms a key part of who you are and how you operate?

Nils Holger Moormann: Yes, Gott sei dank! The moment the youthful searching, the curiosity and the passion stops that’s the moment you become pragmatic and start to optimise things on a purely economic level. But before the financial must always come the exploration, the esprit and the passion.

Nils Holger Moormann

Nils Holger Moormann.Designer. Entrepreneur. Publisher. (Photo ©Dirk Bruniecki)

Schrill Bizarr Brachial Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre Bröhan Museum Berlin Pentagon Wolfgang Laubersheimer Detlef Meyer Voggenreither

Gespanntes Regal by Wolfgang Laubersheimer (l) and Mai '68 by Detlef Meyer Voggenreither (r), as seen at Schrill Bizarr Brachial. Das Neue Deutsche Design der 80er Jahre, Bröhan Museum Berlin

smow bookcase: Depot Basel – Display

February 11th, 2015

When in 2013 the design facilitators from Depot Basel were forced to move from their original home in a former grain silo to their current home in a former bureau de change they not only gave up a venue which we once, and not entirely positively, declared as the “picture perfect location for a contemporary design gallery“, they also gave up some 90% of their space: 800 sqm becoming just 65.

What they however gained was display windows. Lots of display windows. And the question of how best to utilise said windows.

Yes, as an extension of the exhibition space and as a continuation of Depot Basel’s mission to mediate design and design thinking to as wide a public as possible.

But how can Depot Basel best use their windows to achieve that?

Commercial galleries who are selling the objects they display have windows as any shop does.

Galleries who understand themselves more as museums rarely have windows. And if they do they are generally blacked out and used solely to present posters advertising what one can view inside. Again, much like a shop window; the “goods” for sale being a visit to an exhibition rather than apples, oranges or an art deco lamp.

Yet as Depot Basel note, “where the purpose of the shopping window is to lure the consumer to wanting to purchase certain items, the designer or artist display has a different agenda that doesn’t necessarily want to connect to the viewers own personal desires and needs, but rather create a tension that will demand the viewer to reflect on what he or she is looking at.”

But, and at the risk of repeating ourselves, how best to achieve that?

Being Depot Basel rather than simply having a team meeting and coming to a collective decision they created a project out of the question, developed a multi-disciplinary, participatory process that goes beyond the windows in question and explores in depth and detail the concept of “displaying”

Under the title “Display” the past two months have seen the collective organise a series of events, workshops and exhibitions, and a project which, at least formally, comes to a close on February 12th with the presentation of the book “Display”

depot basel display

The Depot Basel windows, as seen in the book Display (photo uncredited, published in Display)

Created by the graphic designers Christophe Clarijs, Kasper Pyndt, Timo Demollin and Kaja Kusztra in co-operation with Depot Basel co-founder Matylda Krzykowski, Display contains essays, photographs, illustrations and deliberations on various aspects of “displaying” – be that commercial, museal, public, institutional, informative, deliberate or accidental.

Short essays on, for example, the history of the billboard or the joys of waiting for your baggage at the airport are mixed with analyses of various display strategies and documentation of the events held at Depot Basel as part of the Display programme including the contribution from Basel collective TEOK and the workshop hosted by The Farm.

In an otherwise excellent book what we find a bit unfortunate is that Display makes no mention of the exhibition Okolo Offline, an exhibition which premièred in Depot Basel, including the Depot Basel windows, and which then continued in an extended form to the Kunstgewerbemuseum Dresden as Okolo Offline Two. For although not officially part of the Display programme, in addition to its primary focus on collecting Okolo Offline also explored displaying and thus would have provided another, not uninteresting, perspective on the discourse.

Although in no way a “how to” guide, Display can in many ways be read as an instruction manual for observers. On the one hand it elucidates how those who organise displays try to guide and/or manipulate us, on the other it makes very clear that we are all responsible for the way we perceive, understand and respond to a display and/or displayed object.

And thus that the success, or otherwise, of a display is a direct result of the balance achieved between these, at times, contradictory positions: What have I understood versus Have they understood what they are supposed to.

In a commercial context you must be convinced to consume.
In an informative context you must understand what you have to do, what not to do or where you have to go.
In an exhibition context you must….
Which of course brings us back to the crux of the problem, the raison d’etre for project and book and a topic delightfully handled in a conversation between Maria Jeglinska, Klara Czerniewska and Matylda Krzykowski.

It goes without saying that Display doesn’t provide any answers. But then it can’t. There is no answer. There is only an understanding of how one can best arrive at the best, most appropriate answer. Display lays down a framework to help you understand such in an entertaining, accessible and at times pleasingly abstract fashion.

Available in limited edition of just 100, we suspect Display will sell out very soon. If it hasn’t already.

However, knowing Depot Basel as we do we’re sure they’ll have a plan…..

Full details on Display and Depot Basel can be found at