DesignMai5 in Berin: Digitalability

Were you here celebrating the fifth year of DesignMai bringing cutting edge design trends to Berlin? If not, it was your loss. Around the theme of "Digitalability", DesignMai sought to explore the interactions of design with the tools of the digital age as well as the possibilities for designing in the era of virtual reality. The interface of design with social action was pushed once again in the amnesty international competition in which designers were asked to submit designs supporting action on human rights campaigns for the "design on duty" competition. The best designs were shown in award ceremonies at the Kulturbrauerei (Q: just how cool is a city with a "Culture Brewery"?).

Two exhibits demonstrated viscerally the power of rapid prototyping for designing. In Sketch Furniture by Front, three dimensional air-drawings are captured by laser solidification of liquid plastic. Lines which appeared to be drawn in the air materialized as solid three-dimensional objects, completely obliterating the distinction between concept and reality. The second exhibit demonstrated the potential for absolute customization in sport glasses designed to fit exactly to the contures of the customer's face. How do these new capabilities support green design? Of course, any technique for making more stuff creates a risk of over-consumption; but the ability to prototype designs is an important tool for waste minimization, energy- and material-efficient execution of projects and other goals of green designers.

The Vogt + Weizenegger Relationchip project cast a new light on the trend for giving old clothes a new life. By use of radio-frequency identification chips, the project creates a relationship chain between the original and new owners of hand-me-down pieces of clothing, showing a new meaning to the concept of community in the world of recycling. I read once that everyone is a surprisingly small number of handshakes away from everyone else. Could recycled clothing ever spread widely enough that we could find ourselves in theoretical relationship-chains with any other person in our community?

In the closing day symposium on design in Second Life, Aram Bartholl got a chuckle for his slide show of the installation event at the Plazes party which co-opted party attendees into a real-life version of the "bubbles speak" which gaming avatars use. Matthias Böttger examined the spacial aspects of three-dimensional virtual worlds; demonstrating most interestingly parallels between the way actual cities develop and the way the virtual worlds are populated. Philosophically most provacative was the presentation by Florian Schmidt, which posed the question of how social conventions in the real world do or do not impose themselves in virtual reality. In the Q&A; discussions of the panel, the simple aspects of virtual reality for design--prototyping, market surveys, virtual product introductions--were quickly left behind in favor of bigger questions ranging from: "how does a world without gravity affect design?" to "how much influence can designers have on the social fabric of worlds which we humans design ourselves?" Not to mention "why are so many humans predictably boring in a world without any limits to the imagination?"

Perhaps the convergence of "mass customization" enabled by rapid prototyping technology and the freedom of individuals to invent themselves in worlds of our own making is utopia: a world in which everyone is designer and designed. Green design, let's hope.

Via: Live from Berlin
Image ::znrR at Flickr

Tags: Berlin | Germany