Live from DesignMai3 in Berlin

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For the third year, the thought-provoking ideas of contemporary designers are enlivening the Berlin scene at the "DesignMai 3" events occuring from 5 to 16 May. The theme this year is "Brave New Worlds?" and the organizers say the question mark is intended
to encourage people to look at how present-day design is gaining in social importance - be it through advertising, in the context of the home, through genetic research, plastic surgery or the continual emergence of new living spaces. But does design help make the world a better place? How can we achieve a situation where design is put to the service of man and not vice versa? What fields of activity will concern the designers of tomorrow?

One of the key events is "Jung+Deutsch" ("Young+German"), casting a spotlight on a new generation of German designers. The coat by Silke Wawro, featured in an earlier Hugger article, will be on display at "Jung+Deutsch". Among the pieces featured in another exhibit, "Youngsters" (even younger than young+German, it seems), is the "eindrittel weiss" ("one-third white") line, an example of which is pictured here. Jana Kulik, Mike Neubauer, Christoph Schmitt are responsible for the concept of revitalizing old objects by using a flawless white treatment to offset the natural patina of use. Of course, every piece produced is absolutely unique--lending the value associated with the exclusivity of haute design--while the second-hand raw materials may help achieve the vaunted design goal of art for the everyman. And just in case the brand name jacks the price up, what better project for DIY? For more pics highlights, keep reading...

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Ralf Breternitz's prototype is about a third white as well, but in this case it is toilets that have been turned into loudspeakers, raising the question of how far the "reuse" objective of reduce, reuse, recycle can be taken.

For those of you who followed the recent lively commentary on the ideas of reusing books to make bookshelves, the proposal of Linea 1 may win points for targeting the first level in the sustainability hierarchy: reducing to a minimum the essence of what it is to be a shelf. Francesco Apuzzo and Irina Jurassic of Berlin have used simple (and recyclable) steel for these shelves, which have a powder coated surface, an environmentally preferable process with low VOC (chemical emissions to air) and low waste generation when done properly.

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Some of the exhibits, unfortunately, have placed the goal of driving consumption above the goals of sustainable product design. We will point out one in particular, because if you have never seen the thousands of "Kinder Ei" (Kid Egg) chocolates strategically placed in German grocery stores to provoke children to beg their parents, then you may miss the joke in Martin Jönsson's "Erwachsen Egg" (Adult Egg). Each "Kinder Ei" contains a miniature plastic toy, to be assembled from small pieces which fit into the egg (about the size of an ordinary chicken egg). The eggs come in series so you know the category of toy contained, but the contents of each individual egg is a surprise. Generally, the lifecycle of these toys is short. Jönsson promises to deliver a limited series of 99 white cases containing "unspecified utility goods":

This project is a survey of customer behaviour and it uses accepted norms of economic psychology and product marketing that require the buyer to consider the risks that consumption always involves. A consumer will bond with the object he purchases; and the object is expected to satisfy the demands and expectations of it's new owner. If you are willing to accept these risks and the participation, to purchase an Erwachsen Egg is a guarantee of a consumer experience in a class of it's own.
I can only imagine the basement corners where the contents of the Erwachsen Eggs will end up: at 1800 € (US$2300), it is too expensive to throw away... For more of the good, the bad and the beautiful, pop into Berlin or check out DesignMai online. [by © C. Lepisto, 2005]