The biggest story in 21st century design has undoubtedly been the rise of the digital. Armed with new tools — technological, financial and political — we are connecting to each other in unprecedented ways. This powerful reshaping of human experience has brought many social goods, but for many, also a sense of unease. Digital experiences are not necessarily scaled to the human body. They often bring with them a dizzying sense of being unmoored from physicality.
Design has played an instrumental part in making these developments possible, both for better and for worse. And this has prompted searching questions about what values designers should offer next.
Enter Raw Design, an equal and opposite move to the physical. Many designers are “tooling down,” finding new, often low-tech ways to make objects that are both inventive and aesthetic. They are working as experimentalists, pushing past the idea of materiality as something to be shaped, and instead embracing it as the primary medium of their creativity. This tendency, which has been growing organically for a few years now, is not just an opposition movement or an escapist gesture. Raw Design is an exploration of modes of working, often finding inspiration from science, though it is typically carried out in a DIY spirit.
This capsule exhibition for Collective Design Fair, curated by Glenn Adamson, presents some of today’s exciting younger talents working in this direction, as well as long-established figures who anticipated today’s concerns, such as Gaetano Pesce. Also included are raw materials such as minerals, leathers, and pigment. These non-designed objects play off the other works conceptually, provoking viewers to consider acts of design in a broader material context.
Together, Adamson’s selection offers a chance to understand contemporary design in its most fundamental condition: as material intervention.