Design initiatives showcasing resilience through creativity during the pandemic
Around the globe over the past year we have seen examples of human life shifting gears. In the creative world, we’ve been inspired by brands who have stepped up to use design expertise to devise ventilators, sanitiser and masks. Now we are focusing the lens on what the design and art community is sharing on virtual platforms and beyond to keep energised. Enduring hardship, institutions, designers and artists are expanding horizons and showing how design can continue to innovate and unite.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Toronto-based designer Jamie Wolfond and Rotterdam-based ‘textilish product designer’ Adrianus Kundert joined virtual forces across the ocean to launch an Instagram-based, collective design project. The idea for the initiative was simple: every week, the pair would launch a brief on the social media platform (from their account, @_basketclub_), asking designers to weave an object inspired by an emoji. What started as a project for an intimate group of 12 international designers (and an orange), has now developed into a multi-effort platform with a weekly open call and a roster of participating designers that include Garth Roberts, Samy Rio, Carole Baijings, Ladies and Gentlemen Studio, and a collaboration with American textile brand Maharam, who provided materials for some of the creations.
The project’s latest iteration features the digital collective’s first physical exhibition, held at Karimoku’s new Tokyo showroom and featuring 12 Basketclub participants who were invited to explore traditional Japanese woven techniques. The designers were encouraged to reimagine the craft with a contemporary spin, and were inspired by the Japanese tradition of using baskets in everyday activities, from carrying to cooking and even drying flowers.
Curator Federica Sala was tasked to instil new life into the empty shop windows of Milan’s Via Della Spiga. The project was started by VIA Visiting Installation Art, an initiative created to ‘encourage rebirth and recovery’ in collaboration with shop owners in the area. Titled Viavài (meaning ‘coming and going’ in Italian), the project is developed as a contemporary art show through the street’s shop windows, featuring pieces by Nathalie du Pasquier, Lorenzo Vitturi, Regine Schumann, Gianluca Malgeri and Arina Endo.
‘The owners of these spaces share the common desire to see a new cultural revival in the neighborhood,’ reads a statement from the organizers. ‘While waiting for the “coming and going” of passers-by, which once animated the street and its surroundings, to resume.’
The Soap Project by House of Today
In response to the ongoing health and economic crisis, Beirut-based design platform House of Today launches The Soap Project, an initiative involving 14 Lebanese designers creatively re-interpreting soap design. One of the most basic materials, soap has become both an essential necessity and desirable product. The project started from an idea of curator Anne-France Berthelon, to support the Lebanese design industry during the pandemic, and evolved with an open call from House of Today to invite designers to approach soap as a creative material and develop a new piece in collaboration with vegetable soap makers Senteurs d’Orient (who donated the raw materials).
The resulting projects range from conceptual and poetic interpretations of soap to more functional approaches. Architectural practice Bits to Atoms used it as a raw building material, developing it into a substance that can be 3D printed (above), while designer Karel Kargodorian was inspired by the experience of isolation, and used the soap to create objects hanging from a mobile, offering companionship in solitude (top picture).
Others, like Guilaine Elias, Dalia Husseini and Suzanne Anhoury worked collaboratively to create imaginary soap landscapes (above), placing sculptures carved from the material in symbolic locations across the world where the pandemic had a profound impact.
These playful DIY devices can be built using household materials and simple instructions. Created by Interaction Research Studio (a Goldsmith University, London, initiative that employs design to enhance everyday life through technology), the machines use the internet to share a moment across the world, including light, sound, ideas and moods, and encourage sharing and interaction at a time when isolation feels like normality. ‘Yo-Yo Machines complement Zoom or telephone calls by giving a frequent and casual feeling of presence, and are a bit of a solace at a time when we’d really like to visit,’ says the team behind the project. The Yo-Yo Machines, they explain, build on three decades of research into ‘systems that support peripheral and emotional awareness remotely,’ translating it into simple technology that promotes intimate interaction.
Pop a Bottle, Make a Tiny Chair
Giving new meaning to all those champagne bottles popped in solitude this holiday season is Design Within Reach’s ‘Pop a Bottle, Make a Tiny Chair’ charity initiative. DWR’s annual chair contest, this year in partnership with Champagne Pommery, invites entrants to create a chair with their leftover Champagne cork. Entrants are invited to get creative, using foil, label, cap, cage, and cork from no more than two champagne bottles to make a chair (which can be an original design or a reproduction), photograph it on a neutral background and publish it on Instagram using tags @designwithinreach and #dwrchampagnechair before 05 January. For each entry, Herman Miller Cares will donate $50 to Artist Relief, a charity providing financial help to artists during the pandemic.
Volunteer Architects Limited
Volunteer Architects Limited and SIKI IM STUDIO’s limited edition T-Shirt was created to support pandemic recovery efforts in Queens’ Jackson Heights – one of the communities that were hit the hardest by COVID-19. Born to offer free design services to disadvantaged communities, Volunteer Architects Limited include ARO, Design Advocates, LTL, MOS, nARCHITECTS, SO-IL and WORKac, working together to create a series of tools and programmes to support the area’s people and systems. Current projects include outdoors seating and installations, assistance to local businesses to reopen during the pandemic and ongoing proposals to assist with outdoors events and activities. One hundred per cent of the proceeds from the T-Shirt sales will be used to support these projects, and more.
Jumpthegap by Roca
Barcelona-based brand Roca are changing the course of its annual design contest for the ninth edition. This year, it is offering the platform as a space to share ideas and projects on products or services related to the functions of the bathroom space, such as sanitation, hygiene, and wellbeing as a response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Held in colaboration with Barcelona Design Center, the initiative is inviting designers and architects to propose their creative solutions from 8-23 June of which five selected projects will be annouced on 23 July. Pictured: Iranian designer Mohammad Reza Shahmohammadi’s winning design from the 7th edition – a clever rethink of the bathtub shape called Panacea.
Canadian COVID Creators Network
Growing concerns for the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) has seen designers rise to the occasion. Over in Canada, architecture studio PARTISANS has joined forces community services group WoodGreen to launch Canadian COVID Creators Network – a project that encouragesthe creative community to use their expertise to 3D print and distribute shields. Open source designs have been created by industrial design model shop lead Teddy Shropshire, and can be downloaded from a website designed by Toronto-based studio, Puncture.
‘Here Comes The Sun’ by Paul Cocksedge Studio
Planning for the future can be tricky right now, but British designer Paul Cocksedge has turned the potential long-term social distancing rules into a new project. Titled ‘Here comes the sun,’ a proposal for a post-lockdown future sees him realise a blanket where people are guided to sit two metres apart, as advised by the government. Thought to be used during social situations when lockdown eases, Cocksedge’s design is downloadable, and encourages people to devise their own using his template (pictured), also offering a creative challenge at home.
‘As a designer that works with sizes and measurements on a daily basis, I sometimes find it hard to accurately interpret two metres - which is a common problem we’re all having at the moment.’ says Cocksedge. ‘It adds a level of worry to our future interactions. This blanket is a playful answer to that and works as a democratic piece of design that anyone can download and make.’ Next step with the project is to develope a 3D furniture version. Watch this space.
This initiative is the brainchild of photographer James Holborow, who launched this at the point when freelance incomes were looking uncertain. The online print shop functions as a platform for creatives to continue to sell their work, while also donating proceeds to The Trussell Trust, a UK based charity servicing food banks around the country. Artists and photographers on the roster include the likes of Thea Løvstad, Liam Mertens (print pictured) and Scott Licznerski. ‘Many self-employed creatives are faced with losing income [when asked to isolate], with the majority of upcoming jobs cancelled,’ says Holborow. ‘ServiceShop aims to help creatives by both promoting their art and generating a source of income – however small – to aid them through this tough time. By championing their work, we hope to be of some support to artists amid the crisis.’
Jaime Hayon Instagram drawing
The Spanish designer and artist has been sharing his whimsical drawings on social media, and inviting his followers to print and get creative with colouring these in. Reaching those as home, Hayon’s drawing leaves space for individuals to fill in their country flag and name, creating a unique artwork in collaboration with the Valencia-based creative himself. Hayon has been sharing these over on his handle @jaimehayon – the results are vibrant, motivating and intricate.
Isolation chair by Max Enrich
While being at home, Barcelona-based designer Max Enrich was keen to build a chair, ‘but [I] rapidly realised I had no materials at home.’ So he turned to what he did have – Alpen Swiss Style muesli and Kellogg’s choco krispies in his kitchen cupboard. He posted some of these crafted creations onto his feed, and asked his followers to get resourceful in their domestic environments too. Watch the hashtag #isolationchair for seating that is amusingly contemporary, and made out from everything from olives, shoes, books, sponges and more.
Fountain of Hygiene: Sanitiser Design Competition
Raising money for Red Cross, London-based creative studio Bompass & Parr are launching a competition for creatives, designers, makers and architects to rethink traditional hand sanitiser pumps. In the hope to reframe how we think about global health, the challenge asks individuals to consider social and environmental impact too. Results will be viewable online and chosen entries will go on view at London’s Design Museum once it reopens and auctioned by Christie’s for the charity. ‘We hope that the shortlisted entries of the Sanitiser Design Competition will demonstrate the importance of research and innovative thinking,’ says Tim Marlow, chief executive and director of Design Museum. ‘We look forward to seeing the entries at the museum and raising money for an important cause.’
Milano Art Guide – The Colouring Book
On the back of exhibition cancellations in Milan, this project, by Rossella Farinotti and Gianmaria Biancuzzi, allows people to engage with artworks in a new experimental way. Download a plethora of contemporary artworks – including whimsical pieces like L.O.V.E by Maurizio Cattelan (pictured) and domestic illustrations from Linda Carrara – and get your colouring kit out.
Hope and Togetherness at Carpenters Workshop Gallery
In the name of camaraderie, Carpenters Workshop Gallery are launching a new exhibition in its digital viewing room on 3 April. Here, under the theme of Hope and Togetherness, works including Atelier Van Lieshout’s Family Lamp and Minimal Kiss, and the calming and ethereal Flylight by Studio DRIFT (pictured) can be found. Coinciding with this, the gallery are taking us backstage on its Instagram account, to explore inside some of these artist’s studios, and get a glimpse of what they are currently working on. §