PARIS — Design goes beyond sleek hotels and groovy chairs. It also is being applied to portable phone rings and even eliminating the hanging chads that helped decide the 2000 U.S. presidential election.
Showcasing design’s varied faces and highlighting some of its underappreciated trends is the idea behind “D.Day: Design of Today,” an exhibit bowing June 29 at Paris’ Centre Pompidou Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and running through Oct. 17.
“The field of design is much larger than what people often think,” said Tatiana Fernandez, who organized the exhibit with Valerie Guillaume. “Today design is much more than furniture.”
Indeed, the show features few pieces of furniture. Instead, it tackles ideas such as the political implications of design and how biotechnology advances could potentially influence the field.
Among the other themes that are explored is how design can affect behavior, how it can be used in humanitarian missions, and the growing trend for customization.
Fernandez said practical concerns — at the heart of the old form versus function debate — continue to influence the design process. But she emphasized that designers are making their know-how useful on more complex issues, too.
AIGA, a New York-based association of designers, is an example. The collective has been working on projects that would streamline voting ballots while also creating more enticing voter registration banners.
Such “socially engaged” design, as Fernandez described it, takes on many forms, from the inexpensive solar ovens that were created for refugee camps to a conical device that purifies salt water, created by Stephan Augustin, who also works for BMW.
Design’s impact on the senses is another trend.
“There’s a lot of research being done on how design can positively affect a person’s psychology,” Fernandez said.
For example, Carlotta de Bevilacqua, managing director of brand strategy at Artemide, the Italian light company, has developed lights that change colors so as to influence moods.
Sound and taste are also being designed.
New gastronomical tastes and textures in food have been created by Swiss designer Luki Huber and Ferran Adria, the chef at El Bulli on the Catalan coast near Roses, Spain.
As for sound, Fernandez points to sounds developed for household appliances.
“Today you can make a vacuum cleaner that is silent,” Fernandez said. “But consumers expect it to make a certain noise, and that noise is designed.”
At the same time, technology’s influence is being felt, whether in the realm of mobile phones or video games. The uniformity of much of this technology, though, has led many designers to customize products or transform old pieces with new technology.
German designers Markus Bader and Max Wolf, for example, outfit old stereo components such as turntables with high-tech technology to play music. Several of the duo’s so-called “Bootleg Objects” are displayed.