Salon 26: What is Finnish Design Culture?

Wednesday 24 October, 1400h

Design Factory
Aalto University
Betonimiehenkuja 5C
02150 Espoo

Panel:
Päivi Hietanen
,City Design Manager of the Helsinki Lab.
Petteri Kolinen, CEO Design Forum Finland
Suvi Saloniemi, Chief Curator, Design Museum Helsinki

Chair:  Guy Julier

Free Public Panel Discussion Event
Booking not required.

After an 16 month break, the Design Culture Salon is re-established in Helsinki. We are starting off with a local question of  ‘What is Finnish Design Culture?’.

Finland is hot. Hardly a day goes by without an article in the international press extolling the virtues of Finland’s more equal society, its high happiness index and, of course, the strength of its design. But what are Finnish design’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? How is Finnish design culture shaped and what consolidates it? How does the turn towards service design and design thinking re-shape conceptions of Finnish design? Is it appropriate, in an era of globalisation, to talk about design in national terms?

These are just some of the questions we shall be discussing with our panel.

Biographies

Päivi Hietanen works as a City Design Manager for Helsinki Lab that implements design thinking within the City of Helsinki. Päivi manages the operations of the Lab that supports city divisions in developing their services and customer experience, based on the new Helsinki City Strategy. The goal is to combine design, digitalization and dialogue to create better city together with the citizens. Päivi holds a Master´s degree in architecture from University of Oulu. During WDC Helsinki 2012 Päivi managed a major design program that promoted design thinking in public and third sector organizations.

Petteri Kolinen is an industrial designer and holds a Masters in Design Leadership. He has a long experience in various managerial positions in design from diverse industries. In 1993–2007, Kolinen worked at Nokia as Design Manager, responsible for various teams, as well as e.g. managing the Design Studio at the Keilaniemi headquarters. After this, he was a member of the Group Management Team and Design Director at Martela. He joined Design Forum Finland from Nanso, where he held the post of Creative Director.

Rose Matthews is a Design Lead with global experience in developing new services for health, finance and government. Having initially trained as a nurse in the UK, Rose turned to design as a way to achieve greater impact on a larger population and has never lost sight of that aim. In recent years she’s worked with Fjord, the Australian Government, Asia Development Bank and with organisations seeking to build their own design capabilities.

Suvi Saloniemi is a specialist in contemporary design and visual arts. Since 2012 she has been the Chief Curator of Design Museum Helsinki, a Finnish specialist museum founded in 1873 with a collection of 75 000 objects. Her expertise is in Scandinavian design, collectible design, critical practises, museums and global design networks. Her international tasks include projects in NYC, London, Stockholm, Moscow and Seoul.  She is an active speaker, and has many positions of trust such as nominator for the Designs of the Year in London Design Museum. She has newly started in the advisory board of Chart Design Fair, Copenhagen. Suvi Saloniemi’s background is in art history studies at the University of Helsinki and at the University of Stockholm, and in curating studies at the Aalto University of Art, Design and Architecture.

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Reflections on The Performance of Protest: a panel on visual culture and aesthetics

Friday 9 June, 2017. Muzzy-headed after election night, panelists and participants for the final Salon of this season filed into the dark of the ICA’s cinema space for an afternoon of laughter and concern. As a panel on the Performance of Protest, this was to focus more on the thought that, as Aidan McGarry pointed out, democracy takes place beyond the ballot box. So what ever viewpoints on the election night before remain, the struggle goes on.

Beyond the ballot box is where attitudes and political viewpoints get changed, Aidan argued. It is where positions are played out in various locations and through various media. Performance is important in this. Often, this fills out cultural fissures — the unsuspecting gaps where we don’t necessarily expect political utterances — with challenging messages.

‘La Beauté est dans la rue’: iconic slogan and image from Paris 1968

The panel itself was built on an AHRC-funded research project at the University of Brighton that is investigating the ‘Aesthetics of protest: Visual culture and communication in Turkey. This a country where, currently, there are sometimes heavy consequences to such acts. Pelin Başaran reminded us that deep strains exist at the backdrop to protest. In recent years in Turkey, over 100,000 civil servants have lost their jobs as a result of political tensions. Given the challenges of public protest, new spaces have to be found which both avoid issues of censorship but also by their very act may draw attention to the processes of censorship at the same time.

What are the choices? Presentations by Işil Eğrikaruk and Umut Korkut showed two complementary opposites. One is in the staging of complex, spectacular events that are absurd, playful and revealing. The other is in making an event of the mundane, where the simplest act becomes a radical gesture. It’s about context, of course.

In broad terms, Umut Korkut noted how authoritarianism may not necessarily disappear upon regime change. Drawing from his research in Hungary, he argued that while a backdrop of moving from command-economy state socialism to neoliberal models takes place, authoritative styles may remain and/or be extended. The use of absurdity therefore becomes a last resort in preserving hope and dignity — it outflanks the opposition.

The 2013 Taksim Gezi Park protests in Istanbul were undoubtedly important in the unfolding of various tactics of protest. The protests themselves stemmed from objections to a plan to demolish the park and build a shopping mall and luxury flats in its place.

However, beyond the concerns for the denigration of public space and environmental destruction, objections rippled out so that the Gezi Park was transformed into a symbolic space for the assertion of other positions (for instance, LGBT rights, rights to assembly or the defence of secularism). Within this, particular actions and objects became iconic: the ‘Lady in Red’; the makeshift gas mask (exhibited as part of the V&A’s ‘Disobedient Objects‘ show); the whirling dervish in gas mask. These became international, digital media events that were moved around the world that were associated with the Gezi Park protests but also a more general translation of concern into visual and material form. Ordinary acts — practising yoga, playing backgammon, having a conversation — were also assertions of humanity among the turbulence of that hot summer. If nothing else, this demonstrates the richness and breadth that is available in the aesthetics of protest.

‘Change Will Be Terrific!’ This is the title of an artistic project that Işil Eğrikaruk and Jozef E. Amado undertook in 2012. It involved a proposal to buy and exhibit the Pyramids, Parthenon and Palymira in Istanbul’s Taksim Square (before the Gezi Park issues kicked off, therefore). It culminated in a performance, photo series and rap that were presented through the medium of a TV chat show. Again, the political messages in this were multiple including the absence of new cultural developments in Istanbul and Turkey’s isolationism from its neighbours. This sophisticated project was full of twists and turns, unfolding in sometimes improvised ways as historical events caught up with it.

l. to r.: Guy Julier, Pelin Başaran, Aidan McGarry, Işil Eğrikaruk, Umut Korkut. Photo:  Olu Jenzen

The close relationships of the spectacular and the mundane in the context of the aesthetics of protest seem inevitable. Borders between high and low cultural expression, the original and its serial reproduction or the functional and the symbolic are collapsed. Humour is poignant in both.

Politics and protest isn’t just about hard facts and figures but also bout capturing the imagination. Something, judging by the surprise of the UK election results and their aftermath, that Jeremy Corbyn succeeded in it seems.

Cue White Stripes, Seven Nation Army chant.

@guyjulier

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Reflections on Design Culture Salon 25: Design School Imaginaries in Neoliberal Times

This Salon came during the heady and feverish season of art and design degree shows in the UK. Once the display boards are dismantled, the degree results promulgated and we’ve swept up, there is often a feeling of summer ennui.

Was the degree show worth it? What are these graduates going to do out in the post-University world? What have we learnt?

And then the summer holidays pass, we relax a bit (perhaps) and then we get back to business as normal for the new academic year.

At the end of this Salon, our chair, Lucy Kimbell asked, ‘Have we reached peak design school?’

l. to r.: Joahanna Boenhert, Cameron Tonkinwise, Guy Julier, Jamie Brassett, Lucy Kimbell (photo: Naomi Bailey-Cooper)

All the panelists (including this one) agreed that we had – all for different reasons. Call us jaded if you like, but there was a unanimous feeling that there has been enough ‘training’ or ‘education’ of designers for a particular worldview (a predominantly neoliberal one) and that the only way to break this relentless cycle of disciplining individuals to be creative (in a very particular way) is to stop design schooling. Perhaps this could be basis of a new De.School…?

Certainly, with around three times more design graduates each year than there are design jobs for them, it has been time to reconsider what design schools are there for a long while. That’s if we are to view design schools in their current dominant state: as worker-mills that churn out neoliberal-compliant, ‘industry-ready’ individuals to fill out the precariat of interships or the barely-paid short-term contracts that make up the junior labour force of the creative industries.

But, perhaps, if we see the role of design schools to decouple design research, education and practice from the multiple vectors of neoliberalism then we can pull them back from this brink and rethink them. For me, and drawing a bit on the reflections of other panelists, Johanna Boehnert, Jamie Brassett and Cameron Tonkinwise, this requires a reframing of the output of design schools. By this, I don’t just mean the skills and knowledge that graduates leave with but also the way by which they are presented.

While degree shows provide a nice opportunity to celebrate material output, see old friends and have a glass of warm white wine, they largely reproduce the performative spectacle of design as told through the reified object. Of course, I’m not the first to say this, and, indeed, these Design Culture Salons are, in part, a way of coming at design in a different way from this, to open up its fissures and discourses.

So how do we align the important work of design in exploring and extending material realities in ways that confront, adjust and/or articulate the multiple crises (of capital, of environment, of equality, of representation, of identity etc.) that we are facing?

Before I answer this, let me add in a rejoinder. This is that we should be talking about design schools rather than the design school. We should resist all those totalising notions of design and the design school (which, by default, means ‘design in service mode to neoliberalism’). If I sound like a broken record then fine, but there are many models for design schools that provide starting points:  craft-based, business-oriented, user-centred, individual-focused, teamwork-developing, engineering-driven, sustainability-grounded and so on. The difficulty, though, is that they still currently come under a singular rubric of employment culture and politics. They are still pretty much about training for a very specific set of economic and political circumstances.

In recent years, we have seen increased spillage of design research and practice into other knowledge domains through approaches such as design thinking, social design, design anthropology, strategic design, design for policy, transition design, design culture as practice and several other specialisms. Design education has lagged behind these, though.

However, would it not be compelling to stop worrying about these in the design school, but to site design education outside its traditional settings? In social science departments, medical schools, healthcare settings, or community centres, for example? Can these be the kinds of places where design education can get reframed in powerful, informed and challenging ways?

Anyone who has visited the former Bauhaus school in Dessau will be struck by their majestic, utopian environment. This utopianism — of the hermetically sealed, creative environment — lingers on in most design schools.

Half a century ago, design students and tutors were talking about throwing bricks through the Bauhaus windows, but this was just the beginnings of a stylistic break with Modernism. Generally, they have been peering outward through these broken windows ever since. Few have climbed out of them to establish themselves elsewhere, though.

Such moves might not entirely remove design and design schools from the neoliberal order. I’m not sure if neoliberalism can ever be fully eradicated (pace Simon Springer). But we still have to come back to the original proposition of this Salon and talk about this connection and how it can be redirected. The first step is to reveal and explain the deep links between the two. The next step might be to explore how design can function, along with other fields, in new and different ways.

Photo: Naomi Bailey-Cooper

In a blog that followed the Salon, Johanna Boehnert neatly summed up what she was thinking – and probably all of us. Read the whole blog with attention, but here is an extract as the last word of this particular blog (but do join in the discussion):

Design schools sit at a pivotal place in enabling neoliberal assumptions, processes and institutions. Design is a practice involved with making new ways of living possible by inspiring particular feelings, attitudes and subjectivities. Neoliberalism depends on having its ideological premises accepted and internalised and thus one of the primary roles for design is to create an illusion of wholesomeness that masks exploitative dynamics. Designers are involved in constructing the subjective grip of the neoliberal orderbut we can do other things. Design schools need to make these options clear. The only way we can do this work is with a critical approach to the power. Design schools that want to enable…progressive futures that serve rather than exploit young people need to check their politics now.

 

@guyjulier
(all opinions my own — although they are probably also owned by WordPress)
21 June 2017

 

 

 

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The Performance of Protest: a panel on visual culture and aesthetics

Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall
London SW1Y 5AH

Cinema 1

Friday 9 June, 1600h

Free event:  Book Tickets

Chair
Professor Catherine Moriarty
, Curatorial Director of the University of Brighton Design Archives 

Panel
Pelin Basaran
, Programme Manager, Contact, Manchester
Isil Egrikavuk
, Performance Artist, Istanbul
Dr. Umut Korkut, Reader at Glasgow School for Business and Society, Glasgow Caledonian University
Dr. Aidan McGarry, Lecturer in Politics, University of Brighton

This panel discussion focusses on the relationship between art, protest and performance. Recent years has witnessed a huge increase in the number of protests around the world which have challenged economic institutions and political practices, including the Arab Spring, Occupy movements, pro-women’s movements in the US and beyond, and anti- austerity movements across Europe. Protestors have a range of options open to them in order to get their voice heard and increasingly protestors use aesthetics in order to communicate their ideas to the public. The role of social media in amplifying the performance of protest is considered, especially the production and dissemination of visual imagery.

The aesthetics of protest may include visual, material, textual and performative elements of protest, such as images, symbols, graffiti, clothes, art, but also other elements such as forms of rhetoric, slang, humour, slogans, as well as the choreography of protest actions in public spaces. This panel brings together artists/practitioners and academics to discuss the performance of protest in contentious politics. Whilst panelists will discuss Turkey and the Gezi Park protests in particular it will other explore manifestations of the performance of protest around the world.

Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the University of Brighton

This event is part of Crossings: Stories of Migration, an ICA-led UK-wide film and events programme organised in partnership with the Goethe-Institut and with support from the BFI, awarding funds from The National Lottery.

 

Free event:  Book Tickets

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Design School Imaginaries in Neoliberal Times

Tuesday 6 June 1730-1900
University of the Arts, 272 High Holborn

 

Panel:
Dr Johanna Boehnert
, University of Westminster/EcoLabs
Dr Jamie Brassett, Reader and Course Leader, MA Innovation Management, Central Saint Martins, UAL
Professor Guy Julier, University of Brighton/Victoria and Albert Museum
Professor Lucy Kimbell, Director, Innovation Insights Hub, UAL
Professor Cameron Tonkinwise, University of New South Wales

Location:
G05
University of the Arts London,
272 High Holborn,
London WC1V 7EY
,

 

What’s the future for design schools within neoliberal universities? Is design accelerating the neoliberalisation of universities or affording pathways to alternatives? Should design schools take the lead or take leave of universities?

In the UK, change is afoot in multiple domains – not just the future of the country, its relation to Europe and its constitutional make-up, but also the ways it enables teaching and learning and does research. Like universities in general, UK design schools in particular face a number of challenges including: falling numbers of student applications, limitations on non-UK students studying and remaining in the UK after graduation, reduced academic autonomy, changes in public funding and the valuing of STEM above STEAM (eg http://chead.ac.uk/policy-update), even while the creative and cultural industries grow at a higher rate than other economic sectors. Current emphasis on teaching excellence, graduate employability, audit culture and demonstrating research impact mask a deeper problem – uncertainty about the roles and capacities of design’s higher educational institutions to produce people equipped to deal with lives of change and disruptions to the nature of work, place, well-being and belonging.

Attempts to articulate the specificity and contribution of design higher education are undermined by ignoring its location within institutions that are increasingly expected to reproduce, rather than question, dominant economic models and thinking. Market models of design education such as Hyper Island, Kaos Pilots and General Assembly, online initiatives such as IDEO U, alongside more critical exploratory approaches such as The University of the Underground or the Free University Brighton indicate emerging futures for design schools – which may not be in universities.

Taking an oblique angle to consider these topics, this panel discussion will share insights on higher education in design informed by innovation studies, design activism, philosophy and social design.

Free event but booking is essential

To book a place please email:   n.baileycooper@arts.ac.uk.

Organised by the UAL Innovation Insights Hub and Design Culture Salon

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections on Beyond Neoliberalism: how might we conceive and reconceive the relationships of contemporary design and economics?

There is always the danger in heated debate that positions get polarised. Clear lines of attack and defence can be useful. But I often wonder if we are exploring the grey areas sufficiently.

When it comes to considering the interweaving of design culture and neoliberalism there are lots of grey areas. Where do we extract the good, the bad and the ugly in this but also acknowledge the compromises and confusions? Can we live with the liminality that design so often produces? In design culture’s constant processes of becoming, is it possible to draw distinct lines of politics and intention within economies?

I don’t have clear answers to these questions. Perhaps all we can do is observe and analyse what is going on in this interweaving and build an anticipatory form of design politics that no longer condemns design to an on-going reactive state.

Design and neoliberalism are both processes of transformation. Indeed, it is probably more accurate to talk of neoliberalisation in this respect, rather than neoliberalism. Rather than think of it as an unchanging, inflexible aim we might read it as a mutable, dodging-and-weaving practice. In bringing a discussion of design and neoliberalisation together, then, we have to acknowledge their multiple possibilities and realities.

l. to r.: Jamie Brassett, Guy Julier, Liz Moor, Louis Moreno, Rosario Hurtado, Roberto Feo. Central St Martins, University of Arts London (picture: Jocelyn Bailey)

Liz Moor described this relationship more viscerally:  design is brought into the firefight of capitalism. It works both to produce asset value while plugging the leaks of the welfare state. In the first of these, it is hoping to make something worth more in the future, either in its use or exchange value. In the second, it is basically there to save money as the state shrinks while attempting to continue to provide some semblance of traditional state provision (education, health etc.).

Roberto Feo and Rosario Hurtado extended the notion of design moving into capitalism’s many spaces suggesting that its seepage everywhere means that it ends up always being about context rather than itself. This forces design practice into a constant state of service rather than into a propositional mode. Even where it is ‘propositional’ this may still be provisional and subaltern to whoever is paying. This service mode continues to be the dominant paradigm for design education — merely producing ‘industry ready’ graduates.

Louis Moreno placed design’s complicity with the commercial marketplace in the framework of Karl Polanyi’s 1944 book, The Great Transformation. Here, Polanyi spoke of the ways by which nature, labour and money get turned into fictitious commodities. These are things that are not specifically created for the market but are turned into commodities. Indeed, they are embedded into social relationships that were, hitherto to capitalism, part of moral control outside the market. Subsequently, however, out of nature, labour and money we get design highly active in turning these into assets: land banks, cultural capital, funds and so on. As a reactive field, design is constrained into the micro-economic whose sense of futurity is compressed into the near present.

There are institutions that lie or attempt to lie outside the neoliberal order. The National Health Service is one of them. I would hazard that the majority of its 1.7million employees and the UK public understand an inviolability of the concept that it exists not to be an active agent within capitalist systems but to do something else. Perhaps we should ask the same of education. To what extent should it function to produce social goods rather than in service to a particular view of the economy? And what would it mean for this emphasis to be revived? Can it do both?

 

 

 

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Beyond Neoliberalism: how might we conceive and reconceive the relationships of contemporary design and economics?

Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London
Friday, 17 March 2017
18:30 to 20:00

Granary Square, Granary Building,
Kings Cross, London N1C 4AA

BOOK

In orthodox circles, design is understood to ‘add value’ within capitalist economies, making goods more saleable and spaces more attractive. But is this too reductive?

In what other ways does contemporary design take part in the making of neoliberal economic, cultural and social processes? How can design reveal and critique its own economic practices? And can alternative economic futures be designed, or is design destined to be eternally co-opted into dominant business models?

Chair:  Jamie Brassett, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London

Panel:
Robert Feo and Rosario Hurtado, El Ultimo Grito/Goldsmiths University of London
Guy Julier, University of Brighton/Victoria & Albert Museum                        
Liz Moor, Goldsmiths, University of London
Louis Moreno, Goldsmiths, University of London

This event is part of the Victoria and Albert Museum & University of Brighton’s ‘Design Culture Salon’, which has been on tour lately, notably in Vienna and Shenzhen. It coincides with the launch of Guy Julier’s new book Economies of Design (Sage Publications).

This event is free, but if you are not a student or staff at Central St Martins you must book here.

 

Biographies:

Jamie Brassett is Reader in Philosophy, Design & Innovation at Central Saint Martins, where he has been Course Leader for MA Innovation Management since its inception in 2008. Recently, Jamie co-edited with Betti Marenko the Deleuze & Design collection for Edinburgh University Press as part of their ‘Deleuze Connections’ series. He is currently working on a book with Richard Reynolds on Superheroes & Excess, as well as articles on smart design, a creative philosophy of anticipation, the ontological ethics of design & uncertain futures.

Roberto Feo and Rosario Hurtado are the Post Disciplinary studio El Ultimo Grito. Founded in 1997, their studio is currently based in London. El Ultimo Grito’s work continuously researches our relationships with objects and culture. They teach and research in design at Goldsmiths, University of London. Rosario Hurtado read Economics at Alcala de Henares University in Madrid, before moving to London in1989 where she studied Cabinet Making at the London College of Furniture and completed her BA in Industrial Design at Kingston University. Roberto Feo read Sociology and Social Anthropology at Complutense University in Madrid, before moving to London in 1990. He studied Furniture Design at the London College of Furniture followed by an MA in Furniture Design at The Royal College of Art. He currently co-runs the Space and Communication at HEAD-Genève.

Guy Julier is Professor of Design Culture at the University of Brighton. His books include The Culture of Design, 3rd Revised Edition (2014) and Economies of Design (2017). He has researched and written on design and political transition in Spain and Hungary, design activism, social design and theories of design culture.

Liz Moor is Senior Lecturer in Media & Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is author of The Rise of Brands (2007) and co-editor with Guy Julier of Design and Creativity: Policy, Management and Practice (2009). She is currently writing a book entitled ‘Money and Communication’ for Polity Press.

Louis Moreno’s research, teaching and writing explores the spatial relationships and political economic forces that shape the social and cultural forms of everyday life. Specialising in urbanism and spatial theory, Louis’s academic background spans literature and philosophy, architectural history, urban geography and political theory. Louis’s PhD research examined the urban incubation and architectural effects of financialised capitalism in post-industrial Britain. His current research examines the urban processes and cultural logic of financialised capitalism.

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