“Brute Nature” and our “it’s complicated” relationship with this planet, the theme of DesignTalks 2017, is perfectly timed for the crazy current moment. A key component of the DesignMarch festival, DesignTalks is a bespoke and intriguing series bringing together an assortment of field leaders who’ll speak from their international experience, about their shared quest of exploring extremes in contemporary design.
Setting the stage and curating the speakers of DesignTalks is Hlín Helga Guðlaugsdottir. Her background in creative work, design management and teaching were the seeds from which her vision for the series sprang. Her own curiosity, and a desire for a questioning, exploratory dialogue, are evident and inspiring. She’s also perfectly placed to discuss how the small island nation of Iceland is able to engage and lead in such a plethora of creative arenas.
“The theme came very early on,” says Hlín Helga, “from turning on the antennas, and trying to get our heads around what is important now. We’ve seen more social projects that want to deal with complex societal challenges. We are seeing more extremes like beauty and ugliness, and people celebrating really deep human emotions, like love and fear.”
The resulting list of speakers each bring their own unique hand to the game. Alexander Taylor is an industrial designer and creative innovator who works in commercial arenas while exploring environmental issues of waste and consumption. Christien Meindertsma explores ideas of industrialisation, and collaborations with architects on the current state of our world. Elisa Pasqual and Marco Ferrari’s work explores ideas of global warming through visual representation and research elements.
Reconnecting to nature
Virtual Reality and CG world is very present also, with Ersin Han Ersin speaking about work that is centered on human exploration. Michèle Degan will talk about her take on exploration and manipulated perfection through her ‘Vulva Versa’ device. And Paul Bennett will speak on his work on a “big picture” societal approach to challenges and strategies.
“There’s this strange, inspiring thing that happens when you go through 3D virtual realities: the urge to reconnect with nature,” says Hlín Helga. “That’s very telling. But at the same time, it’s interesting as a perspective. It’s not just enough to have the technology—you have to ask, ‘How are we going to use it?’ There’s an increase in these kinds of projects. There is a want to make a mark and make a difference, and not just for the sake of it. I think that there is hope.’
Highlighting contrasts and never shying from the uncomfortable, the common thread of the DesignTalks is one of exposing a certain truth: truth in nature, amongst ourselves and in our work on this weird and wonderful planet. “Natural evolution is full of surprises,” says Hlín Helga, “and the same goes for this project. I’m sure the speakers will reveal something we didn’t expect. The design scene in Iceland is still in its infancy, but things have been moving very fast. What’s interesting is that most Icelanders leave at some point, and then come back, and bring the best back with them. We secretly hope that the DesignTalks and DesignMarch will highlight the potentiality of designers.”
As Hlín Helga says: “The international audience is building, and international interest is brewing. This is very positive for us. The main focus is to support and promote Icelandic design locally and internationally. This has happened very organically, and through collaborations.”
The selected speakers are testament to this. The dishes they are bringing to this metaphorical dinner party are palette-tantalising. Grab a seat.