Major exhibition for London Design Festival
The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design's exhibition - The Problem Comes First - shown in the Upper Gulbenkian Gallery at the Royal College of Art from 22 September to 5 October 2011 - was part of the RCA's contribution to the London Design Festival 2011.
In name and form, it makes deliberate reference to a landmark exhibition brought to the V&A Boilerhouse Project in London 25 years ago by the Danish Design Council to promote Danish design.
Jens Bernsen, then director of the Danish Design Council, created an exhibition called Design: The Problem Comes First. The premise of this popular show was very simple: to create meaningful design, first you must define the problem you are trying to solve. For example, the Velux window was designed as a solution to admitting light and air through the roof to make loft rooms habitable. Bernsen memorably wrote: 'Good design is not only solving problems but also stating them.'
The Danish Design Council's exhibition and accompanying education programme was hugely successful and influential at the time. 25 years later, at a time when Europe needs to innovate to address a whole new range of social problems, its message is more relevant than ever.
Too much design solves problems that don't really exist. We don't really need another stylish chair or coffee table, for example. We do need to design for an ageing population, a better healthcare system and a more sustainable future by defining the real problems that are out there - and that means designing with people.
The exhibition was curated by Jeremy Myerson, Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design and Rama Gheerawo at the RCA and designed by Chiaro Bello and Emilia Serra.
The exhibition features a design projects undertaken by the research team in the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design 2011. Each project showcases a statement of the problem being addressed - and how that act of problem definition has directed the designer towards a solution.
On the theme of social inclusion, for example, problem areas include the social isolation of older people, lack of residential accommodation for autistic adults and the stigmatising nature of hearing aids. On the theme of healthcare, problem areas include unsafe and unhygienic ambulances, medical error on hospital wards, ineffective neck braces for spinal cord patients, and inappropriate care for pregnant women.
Exhibits include a full-size mock-up of an ambulance interior.
The Problem Comes First
22 September- 5 October 2011
Upper Gulbenkian Gallery, Royal College of Art
The Problem Comes First is supported by the European Commission Representation in the UK through its co-funding of cultural activities.