Did you know that there are over 44,000 practising designers living in New York City? Add that number to the nearly 4000 design firms and the 10 schools of design and architecture which also call New York their home and you find a city that takes its design seriously. No surprise that the city recently hosted an extensive program at NYCxDESIGN.
Held from 3 – 17 May and now in its fourth year, NYCx DESIGN celebrates New York’s diverse design economy. All design disciplines – stretching from digital, furniture, graphic, architecture, product and urban – were represented with an innovative and extensive program featuring exhibitions, installations, trade shows, talks, launches and open studios.
Participants included, amongst others, the Frieze Art Fair, the Parsons School of Design, the Pratt Institute and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. There was strong support from the New York City Council who, recognising the importance of the festival, invested $100,000 towards its expansion this year.
“NYCxDESIGN has strengthened NYC’s image as a design capital, and each year we look forward to supporting the design industry and its impact on New Yorkers and the world. From the design schools to the design firms, the industry plays an essential role in the city’s creative and business communities,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Variety was the name of the game at NYCxDESIGN, with 50 events held across New York’s five boroughs.
Art lovers could head to MoMA to join its open art lab or take in the exhibition of design pioneer Muriel Cooper’s work, a recent acquisition to MoMA collection.
Shopaholics could indulge in a spot of private browsing at a fashion pop-up in a Brooklyn brownstone or cast an eye over the carefully curated merchandise at one of the many open studios scattered across the city.
There were plenty of opportunities for discussion and reflection, including at Downtown Dialogues, a six-night public conversation series showcasing the design and creative energy in lower Manhattan.
miLES Do Tank, a one-week pop-up showcase of the 14-weeks of an action-oriented design-thinking course, considered the question: ‘Borders, lines, fences, migration, immigration, how do we break down barriers and foster connection?’ The Do Tank will display their findings at the end of the course in a pop-up experience in a shopfront in the Lower East Side.
New York is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and this rich diversity was celebrated throughout the program. Events included Design Noir at the Brooklyn Arts Fellowship showing new work by Black and Latino artists and the Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition of contemporary art from the Middle East and North Africa which highlighted the practices of its regional artists and diaspora alike. [
Melbourne is a long way from New York but a cohort of lucky RMIT students had the opportunity to participate through the Alessi Mutantsexhibition at Wanted Design. A collaboration with the global Italian design company Alessi, the RMIT School of Architecture and Design and the Institute of Architecture (IoA) at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the exhibition showcased six years of student research projects which explored and reinvented the connection between architecture and industrial forms, focusing on a series of small-scale object studies.
Objects included beautiful condiment sets, tea and coffee vessels, umbrella stands, cutlery, juicers, cocktail shakers and furniture and more. All of the objects echoed Alessi’s unique production and manufacturing methods and their design principles of formal elegance and intricacy.
The exhibition was presented as a physical display and through a mobile-optimised data responsive web app. There was also a roundtable workshop discussion, with Alessi President Alberto Alessi, project leaders Professors Tom Kovac (RMIT) and Reiner Zettl (IoA), and other design experts discussing the future of design materiality and innovation.
Professor Kovac told DHub that the experience of working with, and designing for, a leading global design company was invaluable for his students, showing them new ways of working and designing and allowing them to develop their research thinking.
“We developed research thinking in fabrication techniques and intelligent technology to create future driven digitally intelligent objects. Our research shown here in New York encapsulates future objects, digital intelligence, and personalisation and announces the future direction of intelligent forms that will reshape our lives and the habitable environment,” he said.
Alessi President Alberto Alessi, a hugely influential figure on the international design stage, said Alessi had collaborated with universities since the 1990s. He said he found it a rewarding experience and particularly valued working with Professors Kovac and Zettl.
“We show the students our personal vision of this work and this allows us to review and reconsider our identity through the eyes of these young designers. Professor Kovac’s strong commitment to the most advanced research together with the lucid, profound and astute critical vision given by Professor Zettl have been the most precious ingredients of this research project,” Mr Alessi said.
If you like the sound of NYCxDESIGN, then it will be back next May and it promises to be an even bigger celebration of design. Watch this space for further details.