This past Sunday a friend and I were able to sneak away from our families for a "date". Once kids and husbands are involved it just takes a lot of logistical planning to actually get out of the house for an extended period of time! Once we successfully "escaped" we went to an exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts called Finland: Designed Environments. Because while my kids enjoy a trip to the museum, they also tend to lose interest while I read all the wall placards and they whine about the lack of benches in the immediate vicinity. The exhibit, open until August 17, celebrates the creativity in Finnish design over the last fifteen years, including architecture, furniture and lighting, clothing, textiles, ceramics, and practical objects like bicycles. Did you know we have Finland to thank for Angry Birds? Neither did I.
I'll let you in on a secret. As someone who has always considered herself a creative person, a true lover of both viewing and making art, when it comes to that sometimes heavy word DESIGN, I get a little wobbly. Finding the thread between innovative design, the culture it's created in, and how it makes it's way into practical objects in my home? I don't always get it. I look at runway shows and trend reports and usually have to really think about how this is going to translate into a language I feel more fluent in. That's a side note for you, because I have to say I felt more comfortable making my way through this exhibit - it must have been done well. I really did see a commonality between the designs and the influences of environment, sustainability, nature, functionality, and material.
One of the ways I view design in my own life is through the dual lenses of beauty and function. I don't need things hanging around just to look good. I'd like them to also serve a purpose or have some meaning. It's why I like the world of surface pattern design: good design can elevate even the most mundane objects we use every day. Why else is a trip to IKEA so enlightening? "Look at this dishwashing brush!" The objects included in the exhibit obviously had a heavy dose of practicality while being beautiful and innovative at the same time. Furniture that is made out of compostable materials (but looks good too!), a tote bag sized specifically to fit paper, a chair a child can decorate themselves - everything was creative and inventive without being pretentious and "designy". There was a real sense of fun and whimsy behind a lot of the objects that I could really appreciate.
Below is a "maternity box," given to all women in Finland when they're expecting a baby. It was redesigned in 2012 and includes a variety of clothing, supplies, and toys. Next time I plan on having a baby I'm going to do so in Finland. I might reconsider having a fourth kid if it means getting that box. Just sayin.
It was a really fun excursion and it was good for me to exercise those muscles of observation and connection - I think it makes me a better designer myself. I'll also admit we probably spent as much time in museum gift store as we did in the exhibit. Don't judge. I love a museum store. I'll call it field research. I did check out this short video from one of the artists, Kristina Riska, featured in the exhibit and you might like it too - it's fun to hear her talk about how she feels when she's creating.