WantedDesign 2014: Where Design Speaks for Itself

By Wun Kuen Ng

Designers, manufacturers, and design institutions from the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Latin America (Mexico, Chile, Guatemala), the Middle East (Turkey, Lebanon, and Iran), India, Europe (France, Poland, Belgium, Italy, Austria), Australia, and New Zealand gathered for the 4th international design event: WantedDesign 2014 on May 16-19, 2014 at the Terminal Stores—The Tunnel on 269 11th Avenue. Creativity abounds as participants seek exposure, network opportunities, and potential clients.

Design Institutions

Using design for a humanitarian purpose, Parsons School of Design proposed a competition to its students, sponsored by Areaware, in the category “Small Things Matter.” The first place went to third year undergraduate student, Carlos Ng, who designed ‘Little Architecture Tool Set’ to encourage children to design, work, and plan architecture. The colorful curve and rectangular pieces have number scales to encourage children to learn math.

Ng received a check for $1,000 and his design will be produced and in stores soon. Just as he was encouraged by his father to do art, paint, and play piano, Ng now gets to influence a whole new generation of kids to embrace architecture and design.

The second place winner went to fellow classmate, Myung Whan Choi of South Korea, who designed, ‘Night Guardians,’ LED nightlights with leather masks to protect kids in the night. They will no longer be scared of the dark.

Shintaro Akatsu School of Design of the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut is helping meet China’s need to transition from manufacturer to the world to upgrade its scale economy with better designed products, and has a sister campus in China. For the first time, this Fall, students from the China campus attended classes on the Connecticut campus. So far, the language has not been a barrier in the design classes.

What are the Asian designers doing?

John Kim, a product engineer from South Korea, wanted a solution to a problem he had been facing, which was how to lug all his groceries from the store back home painlessly. The bicycle can be cumbersome for this task. So, he came up with the idea of the ‘Nimble Cargo Scooters.’ It is a scooter with a plastic basket that holds up to 300lbs, driven by a bar handle, with wide standing deck on two wheels. It is simple to use, for all ages, with industrial applications such as carrying packages for the likes of FedEx, UPS, and warehouses. The scooter already has a presence in the Netherlands, where scooters are common, Paris, and the West Coast. It is making its debut in New York City. The team of four put all their time and money into creating the best prototype they can, and it shows.

Tat Chao, a designer of the QC Design collective, recycles wine glasses into candlesticks, lights, and lamps. The idea came about when he saw many used wine glasses in thrift shops. With special glue for glasses and cutting tools, he was able to envision unique glass designs. Due to the fragile nature of glass and shipping costs, he roams the thrift shops locally in the Quebec area to find vintage glasses such as Victorian ones with intricate designs, small liqueur glasses with elegant stems, etc. His customers are from a tight niche that can appreciate the one of a kind design, not the cheap mass production.

Kuan Wen Chiu, a designer from Chilab design studio of the Chicagoland collective, proves that design is a process. He was originally working with clip lights but was unsuccessful. After speaking with the glass director, he suggested making a mold of different color glass. The outcome is a beautiful hanging glass light. An utilitarian object is now a luxurious piece of art.

Chiu gets his inspiration from everyday objects. After observing how the right side handle of a cabinet gets worn out first, he designed a wooden tube with laser engraved hand touching texture. In this case, technology was used to solve a problem of wear. His work involves using different materials to transform everyday objects into art.

Dani Song and Makoto Kishino, designers, were recruited by Bernhardt textiles in their ‘Human Touch’ campaign to remind us that innovation can be inspired more by daily rituals such as hand-painting and tea drinking than the parameters of a computer program. The design from the brush on silk has a unique and different pattern every time Song moves her hand. The tea pattern is always a pleasant surprise for Kishino, no matter how much he dictates the type of tea, the steep time, or the number of napkin folds, the design has a life of its own.

In Training

Henry Tao, Taiwanese 2nd year graduate student studying Industrial Design at Rochester Institute of Technology, finds that his aesthetics is sometimes influenced by Japanese lifestyle design. The chair he designs is low because of the tatami floors used in Japan. An architect trained in Taiwan, he prefers to work on projects on a smaller scale and quicker time line, hence his transition into industrial design. To him, there is a bigger design market in the U.S. than in Taiwan.

Bo Yuan Ling, 25, from China, is a second year graduate student. He studied Industrial Design at China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. From his studies, he finds that there are stronger designs in the United States. In China, the focus was more on engineering, not on design. Before, foreigners designed the products and China produced them. Now, China designs and produces the products. The teachers in China are also different from the ones in the United States. The pedagogy is similar. There are projects assigned too. But in the United States, the teachers would never decide for the student, and give independence to the students to arrive at the destination. The graduate students at Rochester Institute of Technology come from various disciplines; they bring a fresh eye to the problems and come up with different solutions. In China, the teachers are not as open-minded.

Some Notables:

Art can bring a community together as in the case with The Carrot Concept. The Carrot Concept is a collective of six designers in San Salvador, El Salvador with focus on sustainability and community. Their designs are playful and fun. Most of them have studied abroad in places like Spain or Milan. They came together and formed the collective, which includes an organic restaurant, workshops for children every other week, and a nonprofit organization to help the neighbors on the more dangerous side of town. Their work was recognized and received the “Most Socially Responsible 2014” award given by American Society of Interior Designers.

Art can be used to transform violence. Fourteen designers from Mexico formed a collective, La Tlapaleria, and took on the task to dispel the violent image of Mexico as a bloody narcotic haven of death. In the collection, “Armas Benditas,” each designer took a weapon of destruction and transformed into an object of art. A Molotov Cocktail becomes an oil lamp, the barrel of a gun is now an unbreakable clay pen, and paper grenades break open with confetti to promote positive feelings of happiness.

Red de Universidades Anahuac, a catholic private university in Mexico City, offers three programs in Industrial Design, Product Design, and Multimedia. It instills in its students that art and design is a process and needs patience; one has to work with the material to feel its connection and develop the design, unlike the ephemeral nature of the digital art. Design also tries to solve a human problem. Beauty is simply not just an object. The school encourages pre-colonial designs and wants its students to have roots in its culture before they fly off and work abroad. In the age of globalization, it still wants designs that are distinctively Mexican.

In the design field, there is a shift in which products are designed so that it can be mass produced. Before, craftsmanship meant making one or two items for the limited number of customers. Now, there is a wider market and products need to be reproduced quickly and be delivered in a timely manner. Has art and design become democratized to meet the demands of the population?

Like an artist of any age, the design still needs exposure to a market, manufacturers, and distributors. With more international events like WantedDesign, there are more opportunities to exchange ideas and forge fortuitous connections to make the design concepts into a reality.

Avatar photo

About AsianInNY

AsianInNY.com is New York’s leader in Asian networking and a multi-cultural entertainment site. AsianInNY has established itself as the premier social and cultural authority for Asians in New York City. AsianInNY maintains the highest standards in providing reliable online content and producing live offline events. AsianInNY seeks to inspire, educate, and connect our community, using a versatile platform that engages our audience via a multi-layered digital presence that showcases the best of New York City. Our pages are updated daily with a rich cultural mix of news, events, interviews, and more. AsianInNY: Connect with Everything Asian!