"Design Injections depicts a process"

Kim Natalie Fischer from Berlin-based DeAr Agency on the new Design Injections format within the imm cologne's newcomer platform Pure One.


Kim Natalie Fischer, you're associated with the design scene in a variety of ways. At the coming imm cologne you're responsible for "Design Injections", the new experimental exhibition format within the Pure One newcomer forum. Tell us about the basic idea and concept behind it.
I'm sure you've been following the dynamic development the imm cologne has been undergoing in recent years, and the contribution new projects like Pure Village, Pure Editions, LivingKitchen, LivingInteriors and now Pure One have made to that development. Pure One is a non-commercial trade fair format for the promotion of young designers and the presentation of innovative design concepts. The heart of the newly structured talent forum is Design Injections, an exhibition of experimental design projects selected by the imm cologne in which groups of designers, cooperatives, colleges and companies will be presenting works that are no more than two years old. For the most part, rather than showing the world of finished products, the presentations will depict a snapshot of the development process – with the focus on the prototype. At the same time, the experiment is not meant to be restricted to purely form-related aspects – innovative concepts, technologies, materials, sustainability strategies or even collaboration models and distribution channels will also be put up for discussion.

What exactly can visitors expect? Can you tell us anything about how the designers are selected, the tendencies apparent from the content and the nature of the presentations?
Design Injections isn't so much about calling attention to individual designers as about highlighting exemplary concepts and working models. This year we'll be presenting about ten projects that explore the possibilities and limits of design. The exhibitors invited to participate include colleges like the KISD Köln International School of Design with a corporate design development project or the FH Folkwang (Folkwang University of the Arts), which will be presenting an architectural subject: the redesign of the Sanaa Building in Essen. The FH Potsdam (Potsdam University of Applied Sciences) will be presenting "Metalscapes", a design project that tests innovative materials and production processes. Groups like Danish Design and The Journey will be presenting a fascinating cross-section of their country's young design scene and showing how companies there collaborate with creatives. With the Supermarket Concept Store, the imm cologne's main aim is to show that design can evolve in many directions and, in future, will be entering into direct contact with the consumer.

How do you rate the public's interest in design – and particularly in young design?
Design Injection depicts a process. That's why, in order to ensure the exhibition provides inspiration for a multidisciplinary audience, the imm cologne will be selecting participants such as colleges largely on the basis of the approach they take to a design project. Because ultimately, promoting communication between creatives, researchers, engineering technologists and representatives from commerce and industry is one of Pure One's most important goals. That's also why we're convinced that Pure One will meet with a great deal of interest from the trade fair audience.

How much overlap is there between creative disciplines like architecture and design nowadays? What role does thinking play in concepts for entire spaces, especially in conjunction with changing outlooks on life?
In a way, you're asking me the old "the chicken or the egg" question. In our modern society, there have actually always been close links between social utopias, architecture and product design. Before that, furnishings were mainly a symbol of prestige and had to be adapted to the prestige-based architecture somehow or other. That changed – at the very latest with the advent of the Bauhaus movement. In modernism, everything was supposed to be interconnected. Nowadays it's virtually impossible to find the kind of all-round artist who was also an architect, designed furniture and interiors and was maybe even a graphic artist and landscape designer into the bargain. That's due both to the specialisation of the market and the lack of projects with an integrated, holistic approach. But I'm convinced that, in future, there will be a stronger demand for the functions performed by architects and designers again, because housing will be the battleground where many of the struggles in the war against our society's problems will be fought. Just think about how housing in cities has changed as a result of urbanisation – and to cap it all, we're increasingly leaving what happens up to speculators! And the solution to the demographic challenges we face will also be very closely linked with architecture and product design. Mobility, new forms of housing and barrier-free accessibility are all categories that call for integrated concepts.

Experimental thinking has always played an important role when it comes to new developments in e.g. materials, applications and strategies. Where do you see potential for the future in this respect, especially with regard to collaborations with manufacturers? How much more could young design be encouraged in that sense?
Experience has shown that, more than anything else, the interaction between design and business depends on good relationships between creatives and companies. But there tends to be less awareness of the fact that designers also have a hand in areas like brand development, the communication of material-related innovations to industry and the debate about sustainability concepts for the production, transport and usage of consumer goods. The public discourse about green design and organic concepts, for instance, has led to some interesting niche markets and retail concepts, some of which are bursting not only with idealism but with future potential as well. But trade fairs perform an important function too, of course: they ought to create more platforms where industry, science and creatives can exchange ideas on an equal footing. That can only work if we give upcoming designers – whose new ideas provide impetus for innovations – a space that is not motivated by commercial considerations. And that is one of Pure One's most important goals: to promote communication between creatives and all the other market players.

Architects are increasingly becoming involved with design themselves or collaborating closely with designers. Where do you see important design trends for the future that both disciplines can benefit from? How can we stimulate collaboration and thus open up more areas of activity for young designers?
That's directly connected to your previous question about the areas where architecture and design can collaborate. There are some interesting new approaches right now – especially in what used to be the "fringe areas" of interior design, like the bathroom, for instance. Even here, there are already solutions that use furniture as architectural elements. That's one such trend: the space can be used more efficiently and flexibly when it's structured by furniture. It's not just that having lots of small, closed spaces no longer corresponds to people's tastes; when space is limited, that approach equates to pure luxury. Generally speaking, when it comes to sharing responsibilities with architects, I see the designers as the researchers and experimenters, the ones who will give new ideas a try and tread new ground from time to time – not just in terms of product production but in relation to marketing as well. Designers are often attributed with artistic ambitions and a penchant for very unconventional ideas, but I actually believe that architects are far more prone to want to give concrete shape to their own visions via their work. For some time now, young designers have been showing greater interest in direct contact with users – and I think that can give rise to a lot of fascinating ideas that aren't limited to the world of galleries and one-offs.

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Source: Koelnmesse, reprint free of charge