Volker Albus talks design (2012)

stefan legner design
Stefan Legner design: Monochaise, (2010). Chair Fibre glass W 108 x D 69 x H 85 cm. Prototype Photo; Fred Bush, Germany. Copyright: Stefan Legner, Germany. Image courtesy RMIT Gallery.

Volker Albus talks design

New Olds: Design between Tradition and Innovation, which opened at RMIT Gallery in Melbourne, Australia on December 7, is a travelling exhibit, presented by curator Volker Albus and the Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA - The Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) in Stuttgart and in cooperation with the Goethe Institute.

To learn more about the curatorial position, RMIT communications officer Evelyn Tsitas interviewed Volker Albus. The following are excerpts of their conversation:

Evelyn Tsitas: Volker, let’s talk design. You are bringing an international design exhibition to Australia— and to Melbourne, no less, which prides itself on being a stylish design city.

Volker Albus: Design is an international issue and that’s why we have decided to include people from all over Europe and here we have included three Australian designers— Dale Hardiman, Tim Collins and Scott Mitchell.

volker albus design
Volker Albus design: Pixel Persian, (2010). Carpet / Highland wool, silk; L 280 x W 176 cm. Prototype Photo: Elmar Schwarze, Germany. Copyright: Jürgen Dahlmanns, Rug Star, Germany. Image courtesy RMIT Gallery.

Evelyn Tsitas: There are a lot of young designers in this exhibition. Do they have a different vision to those who have been working in the industry longer?

Volker Albus: Young designers tackle things differently because they are looking more or less on to their own habits than before. I think previously design was taught more by rules. So you have this formula Form follows function and now the formula is, Form follows Convention and the conventions are changing and these are being changed by the young, not so much by the old. We have been trained to be minimalist but the way young people are including new technological possibilities into their everyday life is different. They change the whole life; they change the eating, the communication and that’s why when you talk about conventions it is best to talk in point of view of the new or the young generation.

johan olin design 2006
Johan Olin design: Jeesus Furniture, (2006). Armchair Sofa (wood, velour, foam), duct tape; W 70 x D 70 x H 80 cm. Prototype. Photo: Janne Suhonen, Finland. Copyright: Johan Olin, Finland. Image courtesy RMIT Gallery.

Evelyn Tsitas: There are lot of modern materials being used in this exhibition. Is that what designers do because it is new and in fad or is there a reason they use these materials?

Volker Albus: No it is very important to know what is happening in technology and I think this is the main issue which has impacted on the design of everyday items and how things can be produced. The other is the socio-cultural developments, habits.

Evelyn Tsitas: What makes good design?

Volker Albus: Good design is all about the important balance between function, configuration, material, stability and the price at the end. We have a lot of good design concepts but do not work for the public because it is too expensive. I think it is very important for designers to be not concerned about the price and to continue to work with high-finish materials although it may be very expensive. Contemporary design is wonderful because we have this option where we can distribute a number of pieces and then refinance our research. You [have to be] open-minded and sometimes the technological developments provides you with materials which are very expensive today but might become cheaper in two years depending upon the popularity among designers.

Evelyn Tsitas: What overwhelming sense do you want visitors to come away with— or an understanding of— when it comes to international design?

Volker Albus: The message is to keep your eyes open and not to think in a rigid manner. It is also a message to young designers and students who might decide the future concerning product design that design is changing everyday. Culture and climate are different in different countries and these are two very important influences and should be respected by designers. Nobody is fully aware of the complexity and the enormous impact of the design in our everyday life.

New Olds: Design between Tradition and Innovation, RMIT Gallery, Melbourne, to 7 March 2013.

karen ryan design
Karen Ryan: ‘Custom Made’ Chair, (2010). Chair Unwanted old chairs, spray paint, plastic ties; 58 x 66 x 96 cm. One only, ‘Custom Made’ chair collection (since 2004). Photo / Copyright: Karen Ryan. Image courtesy RMIT Gallery.