Paola Antonelli on The Colbert Report (Screenshot by Hyperallergic)

Paola Antonelli on The Colbert Report (Screenshot by Hyperallergic)

How well designed is your coffee mug? Our personal design heroine and all-time curator crush Paola Antonelli appeared on the Colbert Report last night to critique all those everyday objects we take for granted in advance of her next big show at the Museum of Modern Art.

Antonelli’s exhibition is called Applied Design, which she describes in her snappy interview with Colbert. She predicts that “design will go the way of physics,” with “theoretical design” — out-there experiments, not necessarily practical — and “applied design” — the creation of usable objects like Colbert’s ceramic mug, which Anontelli affirms is definitely an example of design, but it “could be better.”

Applied design resides less in the imaginary realm that so often awes us and more in the boundaries of our actual reality. Examples include Studio Libertiny’s Honeycomb Vase, a geometrically formed vase created not by a 3D printer but by bees (they call it “slow prototyping”), and Massoud Hassani’s affordable, efficient mine detonator made out of bamboo.

“Design will manifest itself in much more than cute chairs,” Antonelli tells Colbert. The future might seem overwhelming, but the curator has some sage advice: “Be yourself and you’re going to be modern.” Watch the full interview below. Applied Design opens at MoMA on March 2.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

3 replies on “MoMA Curator Paola Antonelli Appears on Colbert Report to Talk Design”

  1. I have never been a fan of anyone predicting the future, especially when such broad brush strokes are applied.

    I went through 4 years of pratt ID, which is composed of tons of ‘redesign’, new mousetraps, new coffee pots, new power tools, cars, etc. et al. It’s really fantastic, but then in 4 years reality hits. Real design moves about 2 miles faster than present speed. Apple is a great example of a design driven company and they have openly acknowledged the influence of Dieter Rams upon their products, which basically back dates them. Hip trendy sleek design is usually too far ahead of it’s own time. Site specific or project specific design is usually too expensive, tooling costs or full R&D outweigh using existing methods.

    UI design is important and that is something that designers should work on. But redesigning a coffee mug is time wasted.

    1. John,

      Nice comment.

      Also why do you think Paola Antonelli sounds so revved up about the future of design as if she were on speed from an obscure Midwest trailer park if design really progresses as slowly as you purport it does?

      And finally do you find that places like MoMA find the forward-thinking art and design before it becomes mainstream or is it all BS with old ideas rehashed and disseminated but just using different buzz words?

      1. I think she’s revved up because it’s her job to speak positively about design and she’s trying to capitalize on an opportunity to make it seem very exciting. Design does move slowly, new visual languages are something that take a very long time to be adopted, and usually once they are adopted, they are en masse. Which means that changes happen at the periphery.

        MoMA and places like the museum of art and design do the best they can. I don’t know what you mean by forward thinking. In hindsight great ideas seem so obvious, but at the time of conception they can go totally unnoticed. Going back to the apple example, the ipod was released in 2001, it was never hailed as brilliant when it was released. Wall street even missed the potential for growth, the stock barely budged until mid 2006. It would be fair to say everyone ‘missed’ it except for Apple and the people buying ipods. Eventually things changed and that’s fine, but the point is that we have this amazing device that was largely ignored for 5 years, but then in the following 5 years became the worlds most popular music player and helped to build a giant leviathan of a company.

        I don’t think anyone is going to go on TV and trash their own industry or turn the colbert report into a forum for critical discussion if that’s what you mean by buzz words.

        I just felt like the interview and the piece written didn’t really assess what it means to actually design, develop, and mass produce something.

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