Design Museum’s new exhibition shows the world from a designer’s viewpoint

The main exhibition of Helsinki’s Design Museum for summer 2020, called Travel as a Tool, offers a glimpse into the world of travel from a designer’s perspective, presenting trips and journeys taken by designers and architects from the 1940s until the present day. The exhibition also considers the reasons the designers might have had for traveling as well as the role it has played in their work.

Design Museum's summer 2020 main exhibition Travel as a Tool
The exhibition features original material from Nordic designers' trips near and far.

THIS SUMMER, DESIGN MUSEUM in Helsinki, Finland, will offer a chance to learn about the travels of Nordic designers. With the help of diaries, letters, photographs, and film material, the museumgoer will have a chance to look at traveling and destinations from the featured designers’ perspective.

The exhibition will present trips to both local and faraway destinations from the 1940s up until the present day, including, for example, never-before-seen footage from Finnish design icon Kaj Franck’s first trip to Japan from 1956.

Many of the trips presented have been made long before traveling became common and long before the present-day talk of climate change. As crucial as the trips may have been for the designers, they are also considered from a critical point of view, taking into account the carbon emissions of air travel as well as the sometimes exoticizing attitudes of years past. The current situation in the world also offers an interesting point of reference for the exhibition.

Design Museum's summer 2020 main exhibition Travel as a Tool
Nordic designers have traditionally been keen travelers. The exhibition presents trips taken by numerous designers from the 1940s onwards.
Design Museum's summer 2020 main exhibition Travel as a Tool
Finnish designer Kaj Franck visited Japan for the first time in 1956 to learn about local materials and methods. Image from the Design Museum's archive.
Design Museum's summer 2020 main exhibition Travel as a Tool
Colour Diary Morocco from 2016 features a selection of color combinations painted by Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard during her trip to Morocco. Image: Margrethe Odgaard
Design Museum's summer 2020 main exhibition Travel as a Tool
Finnish designer Saara Hopea traveled to Nepal in 1964. Image from the archive of Porvoo Museum.
Design Museum's summer 2020 main exhibition Travel as a Tool
Sketches of Swedish designer Ingegerd Råman's Arita collection. Image: TAF
Design Museum's summer 2020 main exhibition Travel as a Tool
Souvenirs, photographs, and travel diaries help see the design projects and products presented in a new light.

Realized as a Nordic collaboration, the exhibition features over 40 designers and architects from all Nordic countries, i.e. Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, and alongside long-haul destinations, the exhibition also presents trips made domestically as well as within the Nordics. In addition to the trips themselves, the exhibition also delves into the many reasons that have prompted the designers to pack their bags.

“Trips from remote Nordic countries have been vital not only for seeking visual impulses and inspiration but also for discovering new methods and learning about the materials used in other regions,” says Design Museum’s curator Anna Vihma.

“Traveling to big cities has helped designers find like-minded colleagues and place themselves on the global design scene. To many, leaving home has also been a necessity due to certain political situations, wars, or unbearable circumstances in their personal life.”

Schick Toikka's Other Words prize exhibition
Design Museum's Gallery presents an exhibition of works by type foundry and design studio Schick Toikka titled Other Words.

Alongside the main exhibition, Design Museum will present the work of globally operating design studio Schick Toikka. The exhibition, titled Other Words, will showcase Schick Toikka’s typeface designs and art projects in honor of their Graphic Designer of the Year 2020 award given to the design duo by Grafia – Association of Visual Communication Designers in Finland. Schick Toikka is one of the few Finnish design agencies that mainly focus on typeface design; it has collaborated with the likes of Nike, New York Times, Flow Festival, and Finnish Design Shop.

Travel as a Tool will be open 1.6.2020–7.3.2021. Other Words will be open 1.6.2020–23.8.2020 in Design Museum’s Gallery.

See also:

Iwatemo products at Finnish Design Shop >

Text: Emmi Ratilainen Exhibition images: Paavo Lehtonen and Juho Huttunen

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