Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006 at the Cooper Hewitt
The most amazing thing about the Cooper-Hewitt's Design Triennial 2006? How poorly they designed the exhibit! Debbie and I went last weekend and, really, were definitely disappointed that, for example, the typography on all the display notes was terrible: ugly and difficult to read (the writing, too, is pretty abstruse); that the show's objects or images often didn't match up with their identifying cards, as if they were carelessly placed at different times; and that many of the computer/electronic exhibits on the first floor weren't working. We also indulged in the usual, more good natured grumbling that comes with such shows over why some items were included at all.
That said, there is definitely some cool stuff here, especially on the second floor. The exhibit purports to explore the "most current and relevant trends in design" from the past three years, and so it gives us quick peaks at many different fields: graphic design (lots of just-ok websites, a wall's-worth of Frame magazine covers, Chip Kidd book jackets, prescription bottle color conventions and iconography, etc.); sporting equipment; video games (the immersive, more-fun-than-you'd-expect snowball-throwing game was designed for hospitals, to help distract burn patients from their pain); architecture and engineering marvels (perhaps the most interesting of which—an island bar/nightclub, pictured above—had no identifying card that we could find, so I have no clue where it is); robotics and military training equipment; fashion (I'd love to spend a day walking around the city in a Thom Browne suit); furniture and wallpaper; housewares (including the "ivy coathooks" below, and the dish rack below that that I believe Debbie called "the most beautiful thing I've ever seen"); and toys (nothing you haven't seen at Kid Robot... except the giant Munny you're invited to help design with multi-colored chalk).
There is a lot to look at here—we spent well over an hour on the show—and plenty to admire. I just wish the curators had done a more inspired job of presenting the material. The Cooper Hewitt is on 91st Street and Fifth Avenue. The Design Triennial runs through July 29.