Talk to me

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The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York launched a new exhibition on Sunday – ‘Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects.’ It includes nearly 200 projects highlighting the various ways objects help people interact with complex systems and networks. We’re rooting for an MB roadtrip to check it out – as the exhibition includes recent projects from MB’ers Campbell Orme and Daniel Soltis.

According to the Talk to Me website, the exhibition explores “how today’s designers are finding ways to enhance communicative possibilities that embody a new balance between technology and people, while bringing technological breakthroughs to an approachable, human scale.”

Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at MoMa, told The New York Times “We went through so many changes in the definition of design in the 20th century with all the clichés about form following function, and the addition of meaning in the 1960s with post-structuralism, but what is really important right now is communication.”

When looking at the sheer breadth of projects in the exhibition, you begin to consider ‘communication’ beyond the role that mobile phone networks and social networking platforms purport – and focus instead on the everyday ways we connect with the things around us. These connections range from the inspiring, like the EyeWriter project, to the practical, to the delightfully banal.

MB’er Daniel, while working at Tinker, worked on The Big Red Button, for designer / writer/ presenter Russell Davies. The aim was to highlight the paradox between the rudimentary nature of input mechanisms like buttons and switches, and the complex and heavily designed interfaces of the machines they serve.
Daniel also worked on HomeSense, a more human take on the smart home, which developed tools like a garbage bin that appears progressively angrier the more it is used, and a device that waters plants for time-poor people.

Campbell worked on Here & There with Berg colleagues Jack Schulze and James King. The limited edition printed maps of Manhattan (pictured left) were inspired by gaming technology, satellites, and, the designers say, the idea that “the ability to be in a city and to see through it is a superpower, and it’s how maps should work.” Designed using sophisticated modeling software, the maps create a three-dimensional image that bend as the buildings extend into the distance.

Campbell also worked with Berg on two films for Dentsu that are showcased in the exhibition. ‘Media Surfaces: Incidental Media,’ investigates the way that software will increasingly enable varying degrees of personal interactions – if we choose to engage with them. ‘Media Surfaces: The Journey’ focuses this idea on train travel, and suggests ways the schedule boards, paper train tickets, and train signage can provide information beyond the practical and monotonous.

The open source website for Talk To Me was part of the curatorial process, and the tagging and categories used show the connections between various projects. QR codes and twitter hashtags are used in the exhibition, on the website and in the catalogue, and add another level to the visitor’s understanding of our conscious and subconscious communications with the world around us.

The exhibition runs until November 7th – so if you’re in NY check it out and report back!

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