Confession: I love product design.
As a product manager, my world revolves around products and how they’re designed. When I tell people that my day job is a product manager, the usual response is, “What is that?” I’m not even sure my family completely understands it. A product manager’s job is to figure out what customers want and then work with the engineering team to develop new products and launch them into the market. However, there is a huge gulf of understanding (or misunderstanding) between concept, launch, and ultimately whether a product is successful.
What is “good” design? And how does design affect us in our daily lives? And how can there be a museum about something as subjective as design? What is the difference between design and art?
On this episode I sit down with Laura Flusche, Executive Director, of the Museum of Design Atlanta — which you’ll also hear referenced as MODA. Located in Atlanta, Georgia, MODA is a museum dedicated to the world of design. Laura defines design as, “a creative process that inspires change, transforms lives and makes the world a better place.” I love the idea of exploring the abstract concept of what design is and then the reality of how we interpret and interact with design every day.
Normally, this is where I include images from the museum’s collection, but we’re changing the format this time. Why the deviation? Reflecting the fluidity of what design is, MODA is unique in that it doesn’t have a permanent collection, but rotates a different exhibit every 3-4 months. So the exhibit they had on display when I visited – Craftivism – closed the week after I was there. The next exhibit Design for Good: Architecture for Everyone will be on display when this episode airs, but if you’re listening to this in the future, there will be an entirely different exhibit on display then. In that spirit, below are some images of the museum and a few from the Craftivism exhibit to give you an idea of the space, but when you visit the Craftivism exhibit will be gone and a new one in its place.
Actually this constant change reflects the larger, overarching mission of the museum — how design impacts the world and inspires change. That story flows through the museum regardless of the specific exhibit on display. In this podcast episode you’ll hear Laura share the stories about the impact of many different exhibits – past, present and future – and how design affects people’s lives.
Michele Pred – utilizing vintage purses, artist Michele Pred inscribes words and phrases with electroluminescent wire on this iconic female symbol.
Ehren Tool – a Marine veteran of the Gulf War, Ehren Tool makes ceramic cups that reflect his military experiences. According to Tool, “whether you are for or against a particular war, the point is to look at what is actually going on and not look away.”
Lauri Lynnxe Murphy – reminiscent of lace doilies that you might see on the back of your grandmother’s chair, this artist takes this decorative, homemaker art and gives it a new perspective by cutting out images of Chernobyl, Fukushima, Deep Water Horizon and Three Mile Island reminding us of the fragile balance that sustains our existence.
Jeana Eve Klein – this piece makes a statement about the passivity of social media as an activist tool and whether we are taking real action or just the illusion of it when we send a tweet, like a post, or add an emoji.
Welcome Blanket Project – as part of their community outreach with the Craftivism exhibit, the Welcome Blanket project asked individuals to sew, quilt, crochet or knit 40 inch x 40 inch blankets and then add their own immigration, migration or relocation story. At the end of the exhibition, all of the blankets received at MODA will be distributed to immigrants and refugees along with the notes of welcome written by their makers. The Welcome Blanket project will continue beyond the MODA exhibition. For more information and how to donate a blanket, check out their website.
MODA Bathroom – if you visit, and you’re female, you need to check out the women’s bathroom in the museum. Where else but a design museum would you have a giant magnetic poetry kit on the wall? (By the way, I believe this bathroom was also featured in a movie. Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what movie it was!)
The Museum of Design Atlanta gives us a behind-the-scenes look at design, how it affects every person every day, and explores both the functional and aesthetic sides of design. Transforming the intangible, creative world of design into tangible processes and products is incredibly hard, but is so valuable. Understanding the thought process behind design allows us to appreciate what is involved in developing a product, and why some products work and some don’t. The next time you use a product and wonder, “what were they thinking?” – good or bad – well, you’ll have a better answer to that question after listening to this podcast episode and/or visiting MODA. I am so thankful that I found this museum and was able to share their stories with you.
If you’re a museum nerd like me, then add this museum to your “must-see” list and tell them, “I heard about you on the Made in Museums podcast.”
If you love to document your travels to off-the-beaten-path places, then show me where you’re heading or where you’ve been by sharing your stories with me at Made in Museums on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you want to let me know about a curious museum that you’ve visited, and that I should cover on this show, contact me through social media or just send me an email.
Museum of Design Atlanta website
Classes and Workshops – if you’re in the Atlanta area, MODA offers a variety of classes, workshops as well as a dedicated workspace with hands-on activities tied to the current exhibit. Professional lectures are also scheduled throughout the year.
In the episode, Laura referenced the next exhibit, Architecture for Good, and the companion book Design for Good: A New Era of Architecture for Everyone by John Cary. If you can’t make it to the museum, but still want to check out the book, here is a link to find out more information.
Want to learn more about how design works? Check out the excellent 99% Invisible podcast.