Design, like nearly every aspect of life today, is often as much about how the projects are represented in media as they are about their function or user experience. For anyone who is vicariously following along with design events and exhibitions via screen-based media such as Facebook, Instagram, and the internet in general (including this very website), the image is paramount.
Of course, design has long started with two-dimensional representations — dessiner, of course, means "to draw" in French — but between the prevalence of social media and the development of new production methods, designers are exploring new connections between the second and the third dimension. Fresh from Milan design week, here are a selection of recent projects that either push the boundaries of 2D into 3D or vice versa, flattening matter into image.
The Antwerp-based design duo Muller van Severen achieve their signature aesthetic by transforming two-dimensional materials into 3D forms with minimal modification. During design week, the exhibition Fireworks marked the debut of the five new pieces, made from folded sheets of enameled steel. The venue itself was also noteworthy, as Massimo De Carlo presented the pieces in a panoramic seventh-floor space in a quiet residential neighborhood near the Politecnico di Milano.
For the second installment of the ongoing research program Primeira Pedra ("First Stone"), curator Guta Moura Guedes of Lisbon-based experimentadesign commissioned a series of original works from five graphic design studios. Specifically, the designers explored the potential of Portuguese stone as a kind of surface or texture, translating marble and limestone into both abstract and representational works of art. Following its debut at the Triennale di Milano, Still Motion will also scheduled to travel to London Design Festival in September.
The photogenic Envisions exhibition traveled to NYCxDesign following its debut in Milan last year, with a subsequent edition during Dutch Design Week 2016. This time around, the Dutch collective has partnered with Spanish wood manufacturer Finsa, presenting the results at Atelier Clerici. In keeping with their process-centric premise, the 12 members experimented with chipboard, MDF, laminates, and veneers, creating a polychromatic panoply of abstract pieces in various scales.
Another young talent made a strong debut in Milan this year, showing with Beirut-based Carwan Gallery in two central locations — the newly minted Foyer Gorani and the Hotel Senato — as well as the Dutch Invertuals group exhibition in the Isola district. Norwegian designer Sigve Knutson offers yet another approach to transmuting two dimensions into three, starting with impressionistic drawings of textured forms and subsequently determining how to materialize them into pseudo-functional sculptures.
Last but not least, Studio Plott showcased their latest experiments with 3D printing textiles. Printed from thermoplastic and textile fiber, the graphically appealing open-mesh structures are intended to function as "fabrics." Besides their presentation in Ventura Lambrate, the project was also on view in the Einundzwanzig group exhibition across town in the Tortona neighborhood.