Design United exhibition at TU Delft

The Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering played host to the annual Design United exhibition on April 3 to 17, 2014, showcasing the latest developments in industrial design.

As the research platform for the Industrial Design programmes of the universities of Delft, Eindhoven and Twente (3TU), Design United serves as an intermediary between the academic world and Dutch industry. Entitled “Design Changes Design”, the three-part exhibition was dedicated to the rapid changes within the field.

“The goal of Design United is to link universities, design professionals and industry in general,” says Bart Ahsmann, Managing Director of Design United. “The exhibition helps explain what the topics of research are and what their impact can be. It helps industry and designers to contribute new ideas or questions and it also helps our researchers in strengthening their relationships with industry.”

Demonstrating how industrial designers find inspiration in a variety of disciplines, the exhibition featured a number of research prototypes, the final versions of which are currently in production. These models include an LED touchscreen mounted on a post, devised as part of Delft’s new interactive playground (Yalp Memo), and an air-operated massage chair commissioned by BMW. In doing so, the exhibit highlighted the width and depth of design research, and its real world applications.

According to Prof. Daan van Eijk, Scientific Manager of Design United, good design is preceded by good research. “In our field, the danger lies in the fact that people only see the final design, the ‘object’ made by designers. Whereas this is not only the output,” the manager said in his introductory remarks. “Good design contributes to society and must arise from an interplay with society.” As a result, the relevance of user participation in the overall design process and the tools researchers have created to study user experience are also discussed in the exhibition.

“It is always difficult to have the audience focus on the research and to not look at the prototypes as being products or product designs,” Ahsmann admits, claiming that the exhibit’s texts and videos work well in narrowing the discussion. “Students realize that in order to help them become good designers, education is also in need of new knowledge. Research is an important factor for that. It inspires them to think of the methods they use and regard design as an academic practice.” Beyond the final output, there is no denying the influence of design on society as a whole.

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