Curated by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, In The Making is a tribute to the beauty of the unfinished, asking us to reconsider our relationship to everyday objects and think about the nature of design.
The first item in the exhibition is the front of a London tube carriage. When you’re crushed into the armpit of another commuter it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that tube carriages are accursedly tiny. The size and shape of the naked aluminium frame is surprising not only for its capaciousness but also how it’s immediately recognisable as the front of a tube even in its unfinished state.
Each of the 24 objects is paused at a particular stage in its production. As the curators thought that a workshop presentation would be ‘too obvious,’ almost all of the objects are presented on individual plinths with their own spotlight, which gives an impression of preciousness and reverence akin to a museum or jewellery display. There’s an element of playfulness, though: you’re encouraged to guess what the final form looks like.
…Barber and Osgerby frequently spoke about how designs ‘described’ their purpose…
During a tour of the exhibition, Barber and Osgerby frequently spoke about how designs ‘described’ their purpose and how form followed function, marvelling in particular at an unfinished French horn. It’s an embryonic product which tells you what it does–just from the flared shape we know that it’s used to make sound.
It’s interesting to see how some objects were recognisable and some weren’t: an otherwise nondescript block of willow wood indicated its future as a cricket bat because of its pitch, while a flat pierced sheet which resembled a resting tropical butterfly turned out to be an unfinished football boot.
…the bright colours evoked rhubarb and custard sweet…
Some items also have symbolic value. Lightbulbs retain their blown glass shape even though it’s no longer necessary due to technological progress: the design is iconic. A sphere attached to a small twisted glass stem was revealed as an in-progress marble; the bright colours evoked rhubarb and custard sweets and, in turn, the experiences of childhood.
The items are largely removed from the context of their finished form and also that of the tools and machines used in their production. On the wall there is an accompanying selection of videos from The Magic of Making showing the production processes; while interesting, they seem peripheral to the actual objects on show.
In the Making is a cleanly presented and articulate exhibition. Well worth a look if you’re already going to the Design Museum.