In the past few decades, design has completely transcended its original role — shaping the aesthetics and ideology of the private home. Instead, it has become a tactical response to societal challenges at many scales. Everything can be designed, from an international movement to a social media profile. As “design thinking” becomes embedded into business and government practices, it acquires economic and political agency — but it also becomes accountable for issues related to ecology, labour, ethics, and access.
Beyond iconic furniture or objects of desire, our ability to recognise infrastructures, instruments of war, and sentient technology as designed systems helps us understand the ubiquitous “soft power” of design. This broad view on design is necessary to trace how concepts like “radical” and “disruptive” are appropriated from the avant-garde, the laboratory, or even the battlefield, and assimilated into everyday life. Today, the most commercially profitable new products do not come from the traditional furniture industry, but rather from multinational corporations that control huge logistical chains, or from Silicon Valley, where smart devices collect data on their users in order to optimise performance.
Still, experimental prototypes have enormous potential to change established norms around possession, intellectual property, standardisation, and performance. We no longer need to own objects for them to have an impact. That emphasises the need for contemporary design institutions to provide and reinvent channels for display, dissemination, and discussion, from speculative exhibitions and films to critical writing. These frameworks fuel the conversation between innovative practitioners and researchers, companies and organisations, and diverse users and audiences.
Partnerships include: Z33, EYE, Stichting Doen, Stichting Kwadraat, City of Eindhoven, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, London Design Biennale, Istanbul Design Biennale, Piet Zwart Institute.
Design, architecture, and digital culture are three embedded traditions of design practice and cultural discourse. In the Netherlands, each discipline emerged from a well-defined heritage including a specific territory of intervention and a set of practical and conceptual tools. Yet as living practices, the three disciplines have interwoven and produced new hybrids in response to technological change, economic forces and societal questions. Het Nieuwe Instituut is dedicated to exploring design as both a discipline in its own right and as part of a post-disciplinary cultural context.