Tag: design

Back to the blog front page

A Horse of a Different Colour

The V&A's current exhibition, Maharaja:The Spendour of India's RoyalCourts, got me looking around for related design drawings in the collection. Icame up with this example made in about 1850, for a portrait of Ram Singh IIof Kota – one of the main figures in the exhibition. What strikes me most about this delicate line drawing is its complete lack of colour. Annotations give a sense of which tints were to be used, but if you compare it to the below (similar) image of Ram Singh, which has its full paint job, and you realize what a leap of imagination was …

Keep reading

X Ray Specs

A small show currently on view in the V&A's Architecture Galleries, Europe and English Baroque:English Architecture 1660-1715, got me thinking about cross-sections in design drawings. The display features works by Christopher Wren and other architects of his era. (Those who saw the excellent exhibition Compass and Rule at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford will see some familiar names – that show will open at the Yale Center for British Art soon.) There are two especially striking examples of cross-sections in the V&A show. First, Christopher Wren's sketches for the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.On the left is …

Keep reading

Ooh, Shiny

One of the fascinating things about design drawings, at least to me, is that you often can’t tell whether they are for presentation, for working out a design concept, or just recording an object once it’s finished. Sometimes, perhaps, there is a bit of all three going on. The confusion really sets in when you see aesthetic touches on what you would otherwise expect to be a ‘working sketch.’ For whose benefit has the drawing been prettied up? Maybe the draftsman was taking pride in the work. Maybe there was an internal politics in play, where the designer wants the …

Keep reading

Jane Dillon: Ahead of the Curve

Here's a pop quiz for you.When was this chair designed? If you guessed 'last year,' Idon't blame you. It's got a fashion-forward pinkness about it, and the combination of circle, curve and triangular wedge has the minimal snap of the latest out of Milan. Or perhaps you went for '1981'?I wouldn't blame you. The chair does look pretty postmodern, and even bears a passing resemblance to Peter Shire's iconic 'Bel Air' chair of that year. Both the mystery chair and Shire's Postmodern design have similarly disjunctive compositions, with curved, angular and round shapes smashed together. They are like almost-accidental masterpieces. …

Keep reading

Omega: On and Off the Grid

The last time I blogged about an exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, it was after the show had already closed. Not this time! Beyond Bloomsbury, an exhibition about the designs and decorative arts of the Omega Workshops, will be on view until 20 September, 2009. So there’s plenty of time to catch these early examples of […]

Keep reading

Photoplastic Protoplasm

The following is our first student 'guest post,' submitted by Ann Christie … enjoy! I’m one of the students on the MA in History of Design at the V&A/RCA and just starting to research textile production at the turn of the twentieth century for the dissertation next year. One of the sources for this research is the pattern books which survive in the archives of many textile manufacturers. Before I started research I imagined pattern books would generally equate to the manufacturers’ books of swatches a customer today can use to view a range of available fabrics. But in fact …

Keep reading

If you build it, will they shop?

Last week Itook my students from the V&A/Royal College of Art course in the History of Design to Westfield Shopping Centre, the mega-mall that was finished in Shepherd's Bush in west London last year. We were toured by the head project architect, Patrick Vantomme, as well as Paul Sutliff, the director of retail designers Callison Europe. Paul was an architect for Bluewater Shopping Centre, another fixture on the London shopping scene. I'm not sure what you think about shopping malls – come to think of it, I'm not sure what Ithink of shopping malls. But there's no doubt they are …

Keep reading

Prick up your ears

Before the age of photocopiers and scanners, how did you make a copy of an image? In a sense, you didn't – prior to photography there was no means to make an exact replica of a drawing. This doesn't mean there wasn't a lot of copying done, though, and many techniques were developed to improve on the results you could get by replicating an image freehand. Tracing through a translucent sheet is one obvious example; another is the technique of pricking. This is as simple as it sounds:you take a pin – which, by the way, was a staggeringly common …

Keep reading

Fastest Pots in Town

Clay is not usually thought of as a sketching medium. In fact, ceramics are the ultimate in delayed gratification:you make the pot, then wait for it to dry, then fire it in a kiln. Only once you open up the kiln do you really know what you've done.

Keep reading

Russian Arc

The recent Tate Modern exhibition of Alexandr Rodchenko and Liubov Popova got me thinking about drawing as a tool of avant garde design. These two Russian artists made the leap from painting to "productivism"in the wake of the Revolution. Autonomous works of art – paintings to hang on the wall – just didn't cut it as instruments of political radicalism. What they were after was a penetration of their ideals into everyday life, and they hoped to do this through design:clothing, ceramics, architecture. As Christina Kaier notes in her wonderful book on the subject, Imagine No Possessions, objects were now …

Keep reading