Designer Art

Michael Hogan

The interior of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a piece of art in itself. Too bad you’ll be traveling cargo-style.

Design is art, or so says the Institute of Contemporary Art. From September 28 through January 6 a new exhibit called “Design Life Now – National Design Triennial” will be on display at the ICA’s waterfront home in South Boston.

More than 80 designers and design firms are having their work shown as part of the exhibition. From architecture to furniture and clothing to animation, if it made waves in the design world over the past three years, it is probably here.

“Design Life Now” includes designs from 17 different areas, including product design, graphic design, robotics, digital media and more.

When we think of design and art in the same context there are certain things that come to mind. Fashion and architecture are the sorts of things that are generally accepted as art. But, there are things that are less obvious as artistic works, things that we use everyday in our lives without ever thinking twice.

Take the ipod for example. We all know what it looks like, we have all seen one or two, or two thousand, in our time. But, do we think of them as art? Not usually, but they can be. Or Target’s sleek new prescription drug bottles. Are those art? Yes, they are.

There is art everywhere, and “Design Life Now” reveals it all to us. When flying on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, you are traveling inside of a piece of art. Visitors to the Seattle Central Library are reading Rimbaud inside of an artistic masterpiece. Wear a pair of Nike FREE 5.0? You’ve got art at the ends of your toes.

The Roomba, a robot that vacuums your floor for you is found in the robotics section along with the Robolobster, an underwater robot that acts much like the crustacean from which it gets its name. “The Sims,” a computer simulation in which users are able to control the lives of virtual people has been a hit since it debuted in 2000, and can be found in the animation section. Spaceships that have been on Mars and kayaks that have drifted through the crystal clear Hawaiian waters are some of the useful designs found in the transport design area.

Most of us see the Google homepage everyday and think nothing of it. But with the innovative and glossy look, as well as applications like Google Earth and Google Scholar the Mountain View, California company is leading the way in digital media.

Everything on the shelves in your local bookstore contains some kind of art, not just within the pages of the book, but in the covers themselves. Graphic designer Chip Kidd is a well-established name in the world of book covers. From Augusten Burroughs’ “Magical Thinking” to R. Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore,” from John Updike’s “Terrorist” to Cormac McCarthy’s last two novels “No Country For Old Men” and the award winning “The Road,” Chip Kidd has been all over the map when it comes to the design of first edition book covers. All of these titles along with 18 other book covers he has done in the past three years, are found in this exhibit.

Couture gowns from Ralph Rucci and men’s suits from Thom Browne are some of the fashion designs on display, along with architecturally inspired works by Narcisco Rodriguez. A new device for sustaining organs during transport is just one example of designs that are more than just aesthetically pleasing, but they are also helping to better life as we know it.

The exhibition itself is a piece of design art. The layout was conceived by guest architect Michael Meredith, an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Visitors are led through what feels like hallways upon hallways of design, aisles of art with surprises to be found around every corner.

Thanks to the sponsorship of Target admission to the ICA is free on Thursday nights from 5Pm to 9PM. The Institute of Contemporary Art can be found at 100 Northern Avenue in South Boston. For more information on “Design Life Now” and other exhibits on display at the ICA visit the museum’s website at