A curated collection and workshop by Mario Gagliardi on local, handmade objects in northern Thailand and Laos. These objects smartly utilize the properties of natural materials in their method of making.
Go to Material
A collaboration with silk weavers from Buri Ram and rattan furniture makers in Surat Thani to explore techniques and work with them on new prototypes. The intention was not to use design as a top-down process where the craftsman is merely an executer, but to offer design concepts as a canvas for collaborative interpretation, and in the process give the workshops an idea of how design could help them in making consumers re-appreciate the value of their work.
Go to Craft
Contemporary cities are in need of public spaces which work better for their citizens. This proposal for the Korean Ministry of Culture combinines intelligent technology and sustainability. The system is based on modular design elements, designed to be easily installed in existing public spaces.
Go to Organic Public Services
In 2008, HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar had the vision to explore designs for better communities in Qatar and the region: Diverse and responsible communities which would invite independent thinking and creativity. I was tasked with providing proposals and consequently organised a workshop to explore innovative approaches to urban design which could inspire better building practices.
A global diversity of viewpoints was essential to bring a wide gamut of ideas together. Bringing a number of independent architects with widely varying viewpoints together to work on a productive concept is, however, a challenge. Architects tend to be competitive, as it is architecture competitions – not architecture collaborations – which are the basis of architectural careers.
Digital machines such as smartphones frame behavior and instill new cultural and social practices. ‘Liking’, ‘sharing’, ‘following’ are relational activities which have been defined by social media and established as new normal in the shaping of human relationships. The phenomenon of communication devices prompting new behaviors and expressions is not new: for instance, the word “hello” did not exist until the development of the telephone.
There is often something in an artifact which does not conform to the cognition and working mode of humans. Donald Norman describes a whole range of things which create difficulties for people. A glass door, for instance, which for the sake of style has no handles, or handles attached on the wrong side. This glass door, in itself, opens and closes just as it is supposed to be. But people, searching for visual and tactile clues, for protrusions or moulds suggesting how that door is intended to be opened, have, in the absence of a clue, troubles with it. By not providing a clue, this door demonstrates the ontological distance between a human and an object.
This distance, or difference, between artifacts and humans is mediated by design. This mediation is one of the core activities of designers, who deal with it in subject areas such as ergonomics, human factors and user interface design, with designs ranging from door handles to car interiors and the “hamburger” symbol on websites.
In his 1957 book „Mythologies“, Roland Barthes analyses the Deesse (The nickname of the Citroen DS car, “goddess” in French) as a mythical object, and plastic as a mythical material. Plastic interests him because of its transformability, the metamorphoses it contains, being able to imitate everything. He finds it remarkable that plastics are given mythical names of Greek shepherds (Polystyrene, Polyvinyl) and writes: “The public waits in a long queue in order to witness the accomplishment of the magical operation par excellence: the transmutation of matter.”
Concepts and assumptions determine how an organisation and its environment are seen. When plotting a course of action, managers implicitly rely on them. These concepts are the foundation for both daily decision-making and long-term planning. Once concepts are taken for granted, they are held implicitly, possibly impeding innovation efforts. Leonard and Straus found that thinking style preferences are becoming “hardwired” into brains and reinforced over years of practices and self-selection. When, in the course of an organisational change, the new outlook does not conform with held assumptions, these concepts can be the reason why people are reluctant to change.
Korea’s strength in the creative industries, together with the strength of their multinational brands, is regarded as a model by other Asian countries. How did this model come about?
The Korean Ministry of Trade, Energy and Industry was at the heart of Korea’s industrial and economic development efforts. It was initially modeled after the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Tsusho sangyo sho or MITI), Japan’s central institution for industrial policy, research, investment and development. MITI supervised and led economic policy together with the Bank of Japan, the Economic planning agency and other ministries. Created after World War II in response to Japan’s problems with rising inflation and falling productivity, MITI was a supra-institution influencing all aspects of domestic and foreign economic policy, holding close ties to Japanese companies. Its advantages were largely organizational: Instead of disconnected units with differing agendas and different layers of red tape, MITI was one integrated organization with one goal.
Aristotle explained the elements in terms of what we might call sensual qualities: hot, cold, wet and dry. His main thought was that all materials are manifestations of different compositions of the elements. This idea – that the world consists of underlying elements – was fundamental in several ways. It implies that the world is not what it outwardly seems: A stone is not just a stone – it is composed of a mixture of elements which we cannot see. If the world consists of underlying elements, then materials could be transformed by changing their underlying composition.
The design process as it is usually taught and applied at the beginning of the 21st century is concerned with goals, aims and targets. It is dealing with business and industry, target groups and financial targets. It is looking at the often “wicked” problems found in all areas of life. It is, in general, working with – or trying to work with – the world, its structures and problems, including its systems, its territories, its politics and power struggles. But is this the only way the design process can be approached? No. There are two other approaches – one which was the victim of a famous struggle in the Bauhaus, and one which was discovered already 800 years ago, but is known in the West only since the second half of the 20th century.
Whoo (后), the cosmetics brand designed by Mario Gagliardi, is now Korea’s most successful luxury brand, selected by the Seoul Economic Daily in 2017.
Whoo has been Koreas fastest growing brand due to its unique design and strategic brand promise (read more about its creation). The brand exceeded 100 billion Korean Won in annual sales in 2009, 200 billion Won in 2013, 400 billion Won in 2014, 800 billion Won in 2015, and annual sales exceeded 1 trillion Won last year. Whoo’s parent company LG Household & Health Care, part of LG Group, expects the annual sales of Whoo to surge to 1.6 trillion Won (US$ 1,4 billion) in 2017, making it the best-performing Korean luxury brand in history.
Designed at a time when Western cosmetics brands dominated the Asian market with narratives of Paris and New York, the brand was revolutionary in being the first cosmetics series to focus instead on Asian culture and history. Made with premium ingredients including Korean roots and herbs, the brand tells the stories of historic Korean dynasties. The brand was spearheading the new category of ‘K-beauty’. Whoo also actively supports the preservation and maintenance of historic Korean cultural monuments.
Government policies and interventions are powerful instruments that can change social and economic realities on the large scale. However, social reality is highly complex, and policy measures can result in profound unwanted side effects if this complexity has not been captured. For the efit initiative of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in 2002, designed by MGD, the consideration of a wide range of influencing factors was essential to inform the development of a successful design strategy.