“After the Wall: Design since 1989” at Vitra Design Museum


From 26 October 2019 through 23 February 2020, Vitra Design Museum presents “After the Wall: Design since 1989”.

 cover image: Sergio Lozano for Nike, Air Max 95, original sketch, 1995 © Nike

Organized on the occasion of the museum’s own 30th anniversary, the exhibition charts design from the past three decades, examining how it has been shaped by broad technological, cultural, and socio-political shifts. The exhibition juxtaposes iconic product design and graphic design with works by leading furniture designers and retailers including Jasper Morrison, Philippe Starck, Hella Jongerius, Muji, and IKEA, as well as up-and-coming contemporary designers. The exhibits show that many of the global changes of the last 30 years have also been reflected in design: from a growing awareness of sustainability to social upheavals caused by the commercialization of the Internet in 1989. The latter has led to an undeniable flood of information and a radical acceleration of our everyday lives, which designers have also played a decisive role in driving forward.


Marc Newson, Bucky installation at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris, 1995 © Marc Newson Ltd., photo: Florian Kleinefenn

While design in the West during the 1980s was characterized by a postmodern exuberance, the 1990s were characterized by a tendency towards simplicity. Prominent fashion designers like Calvin Klein transformed this into a fashion aesthetic suitable for the masses, while the new compact car brand »smart«, founded in 1994, caused a sensation in the automotive industry.
The 1990s were also the decade in which the Internet had its breakthrough: in 1989 the first commercial Internet service providers surfaced, and in 1993 the first online web browser was launched.
The emergence of the Internet led to a boom in the communication of brands and luxury items, with photogenic and catchy designs – like Philippe Starck’s »Juicy Salif« lemon squeezer (1990) or Michael Young’s »Dog House for Magis« (2001). At the same time, the design of digital surfaces and content started to become an important new field of activity for designers. This can be seen, for example, in the 176 Emoji that Shigetaka Kurita first designed in 1998/99 for the Japanese mobile phone provider Docomo.


Shigetaka Kurita et al. for NTT DOCOMO INC., Emoji, 1998-99 © NTT DOCOMO, INC.

The advent of computer-aided design and manufacturing also influenced the shape of everyday objects and is reflected in the technoid aesthetic of many devices of the time, most notably Apple products.
From the 2000s onwards, digital fabrication methods such as 3D printing enabled new prototypes to be produced ever more rapidly and led to experiments that explored the potential for series production. The exhibition shows a number of additional examples of how designers have both mirrored and helped shape social developments since the turn of the millennium – from the design of the first euro banknotes to the introduction of the first iPhone by Apple (2007), which radically changed the way we communicate, work and live.
Likewise the lasting societal tensions since the financial crisis of 2008 have led to a politicization among designers, expressed in conceptual designs and projects with social impact. In Van Bo-Le Mentzel’s “Hartz-IV-Furniture” we find the search for inexpensive products for the masses, while Viennese design studio mischer’traxler with its “Relumine” series (2010) applies the idea of »hacking« to light objects by simply modifying existing luminaires with the goal of saving energy. Even the much-cited crisis of the European Union was reflected in design.
For example in Hauke Odendahl’s chair “Union” (2019), which comes as a set of 28 blue components, each representing an EU member state, and allows its users to construct the chair as they see fit, resulting in a variety of interpretations.
The exhibition focuses on objects from the Vitra Design Museum’s collection that have been created over the past 30 years, but it also raises more far-reaching questions: What role has design played in our recent history? How does our consumer behaviour influence the world we live in – and how does it influence us? And what will be the next big thing?


Jurgen Bey, Tree-trunk Bench, 1998 © Droog


Tokujin Yoshioka, Honey-Pop Chair, 2000/01 © Tokujin Yoshioka Design


mischer’traxler, Emil & Clara (Relumine series), 2010 © mischer’traxler


Hauke Odendahl, UNION Chair, 2019 © Hauke Odendahl

After the Wall: Design since 1989
26 October, 2019 | 23 February, 2020
Vitra Schaudepot – Vitra Design Museum

Charles-Eames-Straße 2, 79576
Weil am Rhein, Germany

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