More than other design centers in the world, such as Milan and New York, London enjoys today an international reputation as a creative melting pot for talented young designers who are questioning the role of design at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Mapping out new territory, these designers are attempting to define a more relevant role for the objects we encounter daily and the spaces in which we work, communicate, and live, endowing them with new values and meanings. The focus on the future is explored in PopNoir through seventeen projects by young designers whose ideas are at the cutting edge of design thinking, challenging existing conventions and operating out of the normal economic and technical constraints of business. While most of the designers are graduates of the Royal College of Art, London, and most live, work, or teach in the United Kingdom, they prefer to present themselves as global designers rather than defining themselves through a narrow national identity.
Under the banner of Critical Design, these designers signal a countermovement, offering an alternative vision of design practice that is concerned with human behavior, therapy, security, and the ethical and psychological consequences of emerging technologies. Critical Design was inspired by the writings, work, and teaching of Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby , who were leading members of the Critical Design Unit at the Royal College of Art in London. Hailed in Metropolis magazine as "two of Britain's most original and speculative thinkers," these two revolutionaries mark out virgin territory, exploring - with the help of their contemporaries - the role of electronic products in contemporary culture through critical investigation and self-initiated research projects. In their writings, including the publication of Design Noir in 2001, Dunne and Raby offer a more philosophical approach to new technologies, challenging the popular understanding of design and questioning its role in the global market.
Selected by Dunne and Raby, the works on display in PopNoir present new conceptual and critical approaches for designing products and services, which are intended to stimulate debate and discussion among the public, designers, and industry. Provoking questions that are not normally raised in commercial venues and which mark a radical departure from existing design practice, these sometimes subversive ideas indicate a future in which consumers, tired of mere styling, may demand something more substantial that addresses their genuine needs and fears.
As we face growing challenges in the new millennium, we are increasingly aware of the impact of design on our daily lives - from the cars we drive to our clothes and furniture to the new technological products we adopt as necessities, be they digital cameras or third-generation mobile phones. Ranging from objects that are already in the market to ideas that have not gone beyond photographs, videos, or prototypes, the works shown here are intended to stimulate our imagination and encourage a new discourse about how our world might be shaped by the designers of tomorrow.