[Victoria and Albert Museum]



30 JUNE 1999 - 3 JANUARY 2000


How are everyday products designed?

This exhibition takes a close look at three contemporary products to answer this question. Each product demonstrates the working method of a different design team, and the different philosophies of three different designers. The V&A has worked with the design teams in recording the design development of these products.

The V&A's historic collections of designs show how designers have traditionally worked with sketches and models as a way of developing ideas. Now, with the use of 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD), design and manufacturing have been transformed. From drawing board to computer screen, from pencil to mouse, Designing in the Digital Age explains how design has responded to new technologies. The development of 2D CAD packages enabled designers to produce technical drawings with accuracy and speed. The more recent advent of 3D solid modelling now means designers can 'build' the product inside the software. CAD Models have greater accuracy, and the data about the product can be transferred direct to rapid prototyping and tooling manufacture. The exhibition will track these stages of development.
As well as sketches, working models and technical drawings, Designing in the Digital Age will show the 'virtual product', giving the visitor an insight into the 'digital' design process.


Each of the selected products tells a different story:

The Dyson DCO5 is the latest in the line of cyclonic cleaners produced by Dyson Appliances Ltd. James Dyson and his design team see research and innovation as central to the design process, and the introduction of 3D CAD technology has allowed them to bring design, engineering and manufacture even closer together. In the exhibition, the development of the DCO5 is explained through 3D models, sketches, and CAD work.

The OZ refrigerator by the Electrolux-Zanussi is a radical rethinking of a familiar product. Roberto Pezzetta, head of the design team at Zanussi in Italy, challenged the conventions of domestic appliance design by asking 'why should a fridge be just a white box?' During the period of the OZ's development, Zanussi explored the potential of computer aided design. From traditional models to computer generated complex forms, the OZ tells a story not only of a creative idea, but also of the reinvention of design process.

BT's Synergy 1500 cordless telephone is the latest in the product range designed by Gus Desbarats' design team for BT. Working as consultants, rather than as an in-house design group, the designers use CAD from the start as the tool for presentation, design development and preparing the product for manufacture. In development, the designers used market research to understand the use of the product in the home. Two concept models were produced for this research, and successful elements from both incorporated into the final product.
Designing in the Digital Age is curated by Jane Pavitt, University of Brighton/V&A Senior Research Fellow in Product Design. The exhibition has provided the Prints, Drawings & Paintings Department of the V&A with an opportunity to take its design collections into the 21 century. 'The V&A has always collected designs on paper' says Jane Pavitt, 'but what should we do when that drawing exists within the software? Designing in the Digital Age is our first step towards addressing the question of collecting ~

The exhibition will show how 3D CAD works on screen, so that the visitor can see the characteristics of the 'virtual' product. 'It's a rather different way of handling museum objects' says Jane Pavitt 'except that this time the visitor can take the product to bits, explode it and reassemble it - all on screen.'

The computer displays have been put together for the V&A by the company Unigraphics Solutions, who work with companies such as Dyson in developing custom built 3D CAD packages. The exhibition also has the support of Silicon Graphics, who are providing the workstations for the exhibition.


[Victoria and Albert Museum]