Tobias Wong and Cynthia Hathaway
Co-presented by Motherbrand and the Toronto International Design Festival
January 23 @ Harbourfront Centre
By Tina Chu
The two designers kicked off the lecture with a photojournal presentation of a trip inside Honest Ed’s. Sifting through holographic clocks, chrome-coloured figurines, ad-hoc signs, and eccentric slogans, what most entertained Hathaway and Wong was the idea that each outrageous item is the result of conscious decisions.
Addressing the topic of the lecture, Design Collaboration: Projects and Process, Wong and Hathaway identified collaboration as a tool for decision-making, a means to move away from self-centered designs and to problem-solve.
For Hathaway, first to talk about her collaborative projects, collaboration is more than cooperation between colleagues. As she introduced her works, lÓffice Perfume and Souvenirs Revisited, amongst others, it became apparent how each product collaborates with its context and its precedents and in so doing, facilitates and induces thought.
lÓffice Perfume is a unisex fragrance reflective of life at the office. Its container is made of pink eraser material, which is further encased in a notepad allowing it to camouflage on any office desk. It completely lacks the sex and glamour other perfumes evoke and is, therefore, perfect for work.
In Souvenirs Revisited, nature-centric Canadian identities are stripped of romanticism for a contemporary update. Departing from Blue Mountain Pottery collectibles, Hathaway doesn’t discard but edits well-known Canadian icons into more functional representations.
Now, those who’d like to remember Canada through porcelain collectibles can purchase a sinking polar bear, a melting Inuit, and a deer with Mercedes-trademarked antlers. But Hathaway’s revisions not only voice her concerns with misconceptions of Canada, but with our own mediated and manufactured experience of nature.
In Wong’s examples, Wrong Store and The Candy Shoppe: Papabubble x Cappellini, collaboration, though deployed similarly to Hathaway in its integration of context and precedents, is used mainly to juxtapose the cooperating entities.
Inspired by Maurizio Cattelan’s Wrong Gallery, Wong and Gregory Krum’s The Wrong Store is a store in every sense of the word except that it’s never open. While everything is for sale, products in the store can only be purchased as an installation.
Truncating the ritual of consumption, the store examines concepts of the gallery as a store and of the store as a gallery and toys with ideas of desire and of the unattainable — unless you have several millions to spare.
Set up in Cappellini’s flagship showroom in SoHo, the Shoppe was designed to match the economic climate, allowing shoppers to take home innovative design without the steep price. Besides shifting one’s experience of Cappellini, it was also a rare opportunity to see 150 children, invited to the Shoppe’s opening, run through the Italian showroom on a sugar high.
From Wong and Hathaway’s projects, collaboration in design is perhaps best characterized as awareness of what informs one’s project and how to balance context, heritage, and intents — that of the designer and of the consumer.
“In Holland, where a large community of designers exists, you’re constantly asked why,” said Hathaway, “and the answer is never ‘why not?’ You have to be ready to defend your design.”