Einar Wiig

Master Coordinator, Dept. of Design

Arresting design solutions

The students who graduate from the master’s programme in design at Bergen Academy of Art and Design in spring 2016 raise very topical questions and challenges in their projects – from environmental problems and consumerism to urbanisation, gender roles and trust in public authorities. In different ways, and with different points of departure, they explore many of the great challenges the world is facing today. The master’s students keep informed about the world they live in and create designs based on this big picture, but they also use their own experiences and issues they are passionate about as their point of departure. After two years on the master’s programme, they therefore present solutions that are both topical and express something very personal.

The group of students who graduate from the master’s programme in design this year is one of our most international classes to date. They come from Sweden, Poland, Germany, South Korea, Iran and Indonesia, in addition to from many areas of Norway. This also means that they have brought to the group experiences and issues from very different parts of our modern, global reality. The extremes are represented by students from the megacity of Seoul and the small village of Askvoll in Ytre Sunnfjord. With their home towns as their realm of experience, and within their respective fields (visual communication and furniture and spatial design/interior architecture), they worked on projects that, from very different angles, cover the global phenomenon of migration from rural areas to cities. How do you turn villages into vibrant local communities in which people wish to live? How do you make big cities a good place to live in?

The students have been reluctant about being presented under a common title, but one feature they have in common is a belief that design is important to society, in a way that goes far beyond being ’nice to have’. The exhibition shows a development from design as something superficial to design as a tool for exploring the core of a problem, a means of developing more functional solutions, but also creating a deeper understanding of phenomena that we often have a superficial understanding of in everyday life. This involves investigating a phenomenon in order to better understand it - and perhaps shine a new and clearer light on a small, but important aspect of the modern world.

This year’s exhibition is held in the old prison in Bergen, just a stone’s throw from the town hall, the city’s centre of power. This run-down building, which was abandoned nearly 30 years ago, bears witness to aspects of our society that luckily belong in the past. From their respective cells in this building, the students have a space to show the full range of their projects - and present solutions for the future that can play a positive role in the development of society.

The old prison building, where coercion and the suppression of free expression used to be the order of the day, will for a few weeks be a place where ideas that are free of conventional thinking are shown. They will also show that design can be a means to achieve freedom, either by making the observer see things in a different way - and therefore themselves becoming free of traditional thinking, or by the design solutions becoming tools and frameworks that do not limit and hold you prisoner, but provide opportunities for free expression and cooperation.