Design for Every Body
Finnish design has established a reputation as a flagbearer for equality. Many of its most iconic design products have been perceived as having the ability to increase equality in our daily lives. Even though its reputation, the good intentions to promote equality did not always become reality. Design Museum’s main exhibition for spring and summer season takes us on a journey through the goals of equality in different decades, from building a democratic society to today’s approach to issues like representation and individual needs.
The exhibition highlights the interconnection between design and equality in the past century. It explores the ideal of equality in some of the most celebrated icons of Finnish design as well as in lesser-known projects. In this exhibition, the past and present of design approach the same questions: Who is allowed to design and on whose terms? Who do they design for? Whose work is visible, whose voice is heard?
The exhibition features objects that seem amusing or peculiar to our time, some even insulting. Stereotypes, racialization and exoticism abound. Including provocative exhibits is not problem-free, and there is controversy over images that promote harmful imagery – should be in the limelight at all? The curators of this exhibition think that errors of the past must not be ignored, which is why these exhibits are included. They are showcased to remind us that to achieve equality we must identify power structures and achieve mutual respect, and this also applies to design.
Understanding of equality changes with society. The premise built by previous generations is not sufficient to guarantee equality in the future, and professionals involved in the field of design must be continuously re-evaluating their own activities and understanding, though complete equality will never be achieved.
Content warning: Some of the exhibits in the exhibition can seem insulting in our time. You will come across stereotypes, racialization and exotification.
Picture: Kobra Agency, photos Paavo Lehtonen. Objects from the left: Howard Smith sculpture 1982, Outi Leinonen Leena ceramic sculpture 1982 and carpet beater Annansilmät-Aitta.