Tabu 2013 / Part 1: documentation
Berlin University of the Arts

How do the concepts of a design education relate to the realities of the professional field after graduation? How do designers earn their money in the industry? In which fields are industrial designers active? Which fields are invisible, not discussed or to be questioned ethically?

The education in industrial design is very diverse. The focal points of the field of profession, the roles of designers and their impacts can vary widely. At some universities and art schools a critical, reflective, social, green and responsible design is taught. At other schools, industrial design is understood as a purely technological profession, the results of which do not directly address links to wider socio-cultural or environmental contexts. A title on the graduation certificate does not disclose the motives and circumstances of the industrial designer and his/her designs. In addition to the involvement of many industrial design practitioners in the development of mass-produced commodities and the associated impact on environments, there are further lethal areas that challenge an ethical stance when it comes to critically observing this profession. The roles of designers in the development of weapons and artefacts of warfare are a not often discussed topic in the industrial design education. However some designers play a role in this industry.

“Tabu“ is a project that explores less visible areas in the field of industrial design and associated results, like artefacts related to tabooed topics, lethal material culture and technological innovations with violent effects. Therefore both design research questions as well as questions on the material culture of technologies were addressed and came together. The research about and through design was carried out including field studies on weapons and funeral fairs, in shooting halls, the Beate Uhse Museum and through interviews with diverse actors. The project discussed broad questions on industrial designer's attitudes, roles and impacts. How to deal with questions on ethics in design? How is the designer‘s attitude reflected in her/his designed artefacts? How does design manipulate perception? What is invisible in the visible?

The project is a multi media design discourse in the form of text, image and material translations. A documentation (on this page) of the design research process provides insights into theoretical approaches as well as the materialised and visualised practice in the form of field studies, experimental workshops and the derivation of a speculative scenario of an ambivalent weapons company which is represented in the form of a collection of symbolic objects (Devices) and an experimental short film (Moritz Winnebrock).