The inventions of photography and film in the 20th century changed the way people visualize motion and inspired major shifts in design thinking. Experiments in Motion, a yearlong partnership between Columbia University’s graduate architecture program and Audi of America, was launched in November of 2011 to discover more new paradigms of motion that could revolutionize design.
The curators and organizers of Experiments in Motion hoped to uncover new ways of understanding motion, and to use those concepts to reinterpret and re-imagine design for the 21st century. Here are five overarching lessons from Experiments in Motion curator Christopher Barley:
1. Social Media Moves Ideas
Social media can provide extremely quick and broad feedback throughout the design process. Platforms like tumblr allow designers to easily share their design process with the public. Every student that took part in Experiments in Motion was given his own tumblr blog to use throughout the semester to document the design process. Letting ideas and designs move onto social media is not without risks and anxiety, but, if incorporated strategically, the connection can result in ideas that capture the public’s attention even before the ideas are realized. Throughout the design studios, we watched as certain GIFs and design concepts went viral.
2. Let Sketches Move
The design process can start with concepts that are already in motion. Everything from capturing video with your cell phone to scanning sketches and animating them can unlock a new and constantly moving space to imagine. The simple animated sketch above was hand drawn by an architecture student at Columbia and became the spark that led to her final design.
3. Create in Motion
Today’s creative tools are cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Designers don’t have to sit at a desk; they can design on the move, whether it be around the city or the world. Moving through a city unlocks resources, inspiration, and possibility. The conversations and connections that designers can make by escaping from behind their screens make it possible for them to connect with the city and the people for whom they are designing. Whether visiting food-cart manufacturers in Long Island or being enveloped by the hyper-density of Mumbai, the travel between and through cities was an invaluable ingredient in the Experiments in Motion design process.
4. Play with Friction and Slowness
Designers are often trying to make things easy and more seamless for users. However, there are moments when it’s equally import to introduce friction to convince people to slow down, think at a different pace, and stop moving — at least for a few moments. The concept of friction in design has been a frequent point of discussion among New York City designers during the course of the exhibit’s run. No matter the discipline from which a designer draws, they must consider the ways in which motion and design interact with one another.
5. Motion Unlocks Emotion
No conversation about motion is complete without addressing the role that it plays in producing emotion. Whether it’s the raw emotion that speed elicits or the pensive rhythm of a clock ticking, motion and emotion are locked in a close relationship. Using motion as a given for every event, we experimented with a dinner party where guests moved to a different seat after every course; a roundtable discussion on an actual moving turntable; and a model of Manhattan’s transportation infrastructure with a moving shadow. Each mini-experiment in motion provided a new opportunity to use motion to destabilize people and energize a new kind of discussion on the future of motion and design.
Christopher Barley is a partner at Therrien-Barley, a curatorial and design agency that works with brands and institutions on cultural, academic, and creative projects. Together with Troy Conrad Therrien, he curates Experiments in Motion. Watch a short summary of the project on Vimeo.