Exploring the shifting landscape of design in California since the digital revolution, this exhibition focuses on designs that are human-centered, socially conscious, and driven by new technological capacity. Retreating from the commercialism of Modernism’s “good design for all,” California designers in the 1960s and 70s sought to design with more political, social, and environmental awareness, as seen in the multimedia presentations of Ray and Charles Eames and AntFarm, and in the pages of the Whole Earth Catalog. A shared desire to empower the individual led to designs for “dropping out,” such as North Face’s tents and Chouinard’s climbing equipment, as well as the creation of new tools for connected living — from the first Apple desktop computer to now ubiquitous mobile devices.
The lure of being both on and off the grid at will continues to draw designers to California. Yet, the digital revolution has greatly changed design, inspiring new approaches that have helped transform the modern consumer into the digital user. Works by Sha Design and D-Rev demonstrate a focus on social impact, and new household products by fuseproject and NewDealDesign foresee a world connected and improved by the Internet of Things. The designs on view in this exhibition place California at the center of an evolving and expanding field.
Generous support for Designed in California is provided by The Gensler Family Foundation, the Arnold A. Grossman Revocable Trust, the Elaine McKeon Endowed Exhibition Fund, The North Face, and Diane and Howard Zack.
Additional support is provided by The Sanger Family.
Research for the exhibition was supported in part by SFMOMA’s Artist Initiative, which is generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Header image: Charles and Ray Eames, View from the People Wall, 1966; courtesy Eames Office and the Library of Congress; © Eames Office