Highlights from Designed in California

by Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher and Robert Kett

California has long been a magnet for designers seeking to change the world. This spring, SFMOMA’s architecture and design galleries on Floor 6 offer visitors an opportunity to explore California’s shifting industrial design landscape before and after the digital revolution. Focusing on designs that are human-centered, ecologically conscious, and driven by new technological capacity, Designed in California features more than 70 objects from the 1960s to today. The pieces on view include widely adopted works, such as Apple’s Macintosh computer, released in 1984, as well as conceptual works that imagine a high tech future, like Lisa Krohn’s wearable computer, Cyberdesk, from 1993.

Arthur Espenet Carpenter, Wishbone chair

The Wishbone chair’s utility and skillful use of materials is typical of Arthur Espenet Carpenter’s work. While his furniture echoes classic woodworking, Espenet was self-trained and often created innovative tools to execute his designs. He co-founded a craft guild in the small town of Bolinas in the 1970s, reflecting many California designers’ desire to move back to the land, revisit traditional skills, and create more intentional forms of community.

A color photograph of a wooden chair, Espenet Carpenter

Arthur Espenet Carpenter, Wishbone chair, 1970; collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; photo: Katherine Du Tiel

Lisa Krohn, Cyberdesk

Made in 1993, Krohn’s Cyberdesk is a futuristic proposal for a wearable computer that promises mobility and constant connectivity, integrating technology with the everyday. While today’s interfaces might take a different form, Krohn’s work anticipated the growing intimacy between humans and technology.

A white mannequin wearing a futuristic wired earpiece and necklace

Lisa Krohn, Cyberdesk, 1993; collection SFMOMA, gift of the artist; photo: Ian Reeves and Katherine Du Tiel

IDEO, Method cards

Inspired by an interdisciplinary vision of design, IDEO has popularized “design thinking” as a method for identifying problems, and designing products and experiences to solve them. The firm’s method cards make this approach available to a wide range of organizations and individuals, offering an accessible tool for generating design solutions.

A black and white image of an old mac UI, IDEO

IDEO, Method cards, 2003; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase; © IDEO; photo: Don Ross

Sha Yao, Eatwell tableware

Yao’s design for tableware for users with physical impairments was inspired by her grandmother’s experience of Alzheimer’s. Using bright colors, nonslip materials, and tailored forms, the dishes allow for a greater degree of independence and encourage patients to eat more.

A color table top photograph of colorful a dining set, Sha Yao

Sha Yao, Eatwell tableware, 2014; Photo: courtesy Sha Design

Designed in California is on view through May 27, 2018 on Floor 6.


Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher is the Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design at SFMOMA.

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Robert J. Kett

Robert J. Kett

Robert J. Kett is the former curatorial assistant for Architecture and Design at SFMOMA. Kett is a curator, writer, and researcher based in San Francisco. Robert received his PhD in the anthropologies of science, technology, and material culture from the University of California, Irvine and has held previous positions at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the Getty Research Institute. His writing has been published in Representations, Design Observer Quarterly, the Getty Research Journal, and elsewhere and he is coeditor of Learning by Doing at the Farm: Craft, Science, and Counterculture in Modern California.

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Designed in California
January 27–May 27, 2018

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.

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