Designmetropole Aachen: the design capital Research can be sexy too
It’s design that makes research really sexy – according to the activists at “Designmetropole Aachen” who tell us that investing in design early and involving designers at an early stage in the development process make a product 20% more successful. But is Aachen really a design capital? Since 2006 the answer to this has been a resounding “YES”.
- Network of artists in and around Aachen
- “Proud Members”: 30 labels
- Numerous international exhibitions: e.g. in the Museum of Modern Art in New York
- Regional materials, sustainable production
- Regular “guerrilla attacks”
After all, four Aachen labels each won one of the 20 sought-after exhibition stands at the Frankfurt “talents” competition run by the “Ambiente” consumer goods trade fair – against illustrious competition from major cities at home and abroad. It was when the judges’ panel, somewhat taken aback, asked the competitors whether Aachen was the new design capital that the idea was born and the journey started.
Because, as we all know, many brains are better than one, the competitors decided to pitch their lots in with each other and go for it. And so, “Designmetropole Aachen” was born. A web domain was booked, a studio turned into HQ, and exhibitions and presentations planned as a team.
New identity in the cloak of darkness
Armed with solid training courtesy of RWTH Aachen and Maastricht Universities and a whole raft of plans in their heads, the word about Designmetropole Aachen was conveyed to global exhibitions in Milan, Tokyo, Vienna … in fact it was only in Aachen that nobody knew they were living in a design capital. That changed all of a sudden in 2009. Under the cloak of darkness, the city’s name signs welcoming drivers to Aachen were given some extra wording, and its citizens a new identity.
Just one year later, and the designers’ network is firmly established without having lost any of its dynamism. The “Design-er-saufen” meet takes place every two months, an interesting play on words meaning something like “Drinking Design(ers)”, collaborations are underway with local government, research organisations and industry, numerous prizes have been won by the associated labels, the artisans’ market is also the venue for an exhibition of current collections, and some of the founding members occupy teaching posts at the Maastricht Design Academy, the Geneva University of Art and Design and Aachen University of Applied Sciences.
Failures, flops and flippinhecks of everyday life
Nevertheless, the ethos of all activities remains an acute sense of fun and a child-like pleasure in anarchy. Indeed, the failures, flops and flippinhecks of everyday life in designer land are a standard feature of each seminar they deliver, press packs contain threat letters, and thanks to 300 euros, some packing tape and a motor scooter painted white even Milan is now painfully aware that Aachen is the designer capital.
“We want to demonstrate that it’s just not hip to leave Aachen, but that it really is possible to make stuff happen here. In a city that’s small enough to get you heard and, at the same time, in a region with an incredible treasure of arts, culture, recreation, and a whole load of cities and international airports. And since we’ve been holding our meets, more and more designers in Aachen have been summoning up the courage to take the plunge and set up their own labels.”
If you want to know more about what’s moving and shaking in Aachen right now, how technology and design are made for each other or how you can do an awful lot with a small amount of money, come on down to the next “Design-er-saufen”. And bring along those off-the-wall ideas, all your mad plans and your empty pockets.
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