Alberta Takes a Bite of the Big Apple

The industrial design students of the University of Alberta took Manhattan this May, the first time a Canadian design school has been accepted at ICFF. Entitled Decay, the U of A booth displayed abstracted fragments of objects from the year’s furniture design studio. Students chose details from their work, enlarged them to human scale, and cast them in clear acrylic. The result: an array of cryptic, haunting casts that evoke the original design objects, and are art-worthy pieces in themselves.

The idea behind the show? To re-introduce the poetry that drives design – often lost when an object enters the commercial world. “Once people start using a product, the conceptual idea of the product starts to decay,” explains Tim Antoniuk, the instructor who led the development of the show. “We wanted to link end users back into the design process.”

Mounting the show at the continent’s largest trade fair was an acid test with positive results. “It was hard for people to walk up to the booth and say, ‘Oh, I know what that’s about.’ They would have to engage with the objects, and then look at a catalogue or talk with the students,” observes Antoniuk. “Their reaction was, ‘Wow, is that ever cool,’ once they understood the idea behind the display.”

For the U of A students, being at ICFF was itself a valuable experience, opening contacts with design professionals, retailers and consumers that can lead to other opportunities. Their booth’s success challenges other Canadian schools to follow their lead, testing ideas forged in the academy at future shows in the Big Apple.