I was very proud of my cardboard chair I had constructed. Not only was it an unusual shape, it also had cunning carvings on the surface that matched and added to the flavour. To me, it was a work of art. When it came to be my turn to explain my creation, I thought it wise to demonstrate how wonderfully functional my design was. I eagerly sat on my chair, as it was designed for that purpose, and instead found myself in a lump amongst folds of cardboard that were once my work of art. It was at that moment when I realised- design has to work.

Design is based on solving problems. These ‘are not the same as the “puzzles” that scientists, mathematicians and other scholars set themselves. They are not problems for which necessary information is, or ever can be, available to the problem solver. They are therefore not susceptible to exhaustive analysis, and there can never be a guarantee that ‘correct’ solutions can be found for them’. Nevertheless, the designers’ mission is still to create a solution to the problem. The solution must achieve certain requirements and tasks. The result must also have a level of practicality in order to be considered a successful piece of design (essentially, one does not need to have been educated with the laws of physics or chemistry to know that a bucket serves as an effective way to carry water).  If, for instance, the bucket has no base, the bucket will not retain fluid; the solution does not solve the initial problem and therefore is not a successful piece of design.

This idea that an object should be created to fulfil a particular function sure seems like an obvious one, especially in regard to industrial design, but it is one that has continuously been overlooked, particularly in relation to art. In the nineteenth century, for example, imperfections and cracks in pottery were painted over with decoration. The intention of the art was to hide the defects, and it did so very well. Therefore it met its intended purpose and could also be claimed that this art, like design, works. A similar example to this is the Sistine Celine by Michelangelo. This is undeniably a masterpiece, an artwork that takes breaths away. It was commissioned (like much design) by Pope Julius II to portray the story of Gods creation of the world to the upper and, often illiterate, lower class. It successfully did so. It solved the problem and accomplished the task. Why, then, is it considered art and not design? The answer? Context.

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Objects are always seen in context. Almost everything, from our clothing, our houses, our transport systems and even our food, has been designed to serve a specific purpose, to enhance our living. The way we think about an object, and the value or meaning we give to it, depends on where we are seeing it, on its context. Is it possible to create an environment devoid of context where we perceive the object purely for what it is? This has been one aim of the Modernist Art Gallery, what some have called "the bare white cube": to present each object ...

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