Designing for the virtual world

Snow Crash is the title of a 1992 science fiction book written by Neal Stephenson. It was a bit of a cult classic and many of the concepts created in the book have gone on to become real things in the virtual world. If such a thing is possible.

In 1997, a group of Finnish designers and makers decided they were going to create a whole new ethos in work design. In order to reach a wide audience, they decided they were going to exhibit at the Salone del Mobile design show in Milan. The group wanted a name that would be easy to remember. They also wanted something that would give them instant recognition.

Rather than a list of unpronounceable Finnish names, the group became Snowcrash because, according to Ilkka Suppanen, one of the founding members, “Snow…played with people’s imagination of the north, and Crash was like us, crashing the party in Milan.

The group worked with lightweight materials and software to create objects for a world that was becoming dependent on computers and the World Wide Web. They designed chairs for gaming, lights that could be controlled by mobile phones (before smartphones were invented), pop-up offices, etc, etc.

Possibly my favourite object was the Jack in the Box.

Designed by Timo Salli in 1997, it came about because Salli was concerned that rooms were becoming showcases for television sets. He believed that the TV had replaced the open fireplace. In order to show that someone wasn’t addicted to their TV, he believed they had to be hidden away. He built two of these and neither of them survived. The image above is of a photograph.

The reason I’m writing about Snowcrash is because I revisited the National Museum today, specifically to see their exhibition on the design group. (I also wanted to see the Middle Floor collection but more of that tomorrow.)

The exhibition has many of the group’s objects. As you wander around the many different work spaces inhabited by modern looking chairs, desks and lights, a background soundtrack envelops you. It was specifically composed for the Milan exhibition and worked particularly well with a background of falling snow on one big wall panel.

Snowcrash was bought by a Swedish company, Proventus Design and it quickly became an international success. Then, in 2003, Snowcrash came to an end, being ‘put on ice’ as Proventus said. I don’t know why.

I rather liked the pop-up office. It was designed to arrive flat packed on a pallet and be a fully functioning work space in 20 minutes. Given many people are now working from home, this could have come in quite handy.

All up, I rather enjoyed Snowcrash. It’s a small exhibit and worth a short wander round.

This entry was posted in Gary's Posts, Museum Exhibition, Sweden 2021. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.