three men standing in front of artistic installation of wire metal trees

Swarovski Designers of the Future 2018: Study O Portable, Frank Kolkman and Yosuke Ushigome (from left to right)

Every year, the Swarovski Designers of the Future Award x Design Miami/ selects a group of promising designers and studios from across the globe who are seen to be pushing the boundaries of design culture through innovative processes and new technologies. Beyond pure product design, these are designers working in the realm imagination, concept and dreams.

Swarovski provides the winners with a topical brief and invites them to immerse themselves in the brand’s world at the mystical mountainside headquarters in Wattens, Austria.

This year, the designers have been presented with the theme of ‘smart living’, for which they will create works and environments that incorporate advanced Swarovski crystal technologies, considering sustainability, accessibility, interaction and future lifestyles. Their projects will form a single installation to be unveiled at Basel this June.

LUX meets the 2018 winners: Frank Kolkman, Study O Portable and Yosuke Ushigome

Frank Kolkman

Experimental Dutch designer specialising in robotic technologies

Bearded man standing in front of wall of crystals with arms crossed

Frank Kolkmann

What he says:

“I’m interested in unpicking the social, economic and aesthetic dimensions of current and near-future technologies through design. By developing confrontational prototypes, experimental products and interactive installations that are subtly disruptive, I aim to instigate reflection on the processes, systems and values that underpin our technology rich environment.

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It’s really about trying to imagine, generate and test alternative ways of doing, seeing and understanding beyond what is familiar to us or what’s probable in the future. By making these alternatives tangible it allows us to collectively discuss their preferability in relation to what’s already there. In turn, it helps us gain insight into what we really desire or expect from the technologies we surround ourselves with daily – and how we might get there.”

What you can expect to see at Basel:

The ‘Dream Machine’, an immersive experience generating light and sound patterns from Swarovski crystals that synchronise with alpha and theta brainwaves to allow individuals to enter a state of deep relaxation or ‘artificial dreaming’. The project attempts to design a smart solution to help us cope with the cognitive demands of modern life.

Study O Portable

Research based Dutch-Japanese practice making objects about the designed environment

Man wearing glasses with arms folded in front of crystal background

Study O Portable

What they say:

“We’re always interested in how we’ve been interacting with the designed environment throughout history; one of the most exciting things right now is the development of technologies that help us understand the past. In a way we know more about the past 1000 years now than we did 50 years ago, and it’s an exciting idea that the past is now bigger than ever before.

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The access to a wider range of information is what drives our work; it allows us to form new connections between different fragments of information that previously might have not been so easily accessible.”

What you can expect to see at Basel:

An exploration into the blurring of light and colour created by crystals. The practice associates blurry and fading colours with nature (think sunsets and autumnal leaves) and are creating a series of surfaces that will be translated into home objects that may trigger emotional responses from the user.

Yoksuke Ushigome

Creative Japanese technologist specialising in emerging technologies

Japanese man wearing navy blue shirt standing in front of crystal background with arms folded

Yosuke Ushigome

What he says:

“My design projects often speak about possible and impossible future visions; I tend to draw references from fictional objects from films and unlikely events and human behavior throughout history. I like to do a thought experiment on how an emerging technology might play a role in a very specific scenario — taken from the references — and imagine how that might change our behavior in the future.”

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What you can expect to see at Basel:

‘Can Crystals Interface Us to AI?’, an exhibition exploring the potential of crystal as an alternative interaction between human and machine intelligence that occurs within the Smart Home environment. As opposed to the voice-command capabilities of devices such as Amazon Echo and Alexa, the project utilises the  emotional quality of crystals to examine familiar behaviours between us and machine intelligence.

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