Design Real was the first design-focused show to be presented at the Serpentine Gallery in 2009. It represented the development of the Gallery's long-standing commitment to design through the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion programme, which celebrated its tenth year in 2010. The Design Real website was developed to accompany the exhibition and could be accessed in the space, acting as the exhibition's central resource. Design Real was curated by Konstantin Grcic and designed in collaboration with Alex Rich and Jürg Lehni.
Grcic is one of the world's leading industrial designers and his dedication to the importance of good design in everyday life was at the very core of the exhibition. Grcic explains: 'good design admits to the deeper insight that beyond performing a purpose in a good way, the purpose itself has to be good. All 43 items in the exhibition fulfil this idea in their own way. The relevance a product has to our life lies not only in its use, but also in how far we identify with it. A good product becomes part of our culture.'
His selection of objects was guided by several basic criteria. As the title of the exhibition suggests, all of the selected products were 'real', mass produced items that had a practical function in everyday life. There were no prototypes, concepts or models featured in the exhibition. With few exceptions, all of the products were in serial production at the time and were more or less available for individuals to buy. Moreover, all of the objects were conceived within the previous ten years. From this starting point, Grcic brought together a wide range of products with different styles and functions, from furniture and household items to technical and industrial innovations.
In the galleries, the items were identified by broad, generic categories. Additional contextual information was not provided in order to encourage an unmediated encounter with the exhibits on display. In the Serpentine's large central room, Grcic designed a research space for visitors to further investigate these objects. www.design-real.com was the exhibition's central resource and an integral part of its concept. The website is a parallel reality; a database that investigates the products in detail, exploring aspects of their development, production and use. The space was also the setting for a series of free public Saturday Seminars at 3pm.