German industrial design team V+W are turning manifestoes into the stuff of design democracy

Oliver Vogt and Hermann Weizenegger, the duo behind award-winning German industrial design team V+W, have more than a philosophy: They have a manifesto (and not just one) of “creative post-capitalism.” “We enter the age of the liquification of form,” they proclaim on their website. It all sounds a bit overblown and pretentious—until you realize that the two designers actually walk the talk of their participatory rhetoric.

For example, take a look at their first solo show, V+W DESIGNMATRIX, at the new MARTA Museum of Modern Art in Herford, Germany. A veritable design lab in a museum, the exhibition takes museumgoers on an odyssey from conception to fabrication, as if the viewer were a participant in the making of some spanking fresh design creation, such as the chair created by laser sintering at right. “Each room,” says Vogt, “is dedicated to a different mental sphere of design. It’s a matrix of how we see the profession and the field we work in.” Or to put this in manifesto-speak: V+W aim to create a design world that is unlimited in its participatory possibilities.

It would be one thing if the duo’s manifesto emerged fully born today, but they’ve actually been putting their money where their mouths are for years now.

Take their 1993 Blaupause furniture collection. Vogt and Weizenegger knew that the main obstacle between people and good design is the price of production, so they packaged up do-it-yourself kits including a no-brainer 1-to-1 blueprint for their furniture pieces, a shopping list of the stuff you’d need to build it, assembly instructions, and a metal license plate that proclaims you to be the manufacturer and owner of a V+W creation. Take the instructions to a carpenter or make it at home for a fraction of the cost. Once again, there’s a manifesto at work: Design minus Proliferation = Faster Evolution.

If it sounds as if V+W are all smarts and no heart, consider this. After years of passing the same old moribund storefront in Berlin—a workshop where the blind made brooms and brushes—Vogt and Weizenegger got the idea to breathe life back into the craft. They enlisted seven young designers to come up with 39 innovative new brush forms—a tourist brush of the Brandenberg Gate made from horse hair; a brush that turns into an eggcup—and now the blind craftspeople are making money at what V+W have dubbed the Imaginary Manufactory.
With manifestos that, there’s only one thing to say: Let the creative post-Capitalist revolution begin! —Ian Daly


“Each room is dedicated to a different mental sphere of design. It’s a matrix of how we see the profesion and the field we work in. ”