Olafur Eliasson on label-free impactful design

“I am more interested in the consequences that my work has than how to label my work,” said the multidisciplinary designer.

Olafur Eliasson is an Iceland-born multidisciplinary designer currently based in Berlin, Germany. He is the founder of Studio Olafur Eliasson which encompasses the work of specialised craftsmen, architects, archivists, administrators, programmers, art historians and cooks across a number of fields. With such a broad spectrum of creativity continuously shaping up under his guidance, Eliasson has gained a wealth of insight to share on the purpose of design and the relationship between cause and effect.

Eliasson said that a need for change (be it environmental, social or practical) should take precedence over the need to be identified as a creative person. He presented the solar lantern project Little Sun, a handheld luminous device that brings light to off-grid communities worldwide. Most recently, Over 350 Little Sun solar lamps were donated to learners at Sonop Primary in Klein Drakenstein in the Paarl, Western Cape. It is a salient example where the need for impactful change inspired a creative process and not the other way around.

The Icelandic-Danish designer maintains an awareness of the world’s challenges and that one does not have to be a bonafide creative or academic to catalyse meaningful results. He believes that real-world effect, not categorisation, determines the value and identity of a design. According to him, it is a matter of experience over the label.

“I am more interested in the consequences that my work has than how to label my work,” said Eliasson, “If I can call it art or design or architecture – it doesn’t really matter. What matters more is how do we create spatial hospitality, for instance.”

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