"Communication was key" - Isabel and Helen on designing A Load of Jargon


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The Conran Shop is the home of considered, curated design, founded by Sir Terence Conran in 1973.

Currently on show at The Conran Shop until 30 October, the installation A Load of Jargon celebrates industry buzzwords and the sometimes non-sensical language we use when talking about the business of design. It’s Nice That commissioned creative duo Isabel and Helen to create five new artworks that responded to the brief and we caught up with them to learn a little more about what they did and how ping pong balls can be problematic items to import…

What were your first thoughts when we approached you with the brief?

We thought it was a great, witty concept which we found particularly funny as it is something that we come across a lot. We too are definitely guilty of using the occasional ‘immersive’ or ’dynamic’ when selling an idea!  

How did you select the five jargon words that were going to inspire the artworks?

We spent a day away from our desks sketching out as many visual puns as possible for all the jargon words and phrases, which we then whittled down to the ones which gave us instant gratification. It was an instinctive process and often the first ones we thought of worked the best – being the most literal and humorous. 

How did you go about designing each artwork and what was the refining process like?

Our aim was to keep the artworks as stripped back and graphic as possible – communication was key. It was important that the sculptures worked together as a series rather than stand-alone pieces. We found ourselves playing with scale to maximise the space, mixing large singular pieces with smaller multiples. We treated the installation as less of a window display and more of an exhibition space as the public are invited to walk in and amongst the art pieces.

Were there any artworks that presented particular challenges when realising them?

Shipping 30,000 ping pong balls from China proved more difficult than first thought as they are bizarrely classified as a ‘weapon’ in some countries. Warping stretched type around a giant ball and making a never-ending conveyor belt of steps needed a lot of thought to get the idea off the page.

With making quite experimental moving sculptures comes a long process of experimentation with a lot trial and error. Numerous prototypes have to be made and often tweaking the smallest feature or material can change the whole movement and success of the sculpture. 

How do you hope that people will interact with the artworks? What do you hope they will take away for the exhibition?

We hope people will don their THINKING CAP and go on the USER JOURNEY we have created for them! It’s an opportunity for the industry to laugh at itself during London Design Festival.

What are your least favourite examples of design jargon?

Being told to ‘“think outside the box” or asked "but what’s the wow factor?"

The project identity typeface is Sporting Grotesque by Lucas Le Bihan.

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