Interview, Product and Industrial Design
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Cabinet of Curiosities

IAA Product Design Graduates 2016, Part 1

Autumn is upon us and a fresh batch of students are settling in at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. To get a sense of things to come we looked back at final projects from this year’s BA graduates in product design, who displayed a cabinet of curiosities backed with rich research as their final exhibition.

In the first part of this two-part-article, we speak to Gardar Eyjólfsson, who is the director of studies in Product Design and who lead the final project course together with Thomas Pausz. In the second part, we highlight one exemplary project.

HA – Garðar, how is this year’s group of graduates different from the previous years?

I have noticed a change in mentality in our students for the last couple of years. They are starting to work much more as unit, sharing their research, network and experiences for the greater whole. They understand that they are much more powerful as a group than an individual. That was very visible in their group project willow project (


Photo by Hallgerður G. Hallgrímsdóttir

The coming generation share an interest with large pressing questions as their projects revolve a lot about basic things that perhaps have been a bit neglected, for example the soil and the sea. There is also a strong urge to reconnect with nature in relationship with our industrial systems, to redefine them. That is  working with nature not against her, to create closeness with the world around you and thus accepting nature’s limitations and the discovering the beauty hidden there. All the projects shed a light on hidden worlds and processes in human systems or propose alternative new systems and applications.

HA – Did you do something differently from before in planning their studies?

The program evolves year by year, and each year creates an action that in turn creates a reaction on the teacher’s behalf.  We have made a conscious decision to push the students towards mixing mediums in order to communicate their work. The students create a strong research archive that can be communicated through a number of mediums, this creates a stronger voice for the work towards society.


It’s getting much more accessible for designers to utilise all sorts of mediums ranging from objects to process, image, video and performance. We aim at – and are – getting better and better at building up individuals with excellent research skills and strong authorship, and to communicate and translate their work to different audiences.

HA – What were your goals for the final exhibition?

The group was quite strong research-wise and all of the work presented has a large backdrop. We felt it was fitting to transform the library of the museum into a cabinet of curiosity. We wanted to create an archive to display their work – a mixture of their research work along with translations of of it into inspiring work. We wanted to create space where visitors would get better access to the work and the designers, to push forward dialog and networking in order to push the projects forward.


HA – What are the key challenges the graduates face as brand new product designers in Iceland in 2016?

In my view, our biggest challenge as a whole is to foster and create stronger bridges between universities and the society. The students and their projects need a stronger venue to grow. This means facilities, a bit of capital and (mostly) time. The students propose projects that are highly relevant and feasible. We as a society should invest and believe more in their capabilities and, to certain extent, I believe it is their right to create their own future. Give them freedom to express themselves and value will come.


HA – What do you hope your students will do after their graduation?

I hope they realise that they will probably never be as free to find their own way as they are now. They should have the courage to push and fight for their projects and keep believing that one day all the hard work will pay off. Meet people from all sectors of society, network, travel, do internships, work locally, work abroad and, finally, study more to develop their talents further.

Text by Sari Peltonen. Photos from the Iceland Academy of the Arts – IAA

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