Hella Jongerius

Hella Jongerius is a dutch designer born in 1963.  She is well known for contrasting industry with craft, high with low technologies and the traditional with the contemporary.  Jongerius established her design studio, Jongeriuslab in 1993 in Rotterdam but it has since moved to Berlin.  Their work often features collections of textiles, ceramics and furniture.  A theme that often runs throughout their work is the use of materials in unusual ways.  For example, a wound coil of leather used in a wheel, ceramics embroidered to tablecloths and a sink made from rubber.


Hella’s work often flirts with the boundaries between art and design, her art ranges from highly functional to objects that have been made completely void of their function in favour of communicating something visual.  An example of where her work truly strays into art was her 2017 exhibition, ‘Breathing Colour’.

The exhibition featured a range of tapestries and multifaceted objects that were a culmination of Jongerius’ 15 years of research into colour, particularly how colour changes based on its environment and the time of day.  The exhibition aimed to “challenge our preconceptions of colour and embrace its imperfection and experimentation.”


I think that the exhibition looks incredibly vibrant and dramatic, I really like how each flat surface on the faceted objects are a different shade of the same colour.  The woven fabric on the walls are almost quite traditional still life representations of some of the objects that sit in front of them.  To me, this exhibition looks like a contemporary art show, show what’s the difference between art and design?

An easy answer to this question would be that design aims to create useful or functional things whereas art creates to evoke some kind of emotional response from the audience.  Jongerius believes that useful objects have potential that goes beyond their functionality but that “the story can rise above the object itself.” Objects can be a great insight into what it was like at that specific point in history in which they were made.  This shows that objects can be great at communicating something.

I think that it is clear that Hella doesn’t really care if some of her work is really art.  She seems to simply want to portray a message to her audience, whether that is about the customs of eating in the embroidered ceramics mentioned earlier or a comment on the industry’s use of bland colour.

Whether Jongerius is an artist or a designer, her attitude has proven to be commercially viable through her design for the KLM airlines first class cabin.  The  cabin focuses on the passenger experience simplification, softening and enrichment. The environment was made less confusing and more homely through reducing conflicting signals, replacing plastics for more tactile materials, adding crafted luxury details and using much more diverse colours.  The result looks miles away from the airline cabins that we are all used to and the success of the project shows because she has since been asked to revamp the economy cabins as well.

I think Jongerius is a great designer as she has shown commitment to years of research that she utilises in dramatic and exciting projects.  I think that the fact she sometimes bridges the gap between art and design shows that she has a huge range of skills and that she is able to portray a story which is something that not all designers can do.


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