Studio Matthews Designs Latest Exhibition at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center

Studio Matthews Designs Latest Exhibition at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center

Studio Matthews recently designed the latest exhibition at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center: ​Design with the 90%​. The exhibition, curated by Cynthia E Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and presented by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center, is the third exhibition in the newly launched rotating exhibit space at the Discovery Center.

Design with the 90% highlights twenty-six projects from designers across the globe that aim to improve life in some of the world's most marginalized communities through design innovation. These approaches focus on a wide range of issues in medicine, education, shelter, communications, reproductive health and sanitation.

The team at Studio Matthews was tasked with designing a flexible system to accommodate 26 projects, including an eclectic mix of artifacts, materials, imagery, and statistics. Projects range from a coffee-grinding bicycle to eyeglasses ​with liquid-filled ​lenses​ whose ​prescription​ can be changed on the spot. The 26 projects come together in a uniquely diverse exhibition about the power of design as an approach to problem-solving.

Studio Matthews designed the exhibition to reflect the content it embodies; honest, accessible projects that aim to improve the lives they touch. To that end, the design, fabricated by Pacific Studio in Seattle, is entirely comprised of sustainable, recyclable materials that are still robust enough to last through the nine month long exhibition.

Vitrine bases are made from industrial cardboard Sonitubes. Project displays are made of Eco Board kraft panels with text printed directly on the surface to avoid using plastic. The oversize black and white hanging images for the exhibition are printed on Tyvek, a material typically used for building envelopes and insulation that is very strong and resistant to tearing. When these banners come down in May of 2019, they'll be converted into carrier bags ​by the Studio Matthews team and donated to the Gates Foundation Discovery Center​. "Our material palette-Eco Board, cardboard tubes, everyday clipboards-feels appropriate for the temporary exhibition," explained Kristine Matthews, Director of Studio Matthews, "but still feels like an extension of the warm, tactile aesthetic of the rest of the Discovery Center."

Inspired by Cooper Hewitt's 'Citizen Design Process Lab,' the teams included a section called 'DESIGN BY YOU' to challenge visitors to tackle a design problem. Visitors can ​pick from a selection of issues-for example community, transportation, education, housing-and brainstorm a solution with their own Design Toolkit​. The Toolkit-a set of handy, coaster-sized cards on a keyring-allows visitors to think through exactly what criteria they want to focus on when approaching their design challenge: Sustainability? Cost? Longevity? Visitors gain an understanding of the design process. Using their Toolkit, visitors sketch or describe their solution and are invited to share their idea on social media at #DesignforAll. Afterwards they can take their Design Toolkit with them for use on other projects. Visitor-generated design solutions are collected by the Discovery Center and featured in the space to inspire future guests.

Photography: Rafael Soldi