The 2009 Creativity 50: Paola Antonelli

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Paola Antonelli
Paola Antonelli
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According to Paola Antonelli, the world is getting more complicated, and— in turn—the task of designing things that make that world intelligible is getting more complicated, as well. "What I see happening is that many people who are considered designers—because that is their training and because that's what they call themselves—are tackling forms of expression and forms of design that were not before considered part of the curriculum," she says. "And all these new forms, interestingly, require a set of skills that is much more complete and diversified than the normal design curriculum." Many of these forms were on display last year as part of Design and the Elastic Mind, an exhibition Antonelli curated at MoMA to document the role of design in visualizing everything from internet memes to the human genome. "The most important juice that you can extract from Design and the Elastic Mind is that the best designers are great generalists that are able to call upon the people that they need to create a team," she says. "So they are really intellectual leaders, and their real specialization is seeing the goal and putting together the means that are needed for that goal."

Antonelli on what designers do: "As far as I'm concerned the toughest and most interesting aspect of any designer's job is synthesis. I remember writing on a typewriter before I could write on a computer and when you were writing on a typewriter you had to make the whole synthesis beforehand—before you started writing—because every page had to be redone if you had to change. I think that what happened is that computers have become direct reservoirs of any kind of idea that can be then re-elaborated and re-hashed in different ways, and so the synthesis happens after the job is done, which might be not such a good idea after all. So what I see designers doing is being these people that are able to provide a synthesis before things are started."

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