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'Interface: People, Machines, Design' opens at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
ICO MP1 (Modello Portatile 1) Typewriter. Designed by Aldo Magnelli and Riccardo Levi, made by Olivetti, Italy, 1932. Photo: Powerhouse Museum.

SYDNEY.- The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences is showcasing its design and technology collection through a compelling new exhibition Interface: people, machines, design at the Powerhouse Museum from 15 August 2014 – 11 October 2015.

Featuring iconic products designed and manufactured by the world’s famous brands, including Olivetti, Braun and Apple, Interface explores how a handful of companies, designers and industrial visionaries transformed clunky machines of a century ago and created the ubercool, must-have items that we can’t live without today.

“Each of us has memories of the technologies that have changed our lives. The mobile phone highlights the way technology and design has rapidly evolved, from the heavy object of a few decades ago to the sleek multifunctional device of today. This exhibition is a fine example of the way the Museum’s collection can communicate the history of technological innovation,” said Minister for the Arts, Troy Grant.

The Museum’s collection contains many technological items that are beautiful and elegant yet their designers remain anonymous to this day. By contrast, contemporary designers, such as Apple’s present design chief, English-born Sir Jonathan Ive, are invested with cult status. Interface plays homage to designers past and present and explores their philosophies and inspirations. The exhibition also reveals how many design methods from 50 years ago have stood the test of time and remain influential in object design today.

Design visionaries whose work is explored in the exhibition include: Dieter Rams, the German industrial designer who was Braun’s design visionary; Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founders of Apple; Doug Engelbart a seminal figure of computer interface design; Olivetti designers Marcello Nizzoli, Ettore Sottsass and Mario Bellini; the early Apple designs from Hartmut Esslinger who helped shape Apple's transformation into a global brand and current designer Sir Jonathan Ive.

Highlight objects include coveted pieces from 20th century - a rare Apple I computer, one of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s Blue Box phones from the early 1970s, and a Xerox Alto computer that Steve Jobs saw working in the xerox labs in the late 1970s which transformed his and Apple's vision of how people could use computers in the future.

Along the way you can see examples of some of the finest typewriters, radios, telephones and computers that explored the use of new materials, new technologies and new manufacturing techniques that demonstrate the continuity of design methods employed by the greatest designers, up to the present day digital media players, smart phones and tablets.

Interface also reflects on the relationship between art and design: from the Italian futurists to geometric abstraction (inspiring the Ico typewriter) to pop art (inspiring the Valentine typewriter), to functionalism and modernism, designers and artists shared ideals and explored new forms.

Developed in conjunction with the Interface exhibition is a new catalogue that takes a broader look at the evolution of information technology design. The catalogue includes an exclusive interview with revered architect and designer Mario Bellini. A pioneer in the field, Bellini’s work and influence is evident through Interface. Essays by curator Campbell Bickerstaff, design academic Jesse Adams Stein and technology journalist Seamus Byrne present different perspectives on the Interface theme. The catalogue will be available through the Powerhouse Museum Shop and online as well as selected good bookstores.

“Interface is a rich and inspiring story of the extraordinary designers who revolutionised technology design in the 20th century. We are delighted to explore the ideals behind these design masterminds of our generation, whose influence continues to be felt in everyday objects we all use intuitively today. Their story is a reminder of the true power of great design on shaping the way we live,” said Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences Director, Rose Hiscock.

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