Rediscovering familiar objects

The “thinking tools” exhibition provides insights into the Lamy design process. At the same time, it shines a light on the role of writing instruments as a medium and means of expression – prominently supported by Christoph Niemann.

Bathed in an orange red light, it sits in the centre of the room. Concentrating hard, Liwei gets closer to the filigree structure and reaches for his smartphone. “They’re all Lamys! It looks like a massive fire coral.” He bends forward, looking for the perfect angle to capture the motif. The design student from Hong Kong is one of the visitors to the “thinking tools” touring exhibition – and the coral is a sculpture built using the designs of artist Christoph Niemann. It is made up of around 2500 fountain pen components, specially manufactured in a special colour for this purpose.

With its dense branches, the installation, measuring around two metres in height, does not just remind people of an oversized piece of coral from the deep sea. For many, it also looks like a neuronal network, a multi-layered interaction of nerve cells and synapses.

At the foot of the installation, the branched structure narrows to a single fountain pen whose nib is drawing a straight line on a sheet of paper.

“The sculpture represents the complexity of creative processes,” says Christoph Niemann, whose drawings can be seen regularly on the front pages of well-known magazines such as The New Yorker, The New York Times or Wired. He has developed illustrations and installations for Lamy which can be seen exclusively in the exhibition. “They are never linear – they almost always include diversions. Many ideas come to a dead end and you have to start again from the beginning – until finally a really good idea comes out of it,” says Niemann.

In this aspect, art is therefore very similar to the design of a writing instrument. Product design is also the result of a complex process – particularly if the objective is to be both functional and aesthetic. But what sets “good” product design apart – and how does it come about?

This is what the “thinking tools” exhibition seeks to answer on the basis of writing instruments which have become icons – from the LAMY 2000, which was the start of Lamy Design in 1966, to bestsellers such as the LAMY safari and LAMY noto. The focus is not on the finished products, but on the process that created them:

 lots of drawings, models and prototypes from the Lamy archive document all the stages between the idea, design, implementation and marketing.

Christoph Niemann’s works add humorous statements to the exhibition providing food for thought and referring to the second meaning of the exhibition name. They focus on the role of writing instruments as “thinking tools” – as tools which help us to record and form our thoughts.

“thinking tools. Design as Process – On the Creation of Writing Utensils”

3 March – 8 April 2018 21_21 Design Sight, Tokio (Japan)

Exhibition Concept, Design and Scenography: Meiré und Meiré
Creative Direction: Mike Meiré
Curator (Lamy Design Process): Prof. Dr. Klaus Klemp
Artistic Contribution: Christoph Niemann