As you enter the Design Museum just off of Kensington High Street, the Designer Maker User sign welcomes you as the constant in an ever-changing and dynamic space that the Design Museum is.
You would think that User is most relevant to the exhibition that I’m here to see today though once I’ve seen it, I relialise that all three iconic words are applicable here.
The Email is D̶e̶a̶d̶ exhibition is a collaboration with experts that links all exhibitions in the Design Museum. It has been in the making for one and a half years and took nine months to put together. A communication mode that is often taken for granted and feels mundane, in this display has been addressed in an extremely clever way, turning it into something rather magnificent.
To start you off, the exhibition welcomes you with the unique ‘scent of email’, that has been developed with advice from professional perfumers. A smell that is new, but yet somehow feels so familiar, it certainly evokes emotion, and with the addition of a custom-made soundtrack, this whole experience begins to feel surreal. You certainly start to feel like you could be conversing with ‘email’ as it starts to acquire an identity.
The walls of the entrance to the exhibit are key dates in the history of email with some rather interesting facts. Did you know that the first email sent in the UK was by the Queen? Did you know that the first spam email was sent in 1978 and the first emoticon was sent by email in 1982?
As you turn the corner, the second section is about the power of email and the concept that it is everywhere. It’s an ever-present constant in most people’s lives and the display explores the interesting locations from where people send emails. Did you know that 79% of us check our emails on holiday and 69% while watching TV? Stats all over this wall really go a long way in showing how impactful and empowering email really is.
An interactive photo booth that transports you to futuristic places where you can imagine that you would send emails from in the future completes this section and you can of course email the photo to yourself and post it on your social media.
Turning a corner once more and you’re in a tunnel of life changing moments that email has no doubt played a big role in delivering news about. Everyone has that one email that they remember. Was it your university acceptance email? Was it your dream job offer or promotion? Was it a grant that you applied for? Was it that your offer on an apartment got accepted? This part of the exhibition took the longest to put together as all of the emails used are real examples.
Proceeding through the display, next is a personality test of 5 different question prompts allowing one of 8 different fun and bizarre email personalities to be assigned to you. An interactive display that will no doubt spark conversation.
The last section explores the frustrations of email and looks towards the future. We all have certain annoyances about email and this is where 25 fictional solutions are offered for how these issues can be solved. For instance, a perfectly ergonomic email chair, with the perfect ‘email posture’, or a crazy helmet that will let you know what your emoji is based on your state of mind. One of my favourites is a photo camera that decides whether you should send an email or not based on your mood, forbidding you to send an email if you’re too frustrated.
To finish, you enter the cloud room: the final space is a place of reflection, where the feel, smell and atmosphere of email come together. In the cloud room, you can scan a QR code where you get 5 different questions to answer. Once submitted, you should expect to receive an email exactly a year from the moment that you submit the answers. It’s a conceptual way to reflect on what you see in the exhibition.
As you mull over your thoughts about the future of the digital inbox, you are left with a consideration of the environmental impacts of email though a moving sculpture, taking you back into reality and contemporary issues of today’s world.
The exhibition is open until the 22nd of October and is free, so don’t miss your chance to delve into the power of email!
The Design Museum
224-238 Kensington High St