Design Museum review (Apr 2015)
This is out-of-date! I have been here again since I wrote this review
The way that the Design Museum operates is through a series of temporary exhibitions. So I can't guarantee that what you see will be the same as what I saw today. But maybe you'll have better luck than me because what I saw was rubbish.
I hate using the word rubbish in a review because it's such a lazy way of describing something, but on this occasion it's a perfect fit -- because it was rubbish! I've actually been to lots of places that were far worse but I've always let them off the hook because they were free (you expect a bit of rubbishyness when it's free), but what wound me up about this place was the price -- they charge you thirteen quid to get in. That is a crazy price to pay for the peanuts they've got inside.
The first floor was full of womens' dresses. Not famous dresses, worn by famous people; but just some standard shop-bought dresses on a plastic mannequin. Some of them were brave and outrageous I suppose (huge feathers and neon stripes etc) but most of them were just the same old stuff that you might find in M&S: a pair of dungarees, a high-heeled shoe, a lady's business suit. I think they realised that it was a bit poor and tried to pad it out with photographs. So instead of seeing Margaret Thatcher's blue suit you just see a photo of it, and a photo of Jackie O's glasses — you get photos instead of objects. That was it. It took me fifteen minutes to walk around the whole lot, and five of those were spent sitting down writing this.
The second floor was all about 'wearable tech'. This one looked like an Apple Store. It had a long wooden table in it with some iPads and iPhones on top, coupled with some sensors that can measure your blood pressure and heart rate etc. It just seemed like one big advert to me. One of the exhibits was for a 'baby app', for example, which dished out child advice to new parents. But it just seemed like something you'd buy for 99p in the App Store. Another one was called iHealth, which allowed you to input your blood sugar levels into your phone. Woopie-doo!
The third floor is where they kept all of their best stuff (...if you can call a stackable chair and a bike light the best stuff). Okay, so I admit that a stackable chair is quite handy, but do you really want to come to a museum to see one? Or how about a brick? I suppose it fits the bill as a great piece of design... but it's a brick. You can't charge people an entry fee to see a brick. How about an early inkjet printer (you've probably got one of those gathering dust in your loft). Or a plastic wastepaper basket? Or a potato peeler? Or twelve teapots? I kid you not, folks. That is what you can see when you stump up fifteen quid to enter the Design Museum -- a potato peeler.
I thought it was going to be full of amazing inventions and groundbreaking designs. They could have had a succession of designs to show you how things have changed over the years... early telephones to modern mobile phones... early cabinet TVs to modern-day 3D ones... early gramophones and crystal radios to Sony Walkmans and iPods... but there’s none of that. It’s just a random collection of disparate objects, like a local branch of IKEA. This is a razor... this is a potato peeler... this is a teapot... this is a brick...
The most amazing thing to me was how the place was so packed -- and it was! It was genuinely busy. As I was walking around I felt a bit like that kid in the crowd who was trying to draw everyone's attention to the emperor's new clothes. "He's got no clothes on!" It's just a teapot you idiot! It's just a shoe! That is what this place does — they take a teapot and shine a load of lights on it and voila! ...an instant museum exhibit. All they've got to do is put up a plaque saying how wonderful it is and people will believe them, because they don't want to admit to themselves that they've just wasted fifteen quid. So they go: oh yes, now that I have read the plaque I can see what they mean -- now I can see that it was a huge breakthrough in the design of teapots and well worth the fifteen quid entry fee.
Well I have seen through their game -- nice try, fellas, but I am calling your bluff. This museum is full of invisible threads. Take my advice: if you want to learn about the history of design then visit the V&A museum instead (or even the Science Museum), which is far superior in every single way -- and 100% free.
I suppose I'd better end this review by saying something nice, so here it is: there's a long river walk outside the front which is worth a look, because you get a good view of Tower Bridge with the city skyscrapers behind.
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