The appearance, characteristics, and practical value of a product are decided in the process of making it. The first room of the MAK DESIGN LAB is dedicated to the requirements and pathways of production.

The thematic area is divided into three topics: industrial, alternative and artistic production. One dimension touches on all three of these: handiwork as the origin and foundation of every type of production. A large number of the objects in the remaining rooms of the MAK DESIGN LAB represent achievements of craftsmanship.

Nowadays industrial production can be considered to be the norm. The Industrial Revolution brought with it mass production through the use of machines. While craftsmanship is characterized by design and production being done by the same person, with industrial production, these tasks became decoupled. A new sector came into being: industrial design.

The topic area Alternative Production focuses on approaches that serve as a counterpoint to industrial production. The concept of design is expanded, accepted views of growth and mass production are questioned.

The search for alternatives allows designers to move closer to artistic strategies. Questions instead of answers and open-ended experiments are characteristic of artistic approaches. While designers can never completely lose sight of practical value, contemporary artists seek the freedom to explore various possibilities for incorporating production as a topic in their own work.
Singgih S. Kartono: MAGNO wooden radio CUBE, 2008
Alternative Production
Gerhard Heufler: helicopter drone CAMCOPTER® S-100, Producer: Schiebel Elektronische Geräte GmbH, Vienna, Austrian State Prize for Design 2005
Industrial Production
Jenni Tischer: Small Blue with Woven Detail, 2012
Artistic Production

Since the industrial age began in the 19th century, critics have voiced concern about the impact of mass production and consumer society; as a consequence, doubts have been raised about seemingly immutable principles of design, which have long been viewed as subservient to marketing precepts.

Technical progress, uniform standards, and an economy based on competition lead to an allegedly democratic marketplace for goods, but at what price? If we keep producing goods for current lifestyles at the expense of future generations, then this planet will become increasingly uninhabitable.

The search for alternatives takes different routes, either reaching back to traditional methods of handiwork or exploring new ways of manufacturing so that goods can be produced where there is demand. Sustainability when it comes to design means rethinking production and consumption for a changing society.

Here we present the latest ideas for solutions, ideas which are themselves still in the experimental stage.


Thematic area Production


With craftsmanship, unique pieces are individually made byv master craftsmen according to their own vision or their client’s wishes. By contrast, as a rule, industrial production assumes the use of machines, which manufacture products of identical quality in large quantities. Producer and consumer rarely meet in this scenario.

Despite machines that are increasingly intelligent, certain parts of industrial fabrication are done manually still today. This means that wage levels, in addition to raw materials and infrastructure, are determining factors for attracting industry. Sustainable business practices, including recycling and fair working conditions, are relatively new concepts in a technology driven “new Industrial Revolution”.

The selection of industrial products shown here is based on winners of the Austrian State Prize Design. Several name changes since the founding of the State Prize in 1962 reflect evolving awareness of design as being more than mere shaping. From the beginning though, the prize was conceived as a business initiative to draw attention to the high quality of products bearing the “Made in Austria” label—especially for export brands.

The exhibit shows a third of the more than 90 products whose designers have been awarded prizes up to now. Grouped by topic, they give insight into the main areas of emphasis of Austrian industry, and also about the tasks of industrial design in general.


Thematic area Production


As an artistic medium, the applied arts anticipate developments that the fine arts do not confront until the 20th century. The realization of a work of art does not need to occur by the artist’s own hand; what counts are idea and concept (design). Conceptual art is based upon similar modes of thought. Utilitarian items can transcend their function and become symbols, such as when the art world discovers cult objects of older civilizations or declares everyday objects, furniture, or plinths to be sculptures in their own right.

The production of art has changed since the Industrial Revolution. Nature is viewed differently; it is perceived as changeable and malleable. The world of things seems to shift. The transitions between the real, the digital, and the virtual realms demand a reorientation. Diverse social and cultural spheres are interlinked in our daily lives.

Connectedness between man and machine is expressed in various ways in the vocabularies of form for sculpture, architecture and technology. Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), a visionary of modern art, calls a part of his oeuvre “Bachelor Machine,” an artistic formation where the human and the mechanical merge.

This universal idea served as the inspiration for selecting pieces from the MAK Contemporary Art Collection for an exhibit that shows the meeting of handiwork (human) and industry (machine) from various perspectives.

Jenni Tischer

Small Blue with Woven Detail, 2012

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