10 Pieces of Design Advice from MoMA Curator Paola Antonelli

The curator took to Reddit to talk design, video games, and Boeing 747s. Here's some of what she had to say.

by Beckett Mufson
04 March 2015, 11:21pm

Paola Antonelli, the MoMA curator responsible for immortalizing such icons as Pac-Man, the "@" symbol, and Björk's Biophilia app in the museum's archives, celebrated a set of new acquisitions for the This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good exhibition today by dishing out advice, opinions, and stories from the art world's trenches via Reddit AMA. We've taken a page from Antonelli's playbook and curated some observations and ideas from her crowdsourced interview:

On Thinking Out of the Box:

"The world is full of absurd objects that will never make the cut, at least until I am around. I can tell you about an object that I want to acquire even though it is too big. Some people think it would be absurd. A 747. I do not want to have it here physically, I want it to keep on flying, still used by an airline. It would be a remote acquisition."

On Coding:

"Learning at least the rudiments of coding is a matter of literacy—I am trying to learn some myself."

On Goal Management:

"I DEFINITELY am way too small to tackle the whole world. But I try to do my little part. I.e. in this online project on Design and Violence. I hope it will inspire you."

Defense Distributed. The Liberator pistol. 2013. BSplus thermoplastic, nail, 2 1/2 x 8 1/2″ (6.35 x 21.59 cm). Photo: Michael Thad Carter for Forbes. Courtesy of Defense Distributed, via MoMA: Design and Violence

On Getting a Career in Curating:

I recommend internships. They are the best way in. Although I am very well aware that unpaid internships--so typical in non-profits--are a contributing factor in the difficulties many emerging professionals find in pursuing their careers.

On Curating for the Future:

"When you deal with contemporary issues, there is not much retroactivity you can rely on, but you can certainly learn from the past to extrapolate hypotheses for the future."

On Design's Relationship with Technology:

"The best design schools teach that design and technology live in symbiosis and need each other. Engineers are designers, they are just trained in a different way."

On PhDs in Art: 

"I do not have a PhD and could have never gone through the gauntlet, I am a chicken. I know a few PhDs and despite that, they are still good curators! I am kidding. I personally think the person makes the title, and not vice versa, but I think that the PhD has become almost a requirement for higher-level curatorial employment. Hang in there, finish as soon as you can and jump in."

On Art and Politics:

"I see artists and designers becoming more and more politically involved because the world demands it. It is a very heady moment."

On the Future of Design:

"The physical and the digital world are coming together and I confess to being partial to the digital lately, at all scales, architecture and design."

On Getting "Found" as an Artist:

"The real answer is, it is a matter of luck and perseverance, as usual. Being in the right place at the right time."

Tempest, David Theurer, © 2015 Atari, Inc., via MoMA


Favorite Video Game?

"It is Tempest: I love it because it is done with simple vector graphics and yet it is so amazingly complex and expressive."

Her Must-Read Architecture Book Recommendation?

"Alice Rawsthorn's Hello World."

Her Ideal Career If She Wasn't a Curator?

"A production designer for movies. Or a window dresser. Like Simon Doonan."

Click here to check out the whole AMA, and follow Paola Antonelli on Twitter to stay up-to-date with her ideas and exhibitions.


9 Quotes on Creativity from Kanye West's Oxford Lecture

5 Oscar-Winning Documentary Tips from the 'Citizenfour' Team

Extreme Proof That Spike Jonze's Reddit AMA Is Internet Gold

8 Pearls of Wisdom from Hayao Miyazaki

Reddit AMA
Paola Antonelli
museum of modern art
design and violence