Art Museum as Research Lab

A new exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art presents fresh talent in data visualization and other design disciplines that could have far-reaching business applications
The installation, Sonumbra, by Loop.pH, is a textile with embedded solar panels. By day, it offers shelter; by night, it emits light Anne Hong

If you were at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos last month, you may have attended a popular panel featuring design curator Paola Antonelli of New York's Museum of Modern Art. Antonelli cast designers in a context relevant to any business seeking to "innovate," or create new products or services that add value to a company's bottom line. She described designers—industrial designers, Web designers, and architects, among others—as people who translate cutting-edge technologies and scientific research into useful (and profitable) objects and devices. Not to mention the graphic and interactive designers who transform complex data into visually striking images that are more easily digestible than mere columns of numbers and statistics.

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