TIM MARLOW OBE
Tim Marlow OBE serves as the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Design Museum. His career journey, from historian to arts and culture advocate, has uniquely positioned him to shape the museum’s mission. In this exclusive interview, Tim sheds light on his role in infusing energy into the institution and its global perspective on design, while also addressing the impact of exhibitions and the future of design in an ever-evolving world.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING THE DIRECTOR AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AT THE DESIGN MUSEUM?
I began my academic journey as a historian, but over time, I found myself increasingly drawn to working with creative individuals. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with artists, architects, and designers, and this collaborative dynamic has been not only interesting but genuinely inspiring. So, my motivation shifted from the study of history to actively engaging with those who are shaping history today.
Where and how do you see your role here as Director and CEO impacting the overall mission and vision of the Design Museum itself?
Well, my primary objective is to harness the exceptional talents of our young and dynamic team members. Beyond that, I view my mission as one of injecting energy and vitality into this magnificent institution. We are fortunate to have the only design museum in the country dedicated to the design of the present and future, and this presents a remarkable opportunity. My role is to infuse it with the necessary energy and momentum to fulfil our mission.
London is an international hub for art and design. How does the city’s diverse culture and landscape influence the museum’s approach to showcasing design from around the world?
London is integral to our identity, being our home base. It mirrors the city’s vibrancy, diversity, and boundless energy. London hosts individuals from diverse backgrounds, perhaps more so than any other city globally. The city’s appeal remains strong, drawing students and creative minds from across the world, spanning art, fashion, and design. Our exhibitions, such as “Rebel,” which spotlights fashion designers nurtured in London over the past three decades, showcase the astonishing talent across various creative disciplines, from fashion to architecture and beyond.
The Design Museum often explores the intersection of design, technology, and innovation. Can you discuss some exciting developments in these areas that you believe will shape the future of design?
The landscape of design, technology, and innovation is expansive and complex. Artificial intelligence, for instance, holds immense potential but requires careful ethical considerations. However, what excites me the most, albeit the most challenging, is our relationship with our environment. We’ve recently set up the Future Observatory which is effectively the national research centre for the green transition here at the museum. While design has been implicated in issues around mass consumption, it can also offer the possibility of a more sustainable future. Innovation, in this context, does not necessarily mean relying solely on new technology; it may involve reevaluating traditional practices, and a fusion of the past and present in defining our future. Much of this will be researched and showcased and we hope implemented over the next few years.
CAN YOU HIGHLIGHT ANY RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE LONDON ARTS AND DESIGN SCENE THAT HAVE CAUGHT YOUR ATTENTION?
One striking development is a broader and more diverse audience’s growing interest in design. Among the younger demographic, in particular, there’s a notable appetite for understanding the significance of design. While there are parallels with the art world, design presents unique problem-solving opportunities. Design is gaining recognition and there is a greater design literacy among society at large, which is heartening.
Tim Marlow OBE was photographed at the Design Museum in London wearing selected pieces from our latest collection.
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