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The Intelligent Optimist

The Intelligent Optimist written in pink and green lettering
Phil Baines

Central Saint Martins presents The Intelligent Optimist, an exhibition and event series which explored various futures for design.

Future GazersMaterial ExplorersSocial Agents and The Fixers; all use creative practices and critical intelligence to propose provocative and hopeful new perspectives.

The Exhibition

9 September - 17 October, Lethaby Gallery

The Event Series

19-27 September, visit our Eventbrite page to browse the events that took place.

The Intelligent Optimist exhibition goes to the heart of everything we do at Central Saint Martins. The work of our students is almost by default optimistic – why design the world as a worse place? – and is always shot through with a canny intelligence. This intelligence takes multiple forms: the rigour of traditional inquiry, emotional intelligence of empathy, tacit intelligence built through experience, haptic intelligence where hand meets mind, and so on. In all cases the intelligence is deployed in a productive manner to transform the status quo or to imagine new and better futures.

Last year’s highly acclaimed Restless Futures exhibition at CSM explored the societal issues that designers are engaged with; this year’s exhibition presents the types of designer that are needed to achieve positive change within those issues: Future Gazers, Material Explorers, Social Agents, and The Fixers.

The Intelligent Optimist has never been needed more than in the current era of political and social despondency. We are all looking for alternative visions, but not naively hopeful ones. In their various combinations of wit, rigour, lateral thinking, sensuousness, ingenuity, social engagement and all round intelligence, these Central Saint Martins graduates provide a brilliant riposte to the novelist Howard Jacobson’s provocation that he “has never met an intelligent optimist.”

Download The Intelligent Optimist press release

Exhibition kindly supported by:

Computers supplied by
The Museum and Study Collection, Central Saint Martins