The exhibition approaches the phenomenon of 'finish' from five points of view. Each point of view or theme explores a type of finish and examines the way in which it responds to our aesthetic and sensory needs. Or to a functional requirement.

With the theme Patina we take a look at a finish that under normal circumstances would not require any human intervention. Patina evolves under the influence of climate, sunlight or chemicals, and is heavily dependent on the passing of time. The concept is linked to the antiquity and authenticity of objects, that then become more valuable, while patina is in fact the result of wear and tear.

In another installation – Lustre - Designing the Surface exposes the glistening coatings that afford products their irresistible glare and sparkle. Nowhere is our love for the treated surface as easy to trace as in the centuries-old obsession with the polished object. Not only on the part of those who buy these products but just as much for their makers and designers. Whilst some treatments are closely tied up with recent developments in the high-tech industry, the history of the theme lustre goes back much further than this.

If paint is the most personalised form of finish, Teflon is one that repels all forms of contact. Over the past century a whole range of coatings have been developed to make objects more hygienic and antiseptic. The porcelain enamel coating of the early 20th-century bathtub in is a prime example.

Each of the above themes features its own specially designed installation in the exhibition, spread over the large exhibition space on the ground floor of Het Nieuwe Instituut. Traces of Designing the Surface can also be found in the lobby and the areas around the building. After all, the surface is all around us. On the objects in the exhibition, but also on the cars in the adjoining car park, the park bench, the façade of Sonneveld House, the book cover, the cup in the café, the floor in the exhibition space, the raincoat in the cloakroom, the mobile phone screen, the lips of a visitor.