Design museums can be a fantastic source of inspiration, and the great cities of the world are packed with incredible examples to get your creative juices flowing.
And museums don't have to be exclusively dedicated to design to be useful for designers. Whether it's a collection of conceptual art or vintage posters that sparks a fresh idea, a series of events or workshops that bring the local creative community together, or even the architecture (after all, many museums are famous buildings in themselves).
In this article we've gathered together the best design museum collection featuring institutions from around the world. How many have you visited?
New York's Museum of Modern Art (aka MoMA) boasts a prominent collection that encompasses art, design, architecture, sculpture, photography, illustration and more.
Exhibitions at the design museum have covered topics such as 50 years of Helvetica, contemporary Dutch design and the Bauhaus movement.
Stephan Thiel, interface designer for Berlin-based Studio Nand, is a big fan of the museum, which is located in midtown Manhattan. "MoMa's senior curator Paola Antonelli does some excellent work curating design shows, and positioning the museum as an 'R&D department of society' as she puts it," he says.
As an American institution, the Smithsonian is vast, comprising no fewer than 19 museums in total, two of which are in NYC. As the National Design Museum, the Cooper Hewitt is the only one in the United States dedicated to historical and contemporary design, and the home of the National Design Awards.
Reopened after a major refurbishment, the Cooper Hewitt mansion is currently home to a number of exhibitions including Process Lab: Citizen Design – an installation built to give visitors first-hand experiences with the activities designers use to solve problems and develop new ideas – and a collection looking at the history of radio.
Currently hosting an exhibition exploring how the natural world has increasingly become a source of design innovation, the Design Exchange is Canada's most important design museum. Based in downtown Toronto in the city's old Stock Exchange, its rich program of events included graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister's The Happy Show in 2013.
Vanessa Eckstein, creative director of Toronto-based Blok Design, recently participated in a series of talks on the topic of happiness: "To have the DX, where these lighter and deeper conversations can happen around design in everyday life in our city, is a true luxury," she enthuses. Permanent collections span over five decades of industrial design, including furniture, textiles and electronics.
Based in the Australian capital of Canberra, in between the rather more established creative hubs of Sydney and Melbourne, the Gallery of Australian Design (GAD) hosts design events of national significance, which in 2011 included a major exhibition as part of the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA)'s poster biennale.
GAD design museum has run initiatives such as Remedy – a showcase of promising graduates in architecture, graphic design, industrial design and more – and also Young.Hot.Canberra, which elevates the city's exciting homegrown talent.
Built in 1948, Brazil's most significant design museum is modelled on MoMA in New York, and even sports a similar acronym: MAM. "Some important exhibitions and biennials happen there," reports São Paulo-based graphic designer Cristiano Siqueira.
Most of the collections centre on the work of Brazilian artists from the mid-20th century onwards, and MAM also manages a well-stocked design library.
"It's a quiet and beautiful place," smiles Siqueira. In 2013, the museum collaborated with the Centre Pompidou in Paris on Crossed Circuits, which explored the fascinating relationship between styles and cultures on different sides of the Atlantic.
Although it was only founded in 1989, London's Design Museum – recently moved from the banks of the Thames to a new home in Kensington – has built a global reputation for its inspiring collections, which span all kinds of modern design.
This includes product/industrial design, fashion, architecture and of course graphic design. Past exhibitions have been dedicated to iconic figures such as Wim Crouwel, Terence Conran, Paul Smith, Alan Aldridge and Alan Fletcher.
The museum also runs its annual Brit Insurance Designs of the Year competition to reward the most innovative and game-changing examples of design from the past 12 months.
- Also read: The Designer's Guide to London
07. The V&A, London
The world's largest design museum of decorative arts and design, the V&A was founded in 1852 in honour of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The millions of items in its permanent collections span 5,000 years of art, while temporary exhibitions have covered illustration, sculpture, photography and more – with recent shows dedicated to David Bowie and 1980s London fashion.
"I like how UK museums like this function as a hub for exchange," enthuses Studio Nand's Stephan Thiel. "The V&A's recent Arduino workshop for children is a particularly great example."
The Bauhaus Archive design museum boasts an incredible piece of architecture in its own right – fittingly designed by Walter Gropius, founder of the hugely influential Bauhaus school of architecture, art and design. Within its holdings are inspirational examples from all of the above fields and more, including paintings, drawings, sculptures and models.
A recent exhibition focused on the influence of the Frankfurt Art School and its relationship with the Bauhaus, while its current major exhibition, Bauhaus in Motion, offers you the opportunity to see some of the highlights of its collection before the museum is closed for construction work in 2018.
Although Stephan Thiel at Studio Nand laments that the level of engagement with the public through programmes and participatory events in German museums isn't quite on a par with the likes of MoMA or the V&A, he believes Vitra and the aforementioned Bauhaus Archive do his country proud as "a place for exchange, hands-on exploration and curated shows".
Vitra is housed in a strikingly modern Frank Gehry-designed building that opened just days before the Berlin Wall fell, in Weil am Rhein, a German town on the border between France, Germany and Switzerland. The musueum largely focuses on product design, but temporary exhibitions have to-date included everything from architecture and sculpture to topics such as pop art, contemporary Dutch design and the art of reduction.
Finland's Design Museum is one of the oldest of its kind in the world (although predated by London's V&A). Its vast collection takes in industrial design, fashion and graphic design, and includes 75,000 objects, 45,000 drawings and 125,000 images.
Besides holding (and touring) exhibitions on design history and other relevant topics, the museum also conducts research into Finnish design. It's currently celebrating the centenary of Finnish independence with a completely renewed collections exhibition entitled Utopia Now - The Story of Finnish Design, focusing on the integral role of design in the evolution of the Finnish welfare state, with five themes illustrating the history of design through living stories.
Next page: 8 more must-see museums...