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23-08-2006
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flaunt the imperfection..
 
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super normal exhibit
Celebrating the beauty of 'super normal' little objects of daily life
By Alice Rawsthorn International Herald Tribune
Published: June 11, 2006
LONDON Naoto Fukasawa confessed to feeling "a bit shocked and a little depressed" on discovering that the aluminum stools he had designed were plonked on the floor for people to sit on at last year's Milan Furniture Fair, rather than displayed on plinths like other new products. He was worried that no one would notice them.
Later that day Fukasawa, one of Japan's leading product designers, received a call from the British designer Jasper Morrison, who raved about the stools and congratulated him on having designed something so subtle, yet distinctive. A mutual friend, said Morrison, had coined a term to describe the stools - "super normal."
Noting that many of the objects they admired fitted the same description, Fukasawa and Morrison decided to assemble a collection of products, which were similarly enjoyable to use and to look at without resorting to stylistic gimmicks. The pieces they chose - ranging from inexpensive items like a paper clip and Bic biro, to Fukasawa's stools and the futuristic Joyn workspace designed by the French brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra - are now on display in Super Normal, an exhibition at the Axis Gallery in Tokyo.
Morrison sees the show as a long- overdue celebration of normality in design. "Too many designers try to make their work seem special by making it as noticeable as possible that the historic purpose of conceiving things that are easier to make and better to live with has been side- tracked," he says. "The objects that really make a difference to our lives are often the least noticeable ones, that don't try to grab our attention. They're the things that add something to the atmosphere of our homes and that we'd miss the most if they disappeared. That's why they're 'super normal.'"
The Super Normal project is a manifesto for the design philosophy that he and Fukasawa have adopted throughout their careers. Among the most accomplished product designers of their generation, they work as designers and consultants for some of the world's largest manufacturers, and help to shape the development of products that millions of people use through their influence on other designers.
Fukasawa, born in Yamanashi in 1956, designs from his Tokyo studio for companies such as Boffi, Danese, Magis and Muji; while Morrison, born in London in 1959, works from there and in Paris for Alessi, Flos, Rosenthal, Samsung and Vitra. Each has defined a distinctive design language. At first sight Fukasawa's style seems more playful than Morrison's. Among his best-known products are cellphones molded in the shape of pebbles and peeled potatoes. Morrison's work appears more restrained, although a dry wit is discernible in his refinements of archetypal objects, such as cutlery for Alessi and the furniture in London's Tate Modern museum.
The two designers share a common commitment to reinventing the principles of early modernism: technological innovation and fitness for purpose. Central to everything they do is to question whether they can justify creating something new in an environmental crisis when our lives are already filled with too much stuff. The same question underlies their selection of the objects for the exhibition.
There is an element of protest in the Super Normal show. Both Fukasawa and Morrison resent the mediatisation of design and the tendency of young designers, in particular, to fall into the trap of creating superficially spectacular objects to generate media coverage, rather than to be used. They are equally critical of the tendency of designers and manufacturers to churn out a new version of existing products, simply by restyling them to make them seem more exciting, without considering whether or not they are needed.
"It's not that old things shouldn't be replaced, or that new things are bad, just that things which are designed to attract attention are generally unsatisfactory," observes Morrison. "Designers generally don't think to design the 'ordinary,'" adds Fukasawa. "If anything they live in fear of people saying that their designs are 'nothing special.' 'Normal' has come to mean 'boring.'"
Their argument is that "normal" can be anything but boring.
Yet rather than analyze whether an object is well-designed by asking the conventional series of questions - such as if it is useful, beautiful, easy to use, environmentally responsible or technologically innovative - they define 'super normal' in terms of its impact on our lives. "All of the conventional considerations are important, of course," says Morrison. "But the qualities of a super normal object are more elusive."
His favorite example is a set of early 1900s wine glasses he bought in a Paris junk shop "for a few euros each." "At first it was just their shape that attracted my attention," recalls Morrison. "But slowly, using them every day, I noticed their presence in other ways. If I use a different type of glass, for example, I feel something is missing in the atmosphere of the table. If I catch a look at them on the shelf they radiate something good. How can it be that these wine glasses, made without much design thought or any attempt to achieve anything other than a good ordinary wine glass, happen to be successful?"
Among their other choices are products, which are so familiar that we tend not to think of them as having been designed, even though it is difficult to imagine how they could be improved upon. These include the paper clip, the Bic biro, the Cricket disposable cigarette lighter, Fiskars scissors and the Ball Pentel fiber tip pen. "There are thousands of different kinds of fiber tip pens, but when we need to pick a pen to write with, we tend to pick this one over the others," notes Fukasawa. "When we look at it closely, we realize its good qualities and how attractive it is."
Their concept of "super normal" has a precedent in the Mingei, or folk-craft, movement in Japan. Launched in 1926 by the writer Soetsu Yanagi, this movement championed the useful handmade Japanese objects, which had been marginalized since the industrial revolution. Yanagi's son, Sori, now in his 90s, applied Mingei principles to industry in his work as one of Japan's most successful product designers, and some of his work has been selected for the Super Normal show.
Morrison and Fukasawa have also chosen pieces by other veteran designers whom they respect, notably the 606 Universal Shelving System originally developed for Vitsoe in 1960 by the German designer Dieter Rams to house his Braun audio products; and household objects by the Italian designer Enzo Mari. Examples of their own work are also included, as well as those of contemporaries like the Bouroullecs, Konstantin Grcic, Marc Newson and Marcel Wanders.
After its presentation in Tokyo, the exhibition will open in London in September. "We want to share the fun of reconfirming the appeal of things that have been disregarded," says Fukasawa. "Not that we're proposing to stick Super Normal design award labels on them."
The Super Normal exhibition is at Axis Gallery, Tokyo until July 2. www.axisinc.co.jp.

iht.com

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Last edited by softgrey; 23-08-2006 at 04:46 PM.
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23-08-2006
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sounds interesting. thanks for sharing soft

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23-08-2006
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I'm not impressed either way...
but I don't want to make a final opinion till I can actually see it...

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24-08-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by softgrey
How can it be that these wine glasses, made without much design thought or any attempt to achieve anything other than a good ordinary wine glass, happen to be successful?"
I guess bc of the wines they have carried from the early 1900s:-P

Many thanks for the article (super)grey:-)

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24-08-2006
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flaunt the imperfection..
 
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you are welcome nqth......

...

i like the idea of challenging the notion that normal is boring...
and this....
Quote:
the tendency of young designers, in particular, to fall into the trap of creating superficially spectacular objects to generate media coverage, rather than to be used. They are equally critical of the tendency of designers and manufacturers to churn out a new version of existing products, simply by restyling them to make them seem more exciting, without considering whether or not they are needed.
i have been feeling this way about fashion....
especially this spring and summer....

with so many items i just felt like the design had gone too far with the embellishments..

puff sleeve, ruffle, lace, cute print, ribbons...etc....
bags with chains and studs and quilting and extra handles you don't use...
too many things all rolled up into one..
more isn't always better....
sometimes less it more and simplicity is beautiful...
who needs all the bells and whistles...
simple beautiful design is often the most difficult to achieve...

and i have always said that if something doesn't function properly- then it is a bad design...
if it is not useful...then it is useless...
that is my motto...
*we are talking design here-not art...

plus i like the idea of finding beauty in the most mundane aspects of everyday life...the things that are so often overlooked and taken for granted...

...

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24-08-2006
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arndom
 
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^ def. I also think of it when designers are adding "extra" designs unless their client might think things are naked.

A perfect example is the paper bag waist:-) (Who wants more waist?) or, as Suzy Menkes said about a JS collection after JS left the first time "what women do to deserve this?", when extra drappings were added at waist.

I am kind of torn between simplicity, functionality at one side, and deconstruction, chaos at the other one... Love both:-) And I think the key might be the natural, logical order - whatever you call, of the "extra" desings.

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24-08-2006
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nqth.....

have you visited this thread?...http://www.thefashionspot.com/forums...ist-47724.html

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24-08-2006
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yeah i find products that have designs that are functional, they have their own kind of charm

like lately i try to make a bag, and i think of things i want to add to make it interesting...so like i want to add a mesh that i wove or crocheted myself and now i'm thinking of turning it into an odd kind of pocket.
so it's something useful and interesting to look at than just for decorative purposes

but!! i do think some designers add more to make it look more expensive or something 'luxury'. think Prada s/s05 and before that... i think only a truly wealthy person will pay for something so simple and not blatantly luxurious
so i agree with what nqth says
Quote:
Originally Posted by nqth
I also think of it when designers are adding "extra" designs unless their client might think things are naked.
it doesn't mean that designs that is just for beauty is useless
i find the opposite. it makes me happy!

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24-08-2006
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Yes Softgrey, I read it. Very informative :-)) thread.

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