twentytwentyone’s blog for Super Normal

Photograph copyright Mark Whitfield/twentytwentyonePhotograph copyright Mark Whitfield/twentytwentyonePhotograph copyright Mark Whitfield/twentytwentyone

Having been fortunate enough to host such a wonderful exhibition and being inspired by the fantastic responses from the 1000+ visitors the show had during London’s design week, we at twentytwentyone have tried to come up with a way to extend it’s life and audience and have created this blog site to do so. We hope this goes some way to capture and document the philosophy, design and spirit of Super Normal.

Please feel free to post comments, questions or views.

twentytwentyone

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38 Responses to “twentytwentyone’s blog for Super Normal”

  1. luxgood Says:

    The designs ar tremendous -love the bike

  2. Jasper Morrison Says:

    There are about 200 Super Normal items in the show. These were selected in Japan and Europe in a quite short space of time, and I’m sure there are 1000’s more out there. The exhibition tries to describe Super Normality by illustrating it with examples. We were not sure what the effect would be before we set up the show, but having done it and stood back we became aware of a quite particular atmosphere. I’m sure we missed out on some good ones, and I’m sure some of the exhibits are not really Super Normal. You need to live with these things to know for sure. Anyway if anyone has any proposals we would happily consider them for future venues of the exhibition.

  3. kirk mosna Says:

    I agree with the content of the essay, but to coin it ‘super normal’ or coin it anything but good and appropropriate design maybe a problem. Designers tend to pick these names up and turn them into styles that are applied to products/graphics because it’s the latest trend.
    Besides are we not just discussing what Ikea has been doing for years on ‘most’ of their product designs.

  4. Adisorn Chongphanitkul Says:

    Bangkok, need them.

  5. 2021supernormal Says:

    Kirk,
    I don’t think Jasper and Naoto are trying to ‘coin’ a phrase to create or be part of a latest trend. More like celebrate the qualities they feel exist with certain objects regardless of whether they are by known designers, relatively unknown designers or of unknown design origin.
    With regard to Ikea, I would say they cover a plethora of styles and to an extent rely on plagiarism to keep the machine turning but I am sure have helped to modernise consumer tastes on a mainstream level which is a good thing.
    As Jasper says above if there is anything you feel should be picked out and considered for future exhibitions then post details and maybe it will be selected.
    Good to get your views so thanks and regards

  6. Jasper Morrison Says:

    The name is important because I really think we have stumbled in to something new. To compare it with Ikea is interesting, but Muji would be closer. Actually it would be more accurate to say that some of Ikea’s products may be Super Normal, just as only some of mine or Naoto’s are. It’s not a style but a quality in an object, and finding aname for it (by chance) allows us to explore it. Super Normal is independant of any commercial enterprise and the exhibition has been put on to try and define the term.

  7. pipo gianni Says:

    Can anybody tell me if the exhibition is about to travel to mainland Europe?
    I would love to see it but unfortunately just found out after coming back from London.

    I like the idea: ‘super normal’ and am trying to find out how this could be applied in architecture. For the last 15 years every architect seems to be trying to make another signature object and every client wants another ‘Bilbao’. Ending up with an uncoherent ‘city of objects’ which will be run out of fashion before they are build. It’s a race which will only accelerate. As our surroundings are becoming a ‘rainfall of images’, architects (and designers) could provide us a way out of the fashion ratrace by offering the almost unrecognizable quality of the quiet.

    I am glad you were able to put it on the agenda and am hoping I will be able to see the show.

  8. Jasper Morrison Says:

    We’ll definitely be showing it in Milan during the Salone del Mobile next April. We’re checking out some other offers in Europe at the moment. I agree it would be good to have an architectural equivalent. Have you ever read “A pattern language” by Christopher Alexander. Come to think of it that is the Super Normal approach to Architecture, probably not very popular amongst today’s monument makers but much more real. Have a look if you can.

  9. pipo gianni Says:

    Yes, I know that book. Very interesting.

    At the moment there is actually quite some interest in the ‘back to normal’ approach in architecture. There is a very nice book by Juhani Pallasmaa called ‘The eyes of the skin’ which makes a plea against signature ‘eye-candy’ and for architecture of all the senses instead of only for the eyes. Of course there are quite a lot of English architects dealing with this too (Caruso St.John, Tony Fretton, Sergison Bates, etc.).

    I’m still trying to organize an exhibition on this topic as I feel there is a renewed interest in this approach (as your exhibition and the positive reactions make very clear). But as you will probabely know it’s quite hard to have people forget about instant satisfaction and look a bit longer and harder on what’s in front of them. After all we all like the simple sweetness of candy…

  10. Jasper Morrison Says:

    There’s an architect in London called John Glew: john@johnglew.co.uk, who’s been lecturing on normality in architecture, and there are some obvious connections with Alison and Peter Smythson. It would be good if someone made an architecture exhibition to match ours.

  11. pipo gianni Says:

    Thanks for the tip! Interesting work. Quite funny to see how everything moves in circles: both Tony Fretton and Mark Pimlott who wrote about John Glew’s work, have been teachers of mine… Especially Tony Fretton has been showing the way with introducing me to the work of Sigurd Lewerentz, Caruso St.John, etc.

    Anyway, I hope I’ll be able to pull off an exhibition on the ‘super normal’ in architecture. If it ever gets that far I’ll let you know!

  12. DT Says:

    I was at the London’s Designer Block, but it was so unfortunate that I did not get a chance to go the exhibition. I was traveling everywhere by foot, and in my 4 days there I just did not get the time. After looking at the site, I think I should have gone.

    I think in a time of excess and products generating over-consumptions and needless wants, (can you say mobile phones and ipods?) this exhibition is a breath of fresh air.

    Coming from South East Asia, the nature of the products shown was to me powerful. However its impact was not so much about its design, but the products exhibited were inventions, products that fulfill a need or a problem that had to be solved. Paper clip, a mile bottle, bicycle etc. I think this is in essence the significant difference between the products on display and the rest of the London Design Festival’s myriad of over styled designer chairs.

    If you would consider bringing it to Singpaore or Sydney, please let me know, I would love to help out.

  13. Jasper Morrison Says:

    The Super Normal exhibition will be held one last time in Milan at the Trienalle during the furniture fair this April from 17-23rd, details at http://www.Supernormal.co.uk We’ll also be publishing a book about it. Visual Socialism? Interesting take on Super Normal. We don’t mean it to be restricting in terms of materials or processes, just to hold back on the creative ego and let the object in question be what it is. In fact by surpressing the creative urge I think we can arrive at more interesting results, objects which have a more positive effect on our surroundings. It’s a gentle reminder of what makes a good object.

  14. eloise Says:

    i like very much the fact that the title of the exhibition is supernormal…not just normal but SUPER normal, which i feel has no allusions to socialism, on the contrary, its a challenge.

  15. Michael Leung Says:

    Hi all,

    The term “Visual Socialism” in design got me thinking…

    I love the concept behind Super Normal. A certain precedent for this is my admiration for Muji and the work of Jasper and Naoto.

    I think ideas of rational, responsible and unobtrusive design have become more and more important today. Super Normal celebrates the identity of a product and the way a person would use it. Many high street stores and designer’s today focus on capturing our attention and doing something fresh and exciting (I admit, I’m sometimes guilty of that too…).

    Super Normal offered everyone a breathing space last year during London Design Week. It gave us a reminder of what true design really is. I look forward to Milan and hope that Super Normal includes some different products too, as well as some those shown at Twenty Twentyone – perhaps some Italian objects…

    Perhaps it is a Visual Socialism. But only if you receive it with that in mind. As a product designer, I saw Super Normal, in a way, as something that helped cleansed and refine my approach towards design.

    Thanks.

  16. Martin P Says:

    is it still the intention to exhibit SuperNormal in milan?
    we visited the exhibition last year and thought it was interesting.

    twentytwentyone was a great venue as it resembles a garage sale no matter when you visit and always provides a low key alternative to uber cool design shops. i would have thought it would be difficult to recreate the same grunge feel amongst the design glitz in milan?!?

    mvh

    martin

  17. Nicolo Taliani Says:

    I am so very happy to see Jasper Morrison himself answer back some of the comments. I am a designer and my first product is going into production now. Lamp No.1 its called. (www.nicolotaliani.com) I write because I need some clarification on “supernormality”.

    Firstly I need to know:
    Is one using this term to describe what objects should be like? is this a discussion aimed at illustrating the “right way” of designing? Like most people I feel that the world is spiraling towards a consumist money hungry egocentric way of design, where fashion and style predominate over function, essentiality, “honesty” and where every movement then becomes a style which stops having anything to do with the movement itself. (dangers of making a term such as “Supernormal” fashionable are real)

    In the exhibition I see objects from Ronan and Erwan Bourulec who mention Ettore Sottass as one of their reference points. Then I read a quote by this last saying that “you won’t save your soul by painting everything white.” My question is whether this discussion is aimed at saying that anything but supernormal design is good? Is not emotion expression and humanity part of our world and design too? Should then the work of Sottass and Memphis be discarded? Is it not “good”design? Are we saying that design should be stripped of an individual emotional identity in favor of a “social” one?

    I see objects from Naoto Fukasawa and some by Jasper Morrison as well as other greats like Achille Castiglioni. Naoto in an interview mentions his apreciation for Castiglioni’s work however only two of his designs are present in the exhibition, is the rest of his work not “supernormal” and therefore not “good?”.

    The point is that I feel that either I do good or there really seems no point designing at all for me. I am trying to fint the right way and would apreciate the opinion of a great like Jasper Morrison or Naoto Fukasawa as well as anybody who might have a moment.

    thanking you all,
    Nicolo’

  18. Jasper Morrison Says:

    I don’t think Super Normal is the only way, but for me it’s a more interesting way. For a long time I’ve had the feeling that objects which are made outside the design world tend to perform better than designer ones, while the collective effect of design is visual pollution. Design is mostly judged in visual terms these days, which excludes so much that’s important and ignores the greater part of the purpose of design that the job has become a game of visual gimmicks, with very little consideration given to the actual role of objects in everday life. So Super Normal is a reminder of some pretty obvious points as well being what we consider to be a pointer to a more sophisticated approach to design than the purely visual.

  19. Yaïha Says:

    Cher Monsieur Morisson,
    tout d’abord,je n’ai vu que des photos ou lu des papiers dans la presse concernant l’exposition”Super Normal et cela avec regret.
    Mais je tiens à vous féliciter pour votre travail qui est d’une justesse imparable.
    Juste un mot:”Bravo”

  20. lejulinda Says:

    Hi everyone,
    I appreciate the philosophy of Super Normal, but I doubt if it can be applied to advertisement. Are there any good examples that apply Super Normal on that field? Coz the advertisement nowadays play the gimmicks, it is quite hard to make the balance.

  21. Barry Says:

    Apart from the odd exception, electronic products, the one area of design which truely embraces modernist ideals of functionality, are largely absent from the exhibition, which focuses mainly on domestic kitchen equipment.

    Was this intentional?

    Personally, I found it refreshing to find that the fetishistic presentation usually reserved for high-value status symbols was used for a humble potato peeler.

  22. janvier Says:

    Hi,
    I’m a french journalist working for a magazine of decoration. I was told the exhibition will run again in september in london. Is it true? Where, when? Will it come in France?
    Question for Jasper and Naoto : which contemporary french designers could be qualified of “super normal”? Why?
    Many thanks for your answers…

  23. Jasper Morrison Says:

    Janvier, Yaiha, Sorry but the exhibition was held in london last September! The good news is we are discussing to show it again in Paris, probably early 2008. There are some pieces in the exhibition by the Borroullecs, and I am sure there are many other french Super Normalists out there.
    Barry, actually there’s quite a few electronic products in the show, cameras, air filters, water boilers, hi-fi, calculators etc.But you’re right there’s a lot of kitchen stuff, which I think is because it’s an easier area to be Super Normal about.

  24. Barry Says:

    Thanks for answering in person Jasper, very kind. I think I know what you mean about kitchen equipment. Perhaps it’s because while eating, more time seems to be spent silently concentrating the objects you are using. Do we really spend as much time studying a floor lamp?

    Contact with “Supernormal” has rather opened my eyes to a way of looking – Mr Hockney would be so proud (given his recent comments).

  25. Atilano Says:

    Hi there,
    Supernatural definitely was my highlight at the salone this year and I really wonder why there isn’t yet a fixed world tour for it. Please get in touch! I am definitely interested in bringing this exhibition to Berlin for next years edition of Designmai. Atilano

  26. yahïa Says:

    Hi, thanks for answering about the next exhibition”supernormal”in paris.
    I will be there!
    Thanks.

  27. Jasper Morrison Says:

    Atilano, the problem of showing it again is the time and effort it takes to arrange and set it up. As it’s just Naoto Fukasawa’s office and mine which have been making all the arrangements we have decided to give it a rest. There’s still talk of showing in Paris sometime in 2008, and there’ll be a mini exhibition in Helsinki at an event called Abitare in September. After that I’m probably going to open a small shop attached to my new office in London which will be a kind of display space for Super Normal things. It’s probably not a very commercial idea but as we don’t need to pay any rent it will survive.

  28. Anke Wagener Says:

    Hello!
    I´m from Germany and study design & architekture in Trier. I´m writing an essay about “super normal”. But I can´t find any Informations about when and why “super normal” is originated exactly. I think I understand your meaning about “super normal” and I like your Design very much.
    Can you help me, please? I´m sorry, my englisch is not really good! :-)) I hope you understand my question.

  29. Karl Says:

    Hi everyone, I am currently writing my dissertation which involves the topic of the Super Normal Philosophy and the work of Jasper Morrison. The unobtrusive, clean and considered work of Jasper is most definitely some of my favourite of all time and I would like to kindly ask Jasper himself if he would answer a couple of question to help with my research?

    Do you believe that it is reasonable for a designer to sacrifice some functionality in a product for the aesthetical appearance, if those aesthetics will enhance the user’s emotional experience? Can the emotional joy substitute for the lack of function?

    Thank you for your time in advance

  30. Jasper Morrison Says:

    Karl, this answer is probably too late for your dissertation, sorry:
    I think there’s FUNCTION and function. I don’t believe in the heavy, overdone german idea of Function, but in a softer more natural type. Function should not be the prime mover of form. The thing has to work, and it shouldn’t take half a day to work it out. Along with that there’s plenty of room for it to look beautiful and make people using it feel good about using it.

  31. Kion Says:

    Personllay, I felt that the items chosen for the “Super Normal” exhibition, by Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison, can be categorized into two sets. One on a European platform, like the yellow mustard bottle, and two, in a context of Japan, like a glass milk bottle delivered to the doorstep early in the morning.

    Perhaps, in each country, a different set of “Super Normal” objects can be exhibited.

    In the context of Singapore, Good Morning Towel, Tiger Balm medical oil, Chicken Rice, Durians are “Super Normal” to us.

    What do you think?

  32. Jasper Morrison Says:

    I’m sure there are many Super Normal things in Singapore. We chose the Super Normal items for the exhibition mostly in UK and Japan, with some other places like Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany. I’m pretty sure we could find a goof selection in any country. You can also say that Super Normal is subjective. What’s Super Normal to me may be less Super Normal for you etc.

  33. Silvia Says:

    Hi there. I find this concept truly fascinating but I’m not quite sure i understand what one’s approach as a designer can be to this theory. I can see how the appreciation of a simple object or extra qualities on these can make them “super normal” but they only become successful when they are put in another context and used for other actions… which kind of defeats the purpose. So i want to ask from a designer’s point of view: how can it be applied when designing new products? or how can you show someone that a product is “super normal” without telling them?

    Thanks
    Silvia

  34. Jasper Morrison Says:

    Why do you say ‘only become successful when they are put in another context’? A Super Normal thing is Super Normal in any context, and is not dependent on people being aware of it’s being Super Normal. Super Normal is above all an observation or a ‘noticing’ that certain objects which may not have been designed by ‘designers’ perform better than many which have. Learning from those objects is a way to raise the quality of our designs.

  35. Lenny Says:

    Even if the last comment is already very old I want to add something, maybe it will be read. I didn’t see the exhibition as I got to know about it only today, but the concept is great because it adresses the danger of design going in a fundamentally wrong direction. I think it’s not what Super Normal things do but what they don’t do, while still being visually attractive archetypes and points of departure for new designs. For me, good design doesn’t force the user (or viewer) to think about the fact that an object has been designed. There are many (in my opinion mediocre or even bad) designers who rely very heavily on the visual gimmicks Mr. Morrison mentioned. For example there is a piano by Luigi Colani which force-feeds the word DESIGN into one’s mind, though only few people would spontaneously think of it as beautiful or practical. I think good design has take part in a continuous stream of cultural, technological and esthetical evolution instead of creating many failed revolutions which are mostly dead ends. If one has to break rules to make an object better, then there is no reason not to do it, because a good object will feel natural to the person who uses it. The Olivetti Valentine typewriter, for example, has good reasons for each and every part of its design that differs from the way typewriters looked before.

  36. Kamil Szczesny Says:

    Super Normal Architecture?

    I read about Super Normal half year ago, I also saw photo relation from exhibition on twentytwentyone’s blog and I still can’t stop thinking about the Super Normal “theory”. I’m studying architecture but industrial design is my interest. After half-year observations, reading articles and books I think that there is similarity between designing Super Normal industrial forms and designing architecture. I wonder If there is Super Normal… Architecture? I think that minimalism is too wide-spread definition of architecture. Nowadays minimalism has many faces. We say ”minimalistic” about glossy, showy and “glamour” architecture, but also about pure, ascetic, simple and quiet buildings. In this way in future everything will be minimalistic. Maybe Super Normal theory is the answer about rational and pure designing (also architecture)?

  37. Gonçalo Novais Says:

    Hi i want to talk with Jasper Morrison, I am a student of design from Portugal and we are doing a work about the supernormal object. My question is a button can be a supernormal object? I have been reading all the comments thanks for that it helped me a lot but I really don`t understand for sure what is the supernormal object i know that is a object from the past or not but it´s an object that exists already in our day to day lifes.

    I hope you can read this

    Thanks

  38. David Says:

    I really enjoyed seeing some of the Super Normal products again during London Design Week in September. Do you feel the exhibition made a significant impact on the design world or is there still too much ‘visual pollution’?

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