Dialogue: Jasper and Naoto
Fumiko: How would you both define Super Normal?
Jasper: My opinion is that the design world has drifted away from normality, forgotten it’s roots and the basic notion that we designers are supposed to take care of the man-made environment and try to improve it. Super Normal is a bridge between the two worlds, an attempt to reunite them. It’s not easy to write a formula for the Super Normal object, I’m not sure it can even be planned. An object becomes Super Normal through use. As designers we can aim at achieving the Super Normal by being less concerned with visual aspects of an objects character, by attempting to anticipate the objects likely impact on the atmosphere and how it will be to live with.
Naoto: I think it’s probably fairly easy to understand the things or situations that come under the heading Super Normal. One is looking at something that is normal and saying, “That’s really normal”; these things are those that have permeated daily life, things that we don’t find any element of design in. Another is a new design that takes the essence of something that everyone recognizes and perceives as normal. When people look at these things, their expectation of seeing something that has been “designed” is somewhat betrayed, and they come out with things like “That’s so normal” and “Why is it so…normal?!”. With this kind of comment, what’s being expressed is the perfect meshing with the original normal object, and we’re reminded that perhaps the continuation of a good relationship that has been around for a long time is better than anticipating something new. I think maybe the moment this hits us is what Super Normal means.
Fumiko: The exhibition includes many anonymously designed articles of daily life. How are these Super Normal and is there a difference between them and the authored designs?
Naoto: The term anonymous can mean that the creator is unknown; I also think that it includes the nuance that you don’t feel that the creator is trying to “design” or “express himself”. I think that we chose things that in spite of being used on a daily basis to the point they were invisible, that we knew inside out – things that slipped by us and actually appeared rather ugly when we tried to find the element of design in them, as being anonymously Super Normal. Looking at it this way, you realize just how important the visual element is when looking at design; finding things that are anonymously Super Normal means that you are looking at the feel of a thing, at the relationship that has been built up around its shape. I think it’s kind of like feeling with other senses even though you’re looking at it with your eyes. When I looked at the box cutter, at first I thought that the simple thin stainless steel cutter was Super Normal, but when I looked at the old one covered in plastic next to it, I thought, “Ah, THAT’S Super Normal”. The stainless steel cutter was one that was still chosen with an eye to design; the sense of having being long-used was revived by the plastic-covered one, and realizing this it was chosen as Super Normal. It was the moment that I realized that my own view of Super Normal was shaky. But I was blown away when I found that plastic cutter. I felt like I’d become free, that I’d thrown off the heavy mantle of design.
Jasper: I agree, there are moments of using things when one suddenly realizes a thing is Super Normal, and it definitely goes beyond seeing, and into a more interesting area of using and experiencing. I think you could also say that the anonymous object who’s designer is unkown and the object which is designed without the usual quota of creative ego or expression, are closely related but nevertheless separated by a fine line. In the case of the unknown author, he or she designs totally anonymously, while the designer who chooses to avoid or limit personal creative expression, designs conscious of the fact that his name will be on the product. Super Normal is more common in the world of totally anonymously designed things, I think we have realized this quite clearly while making our selections for the exhibition, but it is also possible in the world of designer signatures, and I think we would agree that it’s not only preferable but that it seems to offer a whole new world to design, as you say, free of the mantle of “Design”.