Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things

 The Design Museum Collection


To most of us a chair is just a chair. It is an object that is part of our daily life, we use it but we do not pay particular attention, the important thing is that we can sit on it.

But for those aspiring to become a designer already at the University learn to understand that there are several chairs. We actually have so many chairs that one a famous designer said an ironic phrasewe should create a new shape of butt to create another great chair! “.

Chair is the iconic object that every designer, and aspiring designer, dreams to design as his own best. For this reasons, every time a chair has become an icon, it always has a story to tell, that it is also a story about its designer.

Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things is an exhibition that shows us how design is so deeply rooted in everyday objects, therefore, is part of our daily life, and so for more than one century. And there is no surprise when we find out that Industrial Design is considered to be “born” when the THONET no.14 was designed in 1859. Precisely…a chair!

Thanks to this exhibition, at the Design Museum from now on there will be the first permanent design collection, that will allow free access to the public in 2015 at the new Design Museum in Kensington.

The showcase is divided in six main areas everyone with one particular focus: Taste, Why We Collect, Icons, Identity & Design, Material & Process and Fashion. Through the exhibition we discover how behind common objects there are unique and wonderful thinking, how designers find ways for applying ideas and technologies to improve our lives.

With Material & Process section we learn how plastic has changed everything, from household items to plastic furniture.

Joe Colombo Materials & Processes

How Icons are crucial in design is demonstrated in its own section, where a panel showcases all of declinations of the Anglopoise Lamp: a single iconic design realised with the same shape but in different materials and manufacture.

The Anglepoise Lamp

Icons The Anglepoise Lamp

In an object we can find an identity of a Nation (Identity & Design) and there is no better way that to admire, one more time, the red phone box. Graphic Design is very important as well, specially about objects that we need to look at every day, and that “tell” us something. The road signs displayed in this section, remind us that we are in UK and not only for the cities names’ on them, but because the road signs themselves are recognised as UK signs, thanks to graphics. As well as the London 2012 logo that identifies a period that is more than a summer that none Briton will never forget.

London 2012 Logo  Identity & Design

Objects needs to absolve a function, primarily, but there was one period where aesthetic was closer to art: “Mezzadro” is an iconic piece by Achille Castiglioni that identifies this period where the process of readymade has been brought from contemporary art to design objects. Michael Marriott, one of the contemporary designers that has got an object in the exhibition is still applying  this vision into his objects. That is why the Why We Collect section is really important: we have a wide cultural and artistic heritage that gives us the chance to reinvent ourselves, and remind us that design products can be versatile and ironic, but functional at the same time.

Michael Marriott Jasper Morrison

Fashion as well can be considered as a field of “everyday objects”: we use clothes on a daily basis, we NEED them. As Deyan Sudjic, director of the design Museum, say, “Fashion is not something which is somehow frivolous, after all”, but a faultless balance of Design’s form and function concept and the economic development through the years in which Fashion fits perfectly. The exhibition shows it through the outfits that fashion collector, Jill Ritblat, donated to the Museum.

Jill Ratblot and his fashion collection Jill Ratblat Collection

Extraordinary Stories About Ordinary Things is now open to public at Design Museum, Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YD.

Opening hours:10.00 – 17.45 daily. Last admission:17.15

Admissions: £10.75 Adult, £9.70 Concessions, £6.50 Students, Under 12s Free

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