Jasper Morrison Ltd. consists of two design offices, a main office in London and a branch office in Paris. Services offered by JM Ltd. are wide ranging, from tableware & kitchen products to furniture and lighting, sanitaryware, electronics and appliance design.
Occasionally we even tackle urban design projects. Our clients are worldwide, united as leaders in their individual fields, but in other respects extremely diverse.
See also: Top Architects | Park Associati
Jasper Morrison was born in London in 1959, and graduated in Design at Kingston Polytechnic Design School, London (1979-82 BA (Des.)) and The Royal College of Art for Postgraduate studies (1982-85 MA (Des.) RCA). In 1984 he studied at Berlins HdK on a Scholarship.
In 1986 he set up an Office for Design in London. His work was included in the Documenta 8 exhibition in Kassel in 1987, for which he designed the Reuters News Centre. The following year he was invited to take part in “Design Werkstadt”, a part of the “Berlin, Cultural City of Europe” program, where he exhibited “Some new items for the house, part I” at the DAAD Gallery.
He then began designing products for SCP in London, the German door handle producer FSB, the Office furniture company Vitra, and the Italian furniture producer Cappellini. In 1992 together with James Irvine, he organised Progetto Oggetto for Cappellini, a collection of household objects designed together with a group of young European designers. He also worked with Andreas Brandolini and Axel Kufus on a variety of installations, exhibition designs and town planning projects under the umbrella of Utilism International.
In 1992, his slide show lecture “A world without words” was published in book format by the graphic designer Tony Arefin.
In 1994 Jasper Morrison was guest of honour and held an exhibition at the Interieur 94 exhibition in Belgium. In 1995 he held a solo exhibition at Bordeauxs Arc en Rêve Centre darchitecture. He began a consultancy with Üstra the Hannover Transportation Authority by designing a Bus Stop for the City.
In 1995 Jasper Morrisons office was awarded the contract to design the new Hannover Tram, the largest European light rail production contract of its time, at 500 Million Deutschemarks. The first vehicle was presented to the public in June 1997 at the Hannover Industrial Fair, and awarded the IF Transportation Design Prize and the Ecology award.
More recently exhibitions and installations have included: “The State of Things” to complement the editing of the 1999 Design Year Book. Solo exhibitions at the Axis Gallery, Tokyo, for Flos at the Yamagiwa Centre in Tokyo, as Designer of the Year 2000 at the Paris Design Fair.
Recent projects include the design of furniture for Tate Modern in London, “Luxmaster” for Flos, Folding Air-Chair and Low Air-Table for Magis; a monograph “Everything but the Walls” published by Lars Müller Publishers; a bench for the Roppongi Hills development in Tokyo; ATM desk system for Vitra ,a line of kitchen appliances for Rowenta, Pots&Pans for Alessi and a sanitary- and brassware range for Ideal Standard.In 2005, founding of Super Normal with Naoto Fukasawa. In June 2006, first Super Normal exhibition in Tokyo.
Jasper Morrison Ltd. currently based in London and Paris, have worked and in most cases still do for the following companies:
Alessi Spa, Italy; Alias Srl, Italy; Canon Camera Division, Japan; Cappellini Spa., Italy; Flos Spa, Italy; FSB GmbH, Germany; Magis Srl, Italy; Rosenthal AG, Germany; Rowenta, France; Sony Design Centre Europe; Vitra International AG, Switzerland. In 2004, began consultancies with Samsung Electronics, Korea, Muji (Japan), Ideal Standard (UK) and Olivetti (Italy).
As we share, like, tweet, read and occasionally call from our mobile devices, Petter Neby, the enthusiastic Norwegian founder of Punkt – a small, design-led electronics company based in Switzerland – wants us to try to remember life before smartphones. Back when a mobile phone was used for calling and texting, not checking emails, bank balances or Instagram feeds. A time before unplugging and digital detoxes became buzzwords for something hugely needed but a little bit naughty – something we only really do on holiday. A time before unavailability became a luxury. ‘It wasn’t that bloody long ago,’ says Neby, ‘and it was bloody nice.’
Enters Punkt’s latest product, the ‘MP 01’, which hopes to offer conscious consumers an alternative to the relentless smartphone way of life. Due to be released in September, it is a mobile phone in the simplest sense of the term, with an irresistibly compact and refined design imagined by Punkt’s artistic director, Jasper Morrison. Think basic telephony, SMS and contact capabilities, and little else. No internet, no touchscreen, no camera, no frills.
‘As you can see, the ‘MP 01’ is very un-smartphone,’ notes Morrison, whose commentary is known to be as succinct as his designs. ‘Petter’s thinking is very much that the world has enough confusing products, and we should concentrate on these very simple ones. I think that’s not a bad line to take – to refer back to slightly older objects and give them a new life.’
Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa and their project ‘Super Normal’.
“They said I’d never make it to Normal. They were wrong.” Bob Dylan at a concert in Normal, Illinois, 1999.
One thing is certain: with their “Super Normal” project Jasper Morrison and Naoto Fukasawa are treading uncertain ground. Neither the normal nor Super Normal can claim to be clearly demarcated concepts in terms of any scientific conventions. Although the etymology of normal relates it to the norm and the normative, our ideas of normality, of normal things and processes, are anything but normalized. Yet precisely the fuzziness of the concept is what Morrison and Fukasawa exploit in their eponymous exhibitions in Tokyo and London.
Each of the everyday objects they recognize as Super Normal becomes evidence, testifying to thoughtful and deliberate design beyond pathos and the modernistic masquerade: A paper clip. A plastic bucket. A chair. The two designers have rounded up some 200 objects, presenting them on white blocks and steles. As such, each exhibit achieves maximum effect in shape, color and materiality while also entering into a dialogue with all the other things united in the exhibition. Naoto Fukasawa: “Surprisingly there was not a single collision in our opinions. We talked primarily about what to include in the exhibition, or not, in order to make the idea of Super Normal more understandable to general audiences.”
In this exhibition an affinity becomes apparent between what is Super Normal and what has become archetypal as the result of a long design process. The history of a product, lasting anywhere from a century to a millennium, ultimately leads to the genesis of an object that conjures the picture we all see in our minds when we hear or read the word “chair,” for instance. Morrison’s Plywood Chair of 1988, produced by Vitra, certainly comes quite close to the archetype of a chair. But a closer look reveals differences: the gentle sway of the backrest; the intentional flaunting of the simple, flattened Phillips head screw; the surprising lightness of the chair; and not least the exceptional simplicity of its construction, which is clearly evident on the underside of the seat. Such properties distinguish this chair from a merely archetypal seating object, a quasi three-dimensional pictogram. The same is true of Naoto Fukasawa’s “Déjá-vu” stool for Magis, whose form and proportions seem to be of almost rustic plainness. Here, too, it is the selected material, in this case aluminum, and the resulting reflections and lightness, that distinguish the stool. This stool spontaneously reminded me of Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, in which the American artist transformed an inflatable toy bunny into a chrome-plated sculpture.
Fukasawa, too, converts an existing form, conventionally associated exclusively with a certain material (wood), into a Super Normal object, through his idiosyncratic choice of a new, unconventional material. And this is where the difference between the normal and Super Normal product becomes apparent: Super Normal refers to the normal – in the sense of adopting a familiar form and aesthetic – without being “normal” itself and merely availing itself of traditional shapes, materials or production techniques. It is precisely the conscious distance the Super Normal object maintains from its precursors that can become a subtle signal. The shape of Morrison’s electric kettle for Rowenta, for instance, resembles an electrified jug – we recognize it instantly from everyday encounters with jugs or from Morandi’s still lifes; we can operate it intuitively, and its grace coupled with super normality even manages to compensate for its technical deficiencies. (Rowenta’s production was so shoddy that neither the process of turning it on nor the automatic shut off were as efficient as in much uglier specimens of this product type!)
The traditional sign repertoire of both Western and Asian design, we learn from this project, can become the signpost for contemporary and future generations of designers, but only if they are not under the sway of the superficial adaptation of formalities. All this has nothing to do with retrogressive design. Rather, Jasper Morrison speaks openly of the “loss of innocence” separating today’s designers from the craftsmen and artisans of previous centuries. They manufactured objects for everyday use – a ladle, an axe, a saddle – without seeking to express themselves or their age, or even to hold their ground against the products of the competition or forgeries. Yet Morrison and Fukasawa work for many large, international companies, without whose production and distribution facilities no industrial design would be conceivable. There is no question that these two designers are conscious of contemporary market mechanisms, marketing strategies and production conditions. Not even Super Normal design can take place in an ivory tower, or abandon itself to sentimentalities. It has to take the market into account in order to make an impact. But instead of resorting to cheap tricks or exalted gestures, that impact can only be achieved through sophisticated forms and details that clearly reveal the fruitful legacy of traditions and progenitors in design history.
In addition to anonymous design, such as the Swiss Rex peeler or a simple plastic bag, the collection includes design classics like Max Bill’s wall clock for Junghans, the 606 shelving system by Dieter Rams, or Colombo’s Optic alarm clock of 1970. With products by Newson, Grcic, Van Severen or the Bouroullec brothers, Morrison and Fukasawa also present the work of their own generation. Thus the selection does not simply celebrate “ordinary design,” which engineers are so fond of organizing; it does not romanticize a certain decade of design or an idiom that typifies the products of a given country – and it does not focus on mere topicality, exclusivity, or the costliness of the products. The phenomenon of Super Normal is therefore placed outside time and space; both the past and the present of product design point in equal measure to a future that has long since begun. Quite obviously, the two men are not concerned with studies and utopian models: Super Normal is already there, out in the open; it exists in the here and now; it is real and available. We have only to open our eyes: Fukasawa and Morrison visualize it for us.
Almost exactly thirty years before the first Super Normal exhibition in the Axis Gallery in Tokyo, Das gewöhnliche Design (Ordinary Design) exhibition took place at the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt, a center of German Jugendstil. At that time Friedrich Friedl and Gerd Ohlhauser presented bicycle tires, dowels, pocket tissues, bottle openers, file folders, and clothespins in the rooms of that city’s Fachhochschule für Design. West German household wares of the seventies were declared to be objects of study. In his talk at the opening of the exhibition, Bazon Brock, Professor for Aesthetics in Wuppertal, said, “We must analyze and understand our contemporary everyday world as if it were the everyday world of a historical society. For example, the everyday world of Pompeii at the time of 79 B.C., when Vesuvius buried the city once and for all, thus preserving it for us.” Explicitly selected to counteract the dominant role and overly solemn approach to Jugendstil in Darmstadt at the time, the 110 objects seem, at first glance, to prefigure the Super Normal project. However, closer observation reveals a different focus, namely, on the banality of the object world. There was hardly a single product in the collection that cost more than three to five Deutschmarks: with considerable wit and finesse, bathtub stoppers, paper plates, pencils, and beer bottles in display cases were set against the florally ornamentalized, precious Jugendstil furniture and lamps with their flowing forms and exalted gestures. Hence, location and date – Darmstadt, 1976 – played a decisive role in the exhibition, while the presentation of Super Normal by Fukasawa and Morrison carries the same message and force of expression in any country of the Western world by highlighting a subject matter that is as long-lasting as many of the selected products.
So why is the visualization of Super Normal necessary just now? To answer this, it is enough to visit a couple of department stores, supermarkets, trade fairs, and websites or to take a quick glance at lifestyle magazines and coffee table books. Everything that is superficially spectacular and pseudo-modern has long since become normality in product design: superfluous features, ellipses, dynamic curvatures, perforations, and pearlescent paint dominate today’s styling. This applies equally to most cars (inside and out) as well as sports articles, stereos, clocks, and furniture – not to mention packaging design. In contrast, a few years ago Fukasawa designed a fluorescent yellow, upright container for banana juice with slightly browned edges reminiscent of the banana itself, but without imitating its typical bend. Its spout is even opened with the same hand movement used to peel a banana. Wouldn’t it be super if such design one day became normal?
Gerrit Terstiege is editor-in-chief of the design magazine form and a member of the board of the German Society for Design Theory and Research since 2003. He has written for Handelsblatt and served as a lecturer at the design academies in Karlsruhe, Basel and Zurich and a substitute professor for design and media history at Fachhochschule Mainz.
This text was originally published in 2007 in the book Super Normal – Sensations of the Ordinary from Lars Müller Publishers. ISBN 978-3-03778-106-7
Everything but the Walls
From the Publisher. Not just a book on the designer Jasper Morrison but also a book by the British furniture and product designer, hence the tongue in cheek title. Throughout the book we’re reminded why Jasper Morrison is such a master of design with countless photographs of his creations.
With 240 pages and 200 illustrations this project works as a long sought-after showcase of the working practices and results of one of Europe’s most admired product designers. Here Morrison deciphers the modern language of form used by various popular manufacturers across the globe including FSB, Vitra, Cappellini, and Flos.
Other Books by Jasper Morrison
A Book of Spoons
The Good Life: Perceptions of the Ordinary
Jasper Morrison au musée
Répertoire pour une forme
Super Normal: Sensations of the Ordinary
A World Without Words
See also: Top Interior Designers – Dkor Interiors
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