Jasper Morrison. Foto © Kento Mori
A fine flair for the user
by Thomas Wagner | May 3, 2015

Having founded his studio in London in 1986, Jasper Morrison started out by focusing on a “reassessment of industrial processes”. In a debate with designers, entrepreneurs and theorists on “geo design”, published by “Domus” magazine in 2006, in retrospect he described his situation at the time as follows: “When I came out of college in 1985 I was strongly inspired by Memphis. I was in a very romantic, poetic frame of mind. Inspiration was found on the streets rather than sitting at the desk with a white sheet of paper. One was better off going out walking, getting drunk, waiting to find inspiration the morning after when one’s brain comes back to life. I worked on many ‘found’ projects, things made from objects seen in the street, in the beginning. That made up for a lack of contact with industry – I didn’t have any industry to work with so I had to make up for that somehow myself.”

Much has happened since. Not only does Jasper Morrison enjoy better links with the industry today, but he has long since become part of that select circle of designers whose work is prized the world over and wooed by manufacturers in all kinds of sectors.

What many people don’t know is that as early as 1987 Jasper Morrison created a “news center” for the design section curated by Michael Erlhoff for documenta 8 at the Kassel Orangerie, which to this day compellingly blends improvisation and precision in a simple form. Even in this early piece the user already takes center stage – in Morrison’s Environment the recipient of particular information rises to the position of agent and tester of the very procedures that media makers tend to exploit for themselves.

Aside from countless chairs, tables, sofas, luminaires, household appliances and even a streetcar, all of them designed with a keen eye for everyday practicability, one item that remains seared in our memories is “Super Normal”, the programmatic concept he co-developed with Naoto Fukasawa. It is no coincidence that as regards the maxim of inconspicuousness during usage which ideally underlies all design, it references everyday consumer items, often made by anonymous designers, and their apparently innate durable qualities.

In short, things are going to be pretty exciting at the “Centre for Innovation and Design” at Grand-Hornu, an erstwhile colliery and now museum complex located not far from the Belgium city of Mons, which is European Cultural Capital this year. For Jasper Morrison’s first major retrospective, the center has rolls out before our eyes the designer’s output of the last 35 years, putting them up for discussion as an interwoven body of work. That there is a great deal of humor in the carefully designed understatement which surrounds much of Jasper Morrison’s items, makes the trip to Belgium even more worthwhile. (tw)

Jasper Morrison
Mai 7 through September 13
Daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Mondays)
CID – Centre for Innovation and Design at Grand-Hornu
Site du Grand-Hornu
Rue Sainte-Louise 82
Belgium, 7301 Hornu

The „Op-la Table“ was presented by Alessi in 1998. Photo © Stefan Kirchner
1988 Jasper Morrison presented the “Polywood Chair“ for Vitra. Foto © Studio Frei
Sketch for the “Polywood Chair“. Photo © Jasper Morrison
Sketch by Jasper Morrison for “Op-la Table“ sidetable. Photo © Jasper Morrison