Design classics as child’s play
by Nina Reetzke | Nov 10, 2011
All photos: Stylepark

The time when designer furniture was primarily for adults is long gone. In recent years pieces like "Panton Junior", "S 43 K" by Mart Stam and the "Rocker" by Doshi Levien have increasingly become fixtures of children's bedrooms. Design for kids is the new trend and today there is hardly a design-loving family that can resist kitting out their children's rooms with corresponding furniture too. And the trend doesn't even stop at kindergartens and schools, which previously gave a somewhat drab impression. Classrooms for project-based learning, concluded the British Royal Society of Architecture (RSA) in a study, should be furnished like small-scale academies, and so it commissioned architects including Lord Norman Foster and John McAslan to create model projects like the "Tipton Academy".

Even if this boom is a phenomenon of the last five years, a few designers were producing designs for children even before that. For example, there is the cradle "Thonet-Wiege Nr. 1", the "Hang it all", the George Nelson "Zoo Timers", Prouvé school furniture and Bruno Munari's ABC alphabet book. As though it had foreseen the coming hype, as early as 1997 the Vitra Design Museum held the exhibition "Kidsize", although back then it had a strong ethnological focus. Yet what is still missing today is a selection of children's books on design, be they educational or entertaining. "Farbe Form Orangensaft" (color, form, orange juice) by Eva Solarz, Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinscy is one of the few exceptions.

The cover features Philippe Starck's lemon squeezer, followed by designs by Michael Thonet, Gerrit Rietfeld and Le Corbusier. The book is like a best-of list of design classics. That said, the authors are not afraid to come close to the present, for instance, up to Konstantin Grcic's "Mayday" luminaire and Marcel Wanders' "Skygarden". Each product is concisely presented in a number of illustrations accompanied by brief explanations. The graphics and typography alone are somewhat irritating as compared to the products presented they seem to draw too much attention. Indeed, the subject and the book would surely have benefited from a little "less is more".

However, the book offers no conclusive answers to questions on which aims design education should pursue and at which age parents and teachers should start introducing children to the best of the design world. The eponymous exhibition at the Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (museum for art and crafts) was conceived for children aged five upwards, and the book is geared towards children aged nine plus. Is the aim here to give children a good understanding of color and form? Or simply to promote the development of brand awareness in youngsters, who think in the categories "Apple", "Guess" and "Vitra"?

Perhaps a solid design education is just the thing we need to pass on a way of thinking that goes beyond existing norms and products and is also able to rethink the qualities of design classics. Whatever conclusions we may draw from this, it is good that the discussion is getting going.

Farbe Form Orangensaft
By Eva Solarz, Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinscy
Hardcover, 168 pages, German
Moritz Verlag, Frankfurt/Main, 2011
18 Euro

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