How Design Classics Are Made

Design Classics
Marcel Breuer’s B3 chair (1925, fig. made) represents a milestone in design. It was not only the very first chair to be made from tubular steel, and therefore a an- cestor of all later tubular-steel furniture (see T ubu- lar Steel); with this chair Breuer also succeeded for the very first time in transferring the new ideals of the Bauhaus (lightness, functionality, along with the machine aesthetic) to furniture design. Moreover, it was this seat whose specific building sparked off a reconsidering of the fundamental structure of seats, eventually resulting in the creation of the chair without rear legs (see The Cantilever Chair), thus paving the method for a totally new form of furniture dehint. It is unsurprising that this seat was given yet another area of honor: the B3 was, literally, the first design classic. The Italian furniture manu- facturer and design specialist Dino Gavina, an astute businessman, traveled to New York in 1962 and convinced Marcel Breuer that he should allow him to resurrect a new edition of his tubular-steel seat and set it into series production.
For the new edition of the B3, Gavina used the expression “design classic” for the first time, developing a catchy expression that forms an essential portion of our mod- ern vocabulary. The expression “layout classic” is neither protected nor indeed plainly defined to this day, which has resulted in a certain inflationary use. Through the new classification “classic,” the chair ac- quired a status that caused an enormous escalation in value-the expression “design classic” had become a promotion tool. Bauhaus fan Gavina was convinced that functional and rational design would sell better with the addition of a little emotion in the catastrophe ridden.

In sharp contrast to the Bauhaus, which consciously refrained from using associative or poetic merchandise names, Gavina sought for a brand new name for the B3. An anecdote maintained that Breuer had given the very first example of his ground-breaking seat to his Bau- haus associate Wassily Kandinsky for him to use in Custom Built Furniture his living room. This narrative was used by Gavina as a pretext for naming the seat after the abstract artist. And hence the chair was presented to the general public in a manner that was new: the B3 was humanized and given a mystique, and this led to a renewed enthusiasm for the furniture of the modern age. Evidence of the success of the promotional measure is demonstrated by the fact that the original name of the furniture item was suppressed, so that now the seat is virtually always known by its own advertising name, as the Wassily Chair The Italian’s skill initiated a revival of Bauhaus furniture, the so-called “second age of modernism.”
It was not least as an effect of this skillful marketing strategy that the Wassily Chair became the most well-known and most-copied item of design furniture. Gavina’s marketing strategy of pulling just one design product out of the end- less mass of regular things in this way was shortly adopted by many others and transformed the design world. The utilization of emotion that Gavina had applied for the first time reached its zenith in the 19808. Once more the impetus came from Italy. Rational function was rebelled against by the Memphis groupalism: Dino wanted to arouse emotions in a targeted way by making use of their layouts (see Postmodernism). Along with the playful, vibrant, elaborate design, the name of a product was now particularly important-as it’d been for Gavina. The name told a story from the beginning and became part of the layouts. This strategy, which designers currently also embraced, provided makers with new sales and marketing strategies.
Large businesses like Vitra Alessi, and FSB began and understood the potential of the strategy producing experimental variants. Alberto Alessi In particular, who had become chairman of Alessi in 1970, signed show by internationally renowned designers and architects and enlarged this type of alliance, creating small. It was his aim to introduce design into everyday life through the mental relationship between people and objects, and he was prepared to design insignificant objects like fly swat- ters and lavatory brushes. This led to what came to be known as “author designs,” in which the designer, rather such as the author of a publication, was actually named. This principle remains very popular with leading manufacturing companies to this day, because in this manner the focus may be directed towards the product as well as the designer, enabling to be promoted more efficiently. Designers are in a special standing here: since they’re not employees of the manufacturer and freelance entrepreneurs, they are able to develop independently to a large extent and may make a distinctive signa- ture that is then visible in every product they layout. A lot of today’s design classics were created with the help of author designs.

The Graves Family (amount left) by Michael Graves and Alessandro Mendini’s Anna G. corkscrew for Alessi (fig. above) ensured that layout got a distinc- tive face-quite literally. The old motto “Kind follows function” became “Family follows fiction”- the function and the object were personified, and even a merchandise collection boldly turned into a household. The French architect and designer Philippe Starck in particular understood how you can give each of his products a very private accent. He was especially fond of playing with comic, sometimes dry, product names. Among his best-known and most successful designs are the Hot Berta kettle (1990), the Joe Cactus ashtray (1990) (which resembles a cactus in a pot), the Jim Nature television set (1994) (100 percent recyclable), and the Louis Ghost chair (2002) (a transparent-plastic Renaissance-design contour). In combination with his masterly self promotion, a kind of personality cult arose around Starck.
The star designer- and with architects another, infinitely more lucrative, advertising chance was born. In 1990, with the Juicy Saliflemon squeezer (fig. right), Philippe Starck even eventually succeeded in designing a kitchen appliance like a miniature sculpture. Individuals bought it because it came with a wellknown name and seemed stylish, not because it was prac- tical. Actually , the lemon squeezer was anything but practical: it dripped and wobbled, and the substance was attacked by the acid in the lemon juice and yet it was still a tremendous sales success, because the feelings it called forth sparked off the “must have” response. A relatively recent development is the fabrication of miniature collections. Firms like Alessi and Vitra in particular are leaders in this new advertising idea for design classics. The Vitra Design Museum had the notion of producing a miniatures collection, which to date constitutes nearly 80 versions from international design history since 1850. The miniatures are produced on a scale of 1:6.

With its almost 30 miniature copies of everyday things, Alessi needs to give collectors in particular the chance of “finishing their private collection with real objects in an approach that’s economic as regards both space and cash.” Vitra, nevertheless, goes one step farther. In accordance with all the concept of a museum, the little chairs are also meant to be used as study items in universities and training colleges. Other makers like Iittala and Rosenthal create miniature variations of layouts that were amazing and have followed suit. The Danish firm named 1:6 Design produces just miniature furniture and specializes in this field. Through being miniaturized, while the items lose their function, they however get in significance. They may be transformed into icons and become symbols of status and style, thereby emphasizing the importance of design in modern society.