His quiet and elegant designs cover a range of products from trays to trams and he is considered one of the world’s foremost industrial designers. Meet Jasper Morrison.
Jasper Morrison is one of those designers whose work you have probably seen either in person or online. Fuss-free, elegant and understated products are the hallmark of this designer who is now considered one of the world’s foremost industrial designers.
From trays to trams, Morrison has an impressive portfolio of useful and creative designs. Born in London in 1959, he received a postgraduate degree from the Royal College of Art, London, followed by a scholarship at Berlin’s HdK (Berlin University of the Arts). In 1986, he set up his ‘Office for Design’ in London and now has offices in London and Paris.
Morrison is a crusader of the “super normal” design, a term he coined for unpretentious objects that simply do what they are meant to. This ethos comes across in his pared-down designs for tableware and kitchen items. No fancy flourishes or unnecessary trappings here to distract you.
One of Morrison’s popular designs for the table is the Knife Fork Spoon (2004) for Alessi. This simple stainless steel cutlery does what it says on the box – and nothing more. The elegance of the finish and the shape of the spoon, though, elevate it to another level. His stainless steel ‘Tray Family’ (2001) may seem familiar to Indian readers as would ‘Serving Dishes’ (2000), a range of stainless steel trays for restaurant and home use and ‘Utensil Family’ (2001), complete with steel rack and moulded hooks.
Morrison’s simple yet witty furniture designs have made the leap into iconic. One of his first designs for chairs was the ‘Air Chair’ for Magis (1999), which pioneered the use of the gas-injection technology for furniture. Using this technology allowed Morrison to improve the quality of the ordinary plastic chair by giving it a smoother surface. The Folding Air Chair (2003) was designed with a wooden folding chair in mind and is a three-piece gas-injected polypropylene folding chair for outdoor use.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Morrison says that a real chair is one you can drag to a bookshelf and stand on. His chairs certainly seem sturdy enough to fit that bill.
Innovation in furniture design continued with the Sim Chair (1999), a two-piece stacking chair that can easily be dismantled. The Plywood Chair (1988) is one of Morrison’s favourite chairs and you can see why. Constructed out of plywood, glue and screws, the Ply Chair is emblematic of Morrison’s no-nonsense design. The HAL range of chairs has also been very popular. These simple chairs are available in a wide range of textures, combinations, a variety of legs and arms and can be stacked easily.
Contrary to most of his straight-forward designs, though, is the ‘Thinking Man’s Chair’ created for an exhibition in Japan. This is an outlandish design very different from his usual ones and had curved arms reminiscent of an archery bow.
Morrison also designs tables and sofas. The Park Sofa (2004) follows the straight lines of his other furniture designs but has cast aluminium legs which make the sofa ‘float’. The ‘Orly’ Sofa (1998) breaks the mould with its upholstered seating units constructed from injection moulded soft polyurethane foam, stainless steel legs and optional armrests. The Vitra Sofa (1993) is an updated version of the classic Chesterfield Sofa and looks perfectly in place in a period or contemporary home.
Morrison’s designs for lighting are contemporary and hit the mark every time. The Glo-Ball series (1999) is a hand-blown glass diffuser and is available as a table or ceiling lamp. The Smithfield pendant light in powder coated steel (2009) has an elegant contemporary shape with a plastic diffuser.
Apart from furniture, Morrison has also designed electronic products like cordless telephones, mobile phones, refrigerators and flat-screen televisions. His urban designs include bus-stops for Vitra, public benches in Tokyo and even a tram for Hannover City.
The multi-faceted portfolio of Jasper Morrison and his continued popularity proves that design need not be flashy to be successful. Quiet and witty design will always make a mark and Morrison’s serene aesthetic bodes well as a benchmark for good industrial design.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Designer