Jasper Morrison, Thingness and The Good Life

19th century irons

I made these drawings while visiting Jasper Morrison’s Thingness at The Design Museum in Zurich. When I was looking at these funnels and 19th century irons, in the back of my mind I was wondering, why are we so keen on classifying and organizing everything?

Thingness is a treat to visit. The exhibit is more than a collection of objects designed by Mr Morrison, it also documents his influences, processes, and the stories behind the design. The show is divided into two sections. The first is a retrospective selection of projects starting from the eighties, along with some images from The Good Life, a project Morrison has been cultivating for a number of years and is the result of his obsessive need to document ordinary and yet, for some reason, fascinating objects and situations, “clever solutions to everyday problems solved with modest resources”.  The second part is titled My Collection and presents pieces chosen by Morrison from the vast collection of the Design Museum.

Thingness gives us the opportunity to peek into the mind of a designer whose esthetic is quiet, calm and refreshing. One of my favorite Morrison designs is “Thinking Man’s Chair”, which was originally to be called “The Drinking Man’s Chair”.

For a long time after I noticed an antique chair with its seat missing outside a shop I had the idea to do a chair consisting only of structural elements. Many sketches later I arrived at the approximation of the final shape, which included two small tables on the ends of the arms and an exotic assembly of curved metalwork. It was to be called “The Drinking Man’s Chair”.  On my way back from the tobacconist’s shop with a packet of pipe cleaners to make a model of the chair with, I noticed the slogan “The Thinking Man’s Smoke” on the packet, which I quickly adapted as a more sophisticated title.

 from the Visitor’s Guide

Thinking Man's Chair
Thinking Man’s Chair, Capellini, 1986

A couple of books accompany the show. Two that caught my eye were A book of Things and The Good Life, both beautifully crafted and published by Lars Müller Publications. In A Book of Things I found a hilarious story about an exhibition Morrison prepared for the Musée des Art Décoratifs Bordeaux, where he was allowed to place objects he had designed alongside seventeenth and eighteen century items.

It was a game which culminated in two days of infiltrating and blending the old with the new, adjusting the atmosphere of each room in as light a way as possible. It was an extremely pleasurable experience, recognizing as I worked on it that I was alongside my professional ancestors and how little the basic goal of making good atmosphere has changed. To my senses the new helped the old and vice versa. The Friends of the Museum were not so happy with the idea but following the tour of the exhibition some of them had not noticed the aliens in their midst! Later on it became popular with school groups to find the fakes.

Jasper Morrison, A book of Things



Typography is not only for reading and must not be a pain. Typography can be a game and a lot of fun.

A drawing inspired by: Schematische Darstellung des M-Buchstabenwürfel-Experiments in: Schonwiedertypografie 1970, Sonderdruck der Typografischen Monatsblätter, Rückseite, Buchdruck
A drawing inspired by: Es war einmal und ist nicht mehr | 1989

At the beginning of September I went to see Weingart Typografie at the Museum of Design in Zurich. I spent a couple of hours there looking at his work and the work made by his students. And, while I was sketching and taking notes, all of a sudden, Weingart entered the exhibition room and I said hello and he looked at me and asked me if he had taught me…

On my way out I bought a copy of 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse  in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter: TM RSI SGM 1960-90 published by Lars Müller Publishers. Typogrfische Monatsblätter was a typographic journal that became a discussion platform for professionals in the field of typesetting and printing.

In “Typografie ist eine Kunst für sich” from 1973, Tschichold called typographical game playing a hybrid decadence, stressing that a good typographer, unlike the self-aggrandising graphic designer, never actually feels free, he does not play, but rather follows the considerations of his reason.

30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse  in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter, p.134


 Is this typography worth supporting, or do we live on the moon? Typography is not dead, yet! But its effect is undoubtedly anaemic and vague. But, by and large, it is intact, it is definitely less than ever a practical skill. Instead, it endures as an intrinsic necessity. Typography lives! It is not regarded with the primacy of perhaps 10 or 20 years ago, and is comprehended less as a “picture”, but rather, more as a “text”. Nevertheless, it remains a prominent element of “visual communication”: indispensable, and occasionally fresh, even original.

Peter Kornatzki, 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätterp. 157

As for the exhibition, it is a thoughtfully organised space that shows Wingart’s practice as a constant search for solutions. It shows clearly his regard for process-oriented work.

I was not interested in a single result, but in the research. I was interested in process-oriented teaching…

Wolfgang Weingart in an interview for Typographische Monatsblätter (TM)  


At the Basel School of Design they try to bring out in people a kind of intuitive approach to making things visual, whether it’s typography, or drawing, or whatever, and help them find ways of analysing what they’re doing while they’re doing it.

Hamish Muir, 30 Years of Swiss Typographic Discourse in the Typogrfische Monatsblätter, p. 169 (originally published in Heritage, Emigre, no.14, 1990)

…but one of the important things I learned from him was how to work; a healthy process. It was more of a process of discovery and exploration than of trying to make something that looks like the teacher’s or anybody else’s work. When he gave an assignment, he would encourage us to work on 20 different iterations all at the same time. I found that method very useful. …They may all be good solutions, but maybe only one is really appropriate. I think that is the strongest thing I learned from Weingart: a playful, beginner’s-kind-of Weingart mind.

April Greiman for Typographische Monatsblätter (TM)  

In my search for information about Herr Weingart I found out that he liked listening to Bruno Walter’s rehearsing Mozart’s Linz Symphony.

While working on the week ends in the typeschop at the school, Weingart often wheeled out a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and played the music of German composers–Wagner, Bethoven, Mozart–would accompany his labour. One of his favourites was a recording of a legendary orchestra conductor Bruno Walter rehearsing Mozart’s Linz Symphony in which Walter implores his musicians to share his grasp of a particular passage as a “shimmering”. The same could describe Weingart’s body of work. His typographic vision embodies a similar vitality and richness. It shimmers.

Wolfgang Weingart, Biography by Philip Burton

typography as illustrated music

graphic landscape

repetition, densification, scattering, progression, tension

Wolfgang Weingart’s My Way to Typography is a publication that accompanies the exhibition. It is an interesting read for anyone involved with art, design or typography.  Keith Tam and Stuart Bailey, among others, wrote about the book and it is striking how contrary their opinions were on Weingart’s practice, the design and the content of his book. Either you love it or hate it, I guess.

Japanese Poster Artists, The Rediscovery of the Painter and Grafik 14 Zurich


Zurich, this month, is a perfect place to experience the tao of the Japanese poster at the Museum für Gestaltung, op art at the Museum Haus Konstruktiv and swiss graphic art at Grafik 14. I had one day to see all three exhibitions and the mixture was quite overwhelming.


The way “Japanese Poster Artist – Cherry Blossom and Asceticism” exhibition is organised enhances the tao of the Japanese poster artists, their simplicity, sensibility and subtlety.

These artworks possess an unusual aesthetic that is utterly captivating, and yet seem to refute all the conventional rules of visual communication.  … What is being advertised is often unclear, and the Japanese poster tends to be viewed as a visual embodiment of philosophical ideas of the Far East.

Bettina Richter, Japan – Nippon «Poster Collection 26», Lars Müller


The expressive power of line

… As a design element, line sometimes draws strongly on the expressive, realist tradition, but can also be used in a gestural and abstract manner. The use of line in Japanese poster manifests a special affinity with avant-garde art. No matter how spontaneous it may appear, every line is set deliberately…

“Japanese Poster Artist – Cherry Blossom and Asceticism”


The filled void

The metaphysics of emptiness, which is also understood as an expression of silence, is closely linked with Japanese Zen Buddhism. The lacuna is always to be read ambiguously as a space promising opportunities for meditation, concentration, time, and space. … Floating weightlessly in space, the things that are depicted take on an extraordinary power of suggestion.

“Japanese Poster Artist – Cherry Blossom and Asceticism”

“Victor Vasarely – The Rediscovery of the Painter” is now on show at the Museum Haus Konstruktive. Victor Vasarely is a key figure in op art and is considered a precursor of conceptual art. He was a student of the Budapest Bauhaus and worked as a commercial graphic designer. At the same time Vasarely pursued abstract art, form and colour.


Grafik 14, swiss graphics, new media and contemporary art, is an open passage where graphic design, typography, illustration and art mix and complement each other. It is a place filled with an energetic vibe. The work presented is aggressive, sensual, provoking, engaging and ironic at times.



by Isabella Furler (HGK Basel)






(1,2) Maag Halle, (3) Isabella Furler (HGK Basel), (4)Daniel Day Huber (ZHdK Zurich), (5) Skalska (HSLU Luzern), (6) Pascal Bosquet (Ecole d’arte et de design de Genève), (7) Charles Connoué (ECV Aix-en-Provence), (8) Anaëlle Clot (ERACOM, Lausanne)

Commonplaces: René Burri, Carlos Fuentes, Diego Velázquez and Johannes Vermeer

As a photographer I have led a double life – one in black and white and one in color.

René Burri

Museum für Gestaltung Zürich (the Museum of Design in Zurich) is now showing René Burri’s Doppelleben (A Double Life), a homage exhibition for his 80th birthday.

Burri makes a pointed statement, the “artist” in him, with his interest in the play of forms and colors, loves confusion, puzzle and mystery. In his pictures we repeatedly find views through, inside or outside that are in someway unsettling. Windows and mirrors play an important role, they double the world: labyrinths for the eyes. The theme of the “picture in the picture” occurs regularly, the world as a stage, everyday life as a stage.

From the exhibition’s brochure

The exhibition gives a chance to know the stories behind some of the photographs. Here is one of them:

New York City, USA, 1998

I was at the top of the Magnum building on Spring Street and this was the building next door. I happened to look out and see those guys: she came out first, took off her clothes, and he started shooting. I became an unwitting, accidental paparazzo.

From Burri’s new publication Impossible Reminiscences

Here you can watch a video where René Burri talks about his colour photography.

More of Burri’s stories, told by himself,  you can listen to here.

After the exhibition I spent some time thinking about windows, mirrors, a concept of a “picture in picture”. And I remembered The Buried Mirror by Carlos Fuentes. I’ve chosen some quotes that, in some way, illustrate Burri’s photography.

In tombs surrounding the religious sites of these native peoples (the Olmecs and the Totonacs), mirrors have been found, buried, ostensibly, to guide the dead through the underworld. Concave, opaque, polished, they contain the spark of light in the midst of darkness

…On this shore are the slate-black pyrite mirrors found at the pyramid of El Tajín, an astonishing site whose name means “lightning”… El Tajín is a mirror of time.

On the other shore, Cervantes’ Knight of the Mirrors does the battle with Don Quixote, attempting to cure him of his madness. The old hidalgo has a mirror in his mind, reflecting everything that he has ever read, which, poor fool, he considers to be the truth.

Nearby, in the Prado Museum of Madrid hangs a painting by Velázquez in which he pictures himself painting what he is actually painting, as if he had created a mirror. But in the very depth of his canvas, yet another mirror reflects the true witnesses of the work of art: you and I.

The Buried Mirror by Carlos Fuentes

The painting he’s talking about here is Las Meninas.

And this is what E.H Gombrich said about Las Meninas in The Story of Art:

What exactly does it all signify? We may never know, but I should like to fancy that Velázquez has arrested a real moment of time long before the invention of the camera.

Another painter I couldn’t resist thinking about was Johannes Vermeer. In the chapter The Mirror of Nature (The Story of Art) Gombrich writes:

Like a photographer who deliberately softens the strong contrasts of the picture without blurring the forms, Vermeer mellowed the outlines and yet retains the effect of solidity and firmness. It is a strange and unique combination of mellowness and precision which makes his best paintings so unforgettable. They make us see the quiet beauty of a simple scene with fresh eyes and give us an idea of what the light flooding through the window and heightening the colour of a piece of cloth.