Asking whether art can change the world is akin to asking whether the sky is blue. Miranda Priestly’s iconic monologue about the colour cerulean in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, in which she speaks about the hue’s importance in the fashion industry and the commercial impact it had, sums up the theme behind this week’s Top Shelf: know your stuff.
The very chair you’re sitting on is part of a constantly evolving design process that extends back to the earliest days of human existence. The Design Book, by Phaidon, reveals 500 of the most innovative and influential products from the past five centuries that are still in production today. It includes the Breuers and Eameses of the design world, as well as anonymous design pieces such as the deck chair or even the corkscrew and paperclip.
Furniture designer Dieter Rams famously listed what he sees as the Ten Principles for Good Design; of these, number one is innovation, second is usefulness and the third is about aesthetic. Design changes according to current trends, however it takes something special for an object to stand the test of time. When asked about the iconic lamp he feels will still be relevant in years to come, Créma Design’s Craig Tabor-Raeside was quick to reply, ‘The Flowerpot by Verner Panton [for &tradition], without a doubt. It was designed in 1968 and is still in production today – just in many new colours.’ Read more about this classic lighting design here.
If you can’t tell your Mies van der Rohes from your Rams, or your Pantons from your Veninis, a few of our favourite art and design books are a good place to start. Lightopia by Beate Binder (published by Vitra Design Museum) explores the development of light design, while Great Designs is a beautiful gallery of revolutionary design pieces that date back to the 1860s. The Craft and the Makers looks at businesses choosing to focus on craftsmanship in order to create objects with character and soul. And lastly, an in-depth retrospective monograph of Parisian photographer, street artist and activist JR, titled JR: Can Art Change the World?, by Nato Thompson, is well worth poring over to discover the stories behind his most provocative public artworks.
See our previous Top Shelf feature about using books as decorative objects, here.