Super Normal — Sensations of the Ordinary at Design Museum Ghent

08 Jul 2010

In our day to day life we don't always stop and think about all the hard work, testing, and failing that went into the tools and objects we use daily. Some withstand the test of time and are still around and others vanish into oblivion. A few days ago the Design Museum in Ghent opened a new exhibition that has been traveling the world. The exhibition opened on July 3 and will remain in Belgium (Ghent) until the 24th of October.

Super Normal — Sensations of the Ordinary

This is an exhibition of known and less known objects from everywhere selected by the designers Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison. Super Normal is more than a curatorial strategy. It's a project denoting a positive feeling of esteem for objects who, according to the exhibition curators, radiate something good. It is rooted in the designers’ shared belief that the objects we most enjoy using and looking at often seem, at first sight, quietly unremarkable because there is nothing conventionally spectacular about them. Super Normal is about sensations of the ordinary, whose characteristics can be put into words but are best revealed through the objects themselves.

The Thinking Man’s Chair, Jasper Morrison's first break through end of the 80s.

Swiss Rex peeler

Juice packaging by Naoto Fukasawa.

Max Bill’s wall clock for Junghans.

Colombo’s Optic alarm clock from 1970.

The 606 shelving system by Dieter Rams.

In addition to anonymous design, such as the Swiss Rex peeler or a simple plastic bag, the collection also includes design classics like Max Bill’s wall clock for Junghans, the 606 shelving system by Dieter Rams, or Colombo’s Optic alarm clock from 1970.

Design makes things seem special, and who wants normal if they can have special?

— Japser Morrison

Design makes things seem special, and who wants normal if they can have special? And that’s the problem. What has grown naturally and unselfconsciously over the years cannot easily be replaced. The normality of a street of shops which has developed over time, offering various products and trades, is a delicate organism. Not that old things shouldn’t be replaced or that new things are bad, just that things which are designed to attract attention are usually unsatisfactory. There are better ways to design than putting a big effort into making something look special. Special is generally less useful than normal, and less rewarding in the long term.

— Japser Morrison

"Super Normal" is less concerned with designing beauty than seemingly homely but memorable elements of everyday life. Certainly nothing "flash"or "eye-catching;" never contrived, but rather almost "naff" yet somehow appealing. As if, when viewing something with expectations of a new design, our negative first impressions of "nothing much" or "just plain ordinary" shifted to "… but not bad at all." Overcoming an initial emotional denial, our bodily sensors pick up on an appeal we seem to have known all along and engage us in that strangely familiar attraction. Things that possess a quality to shake us back to our senses are "Super Normal.

— Naoto Fukasawa

Designs that you'll see in Super Normal — Sensations of the Ordinary

Super Normal refers to "something that’s good to have around, that you use in a completely satisfactory way without having to think about its shape or decipher any hidden message or trickiness." Often, a Super Normal object is the "particularly symbolic archetype that is really normal" according to Fukasawa. Both designers advocate simplicity and normality in functional objects. The design being produced by both of these designers is incredible. These two have built up quite a reputation, so any theory they have to offer has a great deal of credibility. I should also mention that these two designers aren't new kids on the block as both Morrison and Fukasawa have 30 years + design experience under their belts.

Small bio of Naoto Fukasawa

Naoto Fukasawa was born in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, in 1956. He graduated from Tama art university's product design department in art and 3D design in 1980. In recent years, he has designed work for Italian companies B&B Italia, Driade, Magis, Artemide, Danese and Boffi, and designs for German and other European companies.

Small bio of Jasper Morrison

Jasper Morrison is a British furniture- and industrial designer. Born in London 1959 he had his breakthrough at the end of the 80s with the tubular steel armchair The Thinking Man’s Chair. Since then Morrison has been one of the world’s leading designers. He has designed everything from cutlery and doorknobs to tramcars, and worked for several well-known brands like Alessi, Cappellini, Flos, Magis and Vitra.

I have 7 free tickets

Thanks to Vitrapoint Ghent and online shop Designcollectors (two clients of mine) I scored 7 entrance tickets for this interesting exhibition. Of course you'll have to live in Belgium or visit Belgium during that period to win any of these. I'll snail mail them or you can come pick them up.

What do you need to do to win them

All you need to do to score one of the free tickets is tell what kind of object/tool/invention has impressed you the most. Can be everyday things that nobody thinks about anymore when using it. I'll handpick the 7 lucky winners. My personal contribution would be Velcro and the bicycle.


  1. 1 Alisey Lebedev 09 Jul 2010

    LCD screens and mirrors. Back in my childhood I believed eternal life and intergalactic journeys were possible, but not flat screens. Because cathode ray tubes have to have some depth, you cannot make them thin enough to put them in a pocket. And now iPhone 4 is here.

    As for mirrors - they are simply great. We wouldn’t know what we look like without mirrors. They are magical, you almost believe there’s another world behind them. I remember how exciting it was to put a mirror in front of a mirror and see what happens.

    Oh, and written language has also impressed me much when I saw it for the first time. Such a clever hack. Have an sign for each sound and put the signs in a sequence. It’s so natural now it’s hard to believe it was invented.
    BTW everyone who likes the idea of super normal objects should read Kenya Hara’s “Designing Design”. (I’d love to go to the exhibition, but cannot accept the ticket)

  2. 2 Philip 09 Jul 2010

    The corkscrew surely was handed down to us by the gods. I still think it defies the laws of physics.

  3. 3 Davidson 15 Jul 2010

    I have that coffee maker at home. My wife is Italian and I was just thinking of how great the simple design was! Great article.

  4. 4 Diederik Corvers 06 Sep 2010

    Today my choice would be the wire-o binding: elegant, efficient, often overlooked but keeping my agNda’s together for the last 17 years. Tomorrow I might think of Scotch tape, the Moleskine or a 0,5 mm fill pencil…