Friday, October 16, 2009

Designer of the Month: Droog

Week 3: inevitable ornament

Talking about ornament, as it relates to design, can be a bit of a tricky subject. There was a long period of time in our not-to-distant past that ornament was frowned upon. To the Modernists, decoration, or any elements within a design that were purely aesthetic, were deemed unnecessary. Beginning in the 1920s, the Bauhaus's tenet of 'form follows function' was thought to require a sober, minimalistic language that was suited to the industrial age from which it had grown out of, and while this idea evolved throughout the 20th century, it never really went away.[1] By the end of the 20th century, however, the idea that it was necessary to polish away the unevenness of an object was being rethought, allowing for more liberties, with designers beginning to emphasize instead of hide the mode and method of manufacture.[2] Rather than utilizing ornament simply as decoration, designers began to think about ways to utilize it as a functional aspect of the object.
Chandelier '85 lamps,' by Rody Graumans, 1993. 85 bulbs, standard fitting, dimmer. Courtesy of Droog.

You can see this merging of function and ornament in Rody Graumans' '85 lamps' chandelier. Graumans took ordinary light bulbs and fit them with a knot of chandelier connections on top that are both technical necessities and decorative accents for the object.[3] And really, that's what this week's post, and Droog's essential take on the whole idea of decoration, is all about. Many of Droog's designs make use of technology, whether by how a product is made or what it's used for, as a form of ornamentation. The result are surprisingly beautiful, elegant and functional items where decoration plays a staring role.

Condensation bowls, by Arnout Visser, 1998.. Courtesy of Droog.

A good example of this are these lovely Condensation Bowls, by Arnout Visser. As is explained on the Droog website:

Between the inner and the outer wall there is a space with water in it. If the bowl is filled with a hot liquid, the water in the space evaporates and then condenses afterwards as drops on the inner side of the glass. If one then puts the bowl in the freezer, the drops freeze into flowers of ice. The ornamentation is thus not static but is influenced by a physical process, set in motion by the user, and besides that gives a surprising experience to the senses. The bowls can be used with hot and cold liquids and have an insulating effect.[4]

In these bowls, technology creates ornamentation that is effected by temperature. Even though the object itself is static, the decoration on the object is not.

Heat Wave electric radiator, by Joris Laarman, 2003. Aluminum, polyurethane, 1600W (available in 110V and 230V). Courtesy of Droog.

Isn't this one of the most beautiful radiators you've ever seen? Redesigning the radiator with ornamentation in mind, with it's lovely Rococo-inspired design, made this an object that you'd be happy to display. Additionally, the increased surface area provides more radiation of heat as well, so while it looks postmodern, it's actually a reinterpretation of modernist form following function.[5]

As these Droog designs show, simplicity does not have to mean a lack of ornament. These designs all feature items where the decoration evolved from the concept in a logical, natural way, as both beautiful and functional items.[6]

Next week, irony.

[1] Louise Schouwenburg, "Inevitable Ornament," Simply Droog: 10+3 Years of Creating Innovation and Discussion, (Amsterdam: Droog, 2006), 72.

[2] Ibid., 74.

[3] Ibid., 75.

[4] Droog online, "The Inevitable Ornament," (Accessed October 15, 2009).

[5] Louise Schouwenburg, "Inevitable Ornament," Simply Droog: 10+3 Years of Creating Innovation and Discussion, (Amsterdam: Droog, 2006), 75.

[6] Droog online, "The Inevitable Ornament," (Accessed October 15, 2009).

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