Whether it be a chair, light or tableware, a name to know is Jasper Morrison one of the world’s most compelling designers.


NAME TO KNOW – Jasper Morrison

Published: 02 Mar 2020
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Chat to Jasper Morrison and the word ‘atmosphere’ will invariably crop up and it is arguably the idea that drives his design thinking.

As he once explained, ‘atmosphere is also a function. When you bring a chair into a room, it changes the atmosphere and that’s an important effect of a product because we feel different in different atmospheres. I’ve kept pretty much the same goal which is the idea that objects should create an atmosphere. In my head, there’s a certain ideal atmosphere, so I’m always designing for that imaginary space or mood and looking for shapes or solutions that achieve this. It is hard to put into words, but I think you know what I mean if I say there are certain rooms you walk into where you feel good or inspired.’

side tables/ stools for Vitra

The Cork Family of side tables / stools for Vitra makes use of a pressed cork granulate made with the waste material of the wine bottle cork stopper business. Cork is the only material that can be pressed in one direction without expanding in another and is also waterproof, rot proof and termite proof.

This idea that rooms can make you feel good – or not – first occurred to Jasper when he was a young boy. Growing up in London in the early 1960s, the average living room interior was one of heavy, upholstered furniture and thick curtains which, he says, he found ‘very claustrophobic and quite gloomy.’

However, his grandfather’s room was altogether different – working for a Danish company, Jasper’s grandfather had discovered Scandi style. ‘I think he had quite a good eye, and the room was well-lit with lots of daylight, wooden floors, and just a few rugs,’ recalls Jasper Morrison.

Jasper Morrison - Moulded plastic trays for Vitra

Moulded plastic trays for Vitra. Red (set of three shades) and Green (set of three shades)

Lightweight seating was arranged in front of an open fire, and music played from a Braun record player by German designer Dieter Rams. ‘Suddenly I just felt way better in that space, and realizing that there were some places that made me feel good and others that didn’t have a huge effect on me,’ continues Jasper. ‘I’m pretty sure I became a designer to have some influence on my surroundings and to generally improve atmospheres for others as well.’

This he has certainly done. Today the English-born designer is described as ‘one of the most influential product designers of our time,’ with offices in London, Paris and Tokyo and has collaborated with the biggest names in the design business including Alessi, Flos, Ideal Standard, Muji, Rosenthal and Vitra International. The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York are just two of the prominent museums around the world showcasing his work.

Today, Jasper Morrison is known for his pared-down, less-is-more approach, eschewing attention-grabbing designs for more subtle creations that have their own ‘everlasting elegance’. In his book, ‘Book of Things’, his oft-mentioned words include ‘comfort’, ‘functional’, ‘practical’ and ‘no-nonsense’. Anything flashy or that he considers style over substance is given short shrift.

His design signature gave a name in 2005 when at the Milan Furniture Fair, he coined the term ‘Super Normal’ to describe commonplace, largely anonymous objects that usually go unnoticed but are incredibly useful and even necessary. He was inspired by a stool, designed by Japan’s Naoto Fukasawa, which Jasper described as ‘so discreet no-one was playing it any attention’.

“I don’t design anything to be “Super Normal”’ he says, ‘but rather work to give things a similar set of qualities: familiarity, longevity, being discreet but with atmospheric presence”

Jasper’s first designs, however, were anything but discreet. In 1988 for Italian brand Cappellini, he created the Thinking Man’s chair with its wavy tubular steel armrests and a sofa sculpted to resemble an enormous wave. Both were launched to great acclaim, however, during this time, Jasper also astounded the design world with an exhibition called ‘Some New Items for the Home’ which showed simple plywood furniture he had designed and made himself. It was quite the opposite to what was, at the time, considered great design. As Alice Rawsthorn, former director of London’s Design Museum wrote in The New York Times, ‘It is hard to overstate how radical his deliberately unobtrusive design language must have seemed… At the time, the design was dominated by the flamboyant, richly symbolic work of the postmodernists, who sought to liberate it from what they saw as the soullessness of mid-20th century Modernism, which [Jasper] admired for its economy, efficiency and restraint.’

The integrity, simple beauty and sheer usefulness of Jasper’s designs, however, have seen him flourish, and his career has been noted for the long-lasting relationships he has formed and his many iconic pieces. He has worked with Cappellini for the past three decades, and although the Thinking Man’s chair was his first design, one of his most recent was the unfussy Tate chair that was first made for London’s Tate Modern but proved so popular it has become part of Cappellini’s permanent catalogue. For Flos, Jasper Morrison has designed some of the company’s most memorable lights including the Glo-Ball range and Superloon. His Air chair for Magis, made from air-moulded polypropylene, is considered a classic example of his reduced, simple design. For Established & Sons, he created the Crate nightstand, inspired by an actual wine crate he started using as a nightstand in his new apartment in Paris.

‘I don’t design anything to be “Super Normal”’ he says, ‘but rather work to give things a similar set of qualities: familiarity, longevity, being discreet but with atmospheric presence.’

Kettle from the Palma Cast Iron for Oigen
The kettle from the Palma Cast Iron kitchenware range for Oigen