by: Idris Mootee

What is “Super Normal Design”?  This is the first time I’ve heard about the term. As an economist I am more familiar with “Super Normal Profits”.

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When design guru Naoto Fukasawa admitted to feeling "a bit shocked and a little depressed" on discovering that the aluminum stools he had designed were plonked on the floor for people to sit on at a Milan Furniture Fair, rather than displayed on plinths like other new products. He was worried that no one would notice them. Later that day Fukasawa, received a call from the British designer Jasper Morrison, who raved about the stools and congratulated him on having designed something so subtle, yet distinctive. They coined the term to describe the stools - "super normal."

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A few months later they decided to put together a collection of products, which were similarly enjoyable to use and to look at without resorting to stylistic gimmicks. Not so much of anti-style but more of ordinary looking. The pieces they chose -ranging from inexpensive items like a paper clip and Bic biro and workspace designed by the French brothers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra.  They see this as a celebration of “normality” in design.

"Too many designers try to make their work seem special by making it as noticeable as possible that the historic purpose of conceiving things that are easier to make and better to live with has been side- tracked," he says. "The objects that really make a difference to our lives are often the least noticeable ones, that don't try to grab our attention. They're the things that add something to the atmosphere of our homes and that we'd miss the most if they disappeared. That's why they're 'super normal.'"  Reported IHT.

I started to think how many objects together are made without much design thought or any attempt to achieve anything other than a good ordinary tool, happen to be successful? It raises the question of what constitutes a good design. How many great designs are lacking noticeability?  Does it goes the current trend of using design to create “branded differentiation?’ The current business climate of hyper competition forces company to use design to create maximum noticeability by means of color, shape and function.  Design can make everyday things special. Isn’t that part of the job of “design”? Isn’t a designer’s worse nightmare when his client tells them his designs are “ordinary”?

Questions for us:

- Can “normal” just come to mean “unstimulating” or more about “low key” design?

- Can “normal” be also “unique”? Are they mutually exclusive?

- What’s the equivalent of “normal” design in interactive design? Is it about an elegant and efficient approach to design?

- Is this a lifecycle issue where one needs to be very special before it earns its right to design for “normal”?

Original Post: mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2008/03/does-super-norm.html

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