Book: Humble Masterpieces


I was talking to a friend the other day questioning if good design cost more money. Well, in many cases it does, but in this post I’d like to show you that it does not have to with a book by Paola Antonelli, design curator of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The book, “Humble Masterpieces” sites some very simple everyday objects that most of us take for granted such as the post-it note, paper clip, lego blocks, and q-tip. Everyone can buy these products, and pretty much everyone has. Is it good design? You bet damn right it is! So damn good that everyone uses them. Some may argue that these objects are not designed, and moreso inventions, but in my world of design, inventing products that millions of people need and want because it solves a problem is great design. Now, there is the question if mass consumers and affordance equals a successful design, but I’ll post about that later on as it is a blurry topic to cover, though I’ll say yes it is for now. Anyhow, if your interested in this book, here’s a short article on it or you can buy it at Amazon. Enjoy!

2 Responses to “Book: Humble Masterpieces”

  1. cory o'malley Says:

    There is phenomenal design everywhere, increasingly in accessible spaces like budget retail (eg, Target). But design, like sneakers, benefits from exclusivity. It’s not only materials that ever drove the price of Herman Miller to generally unaffordable heights; it’s also the willingness to keep it out of the hands of the riff-raff. And not to sound like an academic snob, but I question whether the people who make up the target market for budget products like Rashid’s Garbino Can–or, for that matter, people who look at a London underground map every day for free–have (or want) the tools to distinguish what “good design” is? Once it hits the general populace, design may be ignored on the low end and considered too mundane at the high end to be thought of as artistic–much like the paper clip. Still, it’s inspiring to simply open one’s eyes to the world of design in everyday life, which this book tackles eagerly. But how many of us are doing it?

  2. tango! Says:

    Street maps, toothpicks, chopsticks, socks, etc are those amazing products that as you mention just rock, but since they are so easily graspable, we don’t realize their power until those objects are gone, or more expensive. This is an unfortunate thing, but things that are out of our reach tend to be qualified as “better”, more expensive, and perhaps better design, even though they might not. I’ll blame most of this on the media, magazines, tv, news, gossip. True desires are affected by our absorbed perceptions in life.(“marketers are liars” book: marketers are not liars, they just help tell consumers their own lies)

    Take for example Phillip Starcks Juicer… it looks great, but anyone that buys it doesnt use it…so, is this good design, good marketing, good art, or just an opnion of the media and the fancy designers that only think shiny, pitch white, pricey, untouchable products are good design. I love mr starcks work and am glad he did some affordable designs for fossil, but lots of his things are just un-usable, though visually breathtaking.

    IF BMW cars were sold for 20k, and tons more people owned them would they be downgraded in their good design acceptance?
    On the other end, if say the nissan altima, cost 100k and say a different brand, a high end nissan which i think is infiniti… what happens now.

    For these reasons, the mass makes a diffference in what good design is, but in all, good design is viewed differently from a persons experience. MacOSX vs Windows…well, it really depends which one you started with. Thats another topic I could ramble on an on about, perhaps worthy of a new post.
    haha, ok, i’ll stop tying for now.

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