The Story of Design – Charlotte and Peter Fiell

The Story of Design is ultimately a story about us, and how we got where we are today through the power of design. As an omnipresent feature of daily life and an integral aspect of human existence, design has throughout the centuries quite literally shaped our manmade world. The Story of Design tells for the very first time the incredibly rich and multi-stranded story of how people over the centuries have harnessed design to convert raw materials into useful things and how these designs have transformed human civilization.

The Story of Design_JKT 100%

The Story of Design not only reveals how the act of designing has since the earliest times been at the very core of human activity, but also explains why it will continue to remain so. By tracing the progressive development of design from prehistoric stone tools to today’s latest products through the introduction of themes, styles, movements and, of course, key pioneering designers, The Story of Design is the tale of how our material culture has evolved over the millennia. It is a story of innovation and ingenuity, of big business and personal creativity, of new materials and cutting-edge technologies – all being used in the pursuit of the better designed thing, whether it is a humble, handcrafted cooking pot or a mass-produced high-tech smart phone. The Story of Design is quite simply the story of stuff, for every manmade object has to a greater or lesser extent been designed and it is these objects of design that have made us what we are today and continue to define how we relate to the world around us.

“Design” is a slippery word, being both a verb and a noun – an action and its result. Its scope also spans the whole spectrum of human creative problem-solving, from pure, process-driven engineering to more creative craft-based approaches that can be artistic, poetic, symbolic or polemical. Design activities might include an engineer using technical procedures to create new mechanisms, a games designer developing new immersive environments, a graphic designer laying out a poster, a textile designer creating fabric patterns or a ceramicist moulding clay into studio pottery. Ultimately, though, whether a designer works for a large company creating industrially manufactured universal products or as an individual designer-maker crafting bespoke solutions, he or she is using design as a means of communication, and the work they produce embodies their different ideologies, philosophies and methodologies.

It is the unique ability of designed artefacts to tell both individual and shared stories that prompted us to write The Story of Design, for studying the development of design is a way of making sense of human history – its motivations, its triumphs, its failures, its contradictions. It is also a study of avant-garde pioneers, of visionary practitioners, risk-taking design-entrepreneurs, enlightened design-led manufacturers, revolutionary design schools and forward-looking stylistic movements, all striving to find better design solutions, which they believed would shape a better future – even if their instincts were sometimes misguided. The Story of Design is quite simply the story of how human civilization came into being – there is no bigger story, nor one that is more relevant to our own existence, for it is our own shared story.

Advertisements

Memories of a Lost World

Charlotte Fiell, author of the stunning and unique Memories of a Lost World, reveals how she discovered the magic lantern slides that the book contains – and what they reveal about our history in the ‘pre-media’ age.

memories cover

Looking through a window into the past…

Memories of a Lost World is a book that came about from my obsession with magic lantern slides and my related love of social history. It all started a few years back when I was researching a book on German design and found a magic lantern slide showing a Zeppelin airship being maneuvered into a hangar. As I lifted this large glass slide to the light to see it more clearly, it was so like looking through a window into the past that it quite literally gave me goose bumps. I just knew I had lucked onto something that every social historian is searching for, a wonderful new source of primary historical research to explore. And explore I did as I collected hundreds and hundreds of magic lantern slides over the next few years. Many of these slides were some of the earliest photographic records of countries, cultures and peoples to have been taken before the advent of photographic film, cinema, television or mass-travel. What these slides represented to me was a pure and for the most part undiluted essence of national character – whether it was a slide of a geisha sleeping or a African tribesman dancing or a bustling street scene of Paris or a panoramic view of the Himalayas.

Memories - spread 2

Illuminating all corners of the world

I eventually decided it would be really interesting to collect enough magic lantern slides to make up an extensive “world tour” of this long lost pre-media age that spanned a period of around seventy years from the 1860s to the 1930s. It just seemed the right thing to do with this amazing resource of primary historical imagery, especially as these magic lantern slides had been originally taken to be used as both educative tools as well as pre-cinema entertainment. The result was Memories of a Lost World – a really chunky tome which includes literally hundreds of painstakingly scanned and retouched magic lantern slides from all corners of the world – from early exploration trips in the frozen Arctic to the pyramids of Egypt, from the indigenous peoples of New Guinea to ranching on the South American pampas, from the tram-and-carriage blocked streets of London to the sublime vistas of Yellowstone Park…it is all included. Significantly, not only does this fascinating collection of early imagery show the wonderful cultural diversity that existed in our long lost pre-globalised world but quite poignantly it also expresses an overwhelming sense of shared humanity as well. I just hope you enjoy your travels into this lost world as much as I have…”

Memories of a Lost World is available now.

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

It’s a mere six weeks till Christmas (don’t worry, we’ll be providing you with a Christmas gift guide very soon!) when, despite our good intentions of getting out of the house to work off those mince pies, we know that really we’ll be spending hours sitting in front of the TV with the family, indulging in the classics.

Peter and Charlotte Fiell are the authors of Chairs, which covers 1,000 masterpieces of chair design, from 1800 to the present day, in a great big cornucopia of a book weighing in at an impressive 756 pages of sumptuously illustrated and glorious content. The book features everything from the immortal Eames LCW to today’s most progressive seating designs created by Jasper Morrison, Tom Dixon, Ron Arad and Thomas Heatherwick.

We asked Peter Fiell for his advice on choosing a classic chair to sit on whilst you’re watching the greatest Christmas films of all time…

A Christmas Carol (1938)

 chairs_spread1

It’s a mere six weeks till Christmas (don’t worry, we’ll be providing you with a Christmas gift guide very soon!) when, despite our good intentions of getting out of the house to work off those mince pies, we know that really we’ll be spending hours sitting in front of the TV with the family, indulging in the classics.

Peter and Charlotte Fiell are the authors of Chairs, which covers 1,000 masterpieces of chair design, from 1800 to the present day, in a great big cornucopia of a book weighing in at an impressive 756 pages of sumptuously illustrated and glorious content. The book features everything from the immortal Eames LCW to today’s most progressive seating designs created by Jasper Morrison, Tom Dixon, Ron Arad and Thomas Heatherwick.

We asked Peter Fiell for his advice on choosing a classic chair to sit on whilst you’re watching the greatest Christmas films of all time…

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

chairs_spread2

Arguably the greatest American Christmas drama ever produced, Frank Capra’s inspirational movie brought a much-needed heart-warming drop of cheer to the immediate postwar years, not unlike Charles and Ray Eames’ LCW chair from 1945, which is without question the most iconic chair of all time and a veritable landmark in seating history. This rare example with its cherry red aniline-dyed finish is especially festive!

Scrooge (1951)

 chairs_spread3

Alastair Sim was the “classic” Scrooge whose terrifying encounters with the ghosts of Christmasses’ past, present and future gave him such a fright that he realised the error of his ways and made amends to the long suffering Bob Cratchit. Maybe he wouldn’t have been such a misery guts if he had enjoyed the padded comfort of Marco Zanuso’s stylish Senior chair from 1951 that used in its construction a new wonder material – latex foam – making it not only supremely comfortable but also aesthetically innovative with its seductive and inviting sculptural form.

The Sound of Music (1965)

 chairs_spread4

A firm favourite for family gatherings at Christmas with the ever-so Bavarian von Trapp family giving it their musical all, while escaping the Nazi baddies…and of course, an all-important ex-Nun love interest thrown in for good measure. Along with whiskers on kittens, the De Pas, D’Urbino and Lomazzi’s Blow chair from 1965 is one of our favourite things. The most famous inflatable chair of all time, its rounded curves inviting playful interaction made it a quintessential Pop icon.

The Snowman (1982)

chairs_spread5

 From “Walking in the Air” to its adorable drawn animation, The Snowman is a modern classic of Christmas entertainment. Robert Venturi’s Art Nouveau, Queen Anne and Chippendale chairs of the early 80s were tongue-in-cheek homages to earlier historic styles.

Venturi was a leading proponent of Post-Modernism and these playful chairs certainly reflected his belief that “Less is a Bore”. Unlike the Snowman, however, these characterful chairs didn’t melt away and are now seen as masterpieces of Post-Modern seating design.

See Peter discussing more about how he became interested in chair design, and the intriguing poser of how a designer can ‘transcend chairness’ in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYVdlBdecsg

Chairs is an ideal gift for anyone obsessed with style, as is the Fiell’s bible, Masterpieces of British Design. And if Christmas isn’t the same for you without The Sound of Music Family Scrapbook, you need the family scrapbook in your life!

chairs_coverbritishdesign_coversoundofmusic_cover

With thanks to The Republic of Fritz Hansen for letting us film in their beautiful showroom. http://www.fritzhansen.com