Supernormal

Teksti Ida Kukkapuro Kuvat Sameli Rantanen

I’m always a bit startled when I enter the Kaisa House. I grew up among objects designed by Kukkapuro, but you can’t find such a gathering of Karuselli chairs anywhere else. Students practically line up to sit and read in them. The chairs steal the spotlight. I pass the Karuselli chairs and go straight to the fourth floor. One lounge chair is free. Only when I leave I realize what chair I have been sitting in. After seeing the Karuselli chairs, I couldn’t help think about my grandfather – after all, I had been sitting in a Moderno chair for several hours without thinking about the chair itself.

I was delighted. The chair is pleasant-looking and ergonomic. It is clear, but anonymous. I was delighted because I love good design, but especially normality. Super normality in particular.

In 2005, the British designer Jasper Morrison came up with the term Super Normal, and a few years later, his manifesto was published in ICON magazine. The text, in which he criticises the world of design harshly, is still relevant today. “Meanwhile design, which used to be almost unknown as a profession, has become a major source of pollution. Encouraged by glossy lifestyle magazines and marketing departments, it’s become a competition to make things as noticeable as possible by means of colour, shape and surprise. Design makes things seem special, and who wants normal if they can have special? And that’s the problem.

Special is generally less useful than normal, and less rewarding in the long term. Special things demand attention for the wrong reasons, interrupting potentially good atmosphere with their awkward presence. Preserve Normal, resist Special!”

Morrison is a fierce advocate of normality. In addition to Vitra, he has designed products for Muji, Punkt, Iittala and Nikari. In his exhibitions and publications, he has highlighted objects designed by other people, both well-known and anonymous.

Super normal is well-suited for everyday life, as it is about constant interaction between objects, things and people. Everyday life is about repetition. We hang the laundry out to dry, buy a bus ticket, make the bed, shave our beard, sit down and visit the library. Design affects the feeling that these actions contain. If the hinge of the drying rack always fails, doing laundry becomes annoying. If we get good support for our lower back and body and can sit comfortably, we are satisfied without realising it. Items that make you happy include, for example, a Bic ballpoint pen, a Bialetti coffee maker, a vegetable peeler shaped like the letter U, Nikari’s KVT1 chair, Lundia’s shelves, Fiskars’ orange scissors and Moderno chair.

All of these items share the qualities listed by Morrison: comfort, character, functionality, efficiency, economy, practicality and no-nonsense. Although it is not on Morrison’s list, I want to add silence to it. While Karuselli plays the main part when embracing its user, Moderno places the user at the centre of attention. Receiving such attention makes us happy.