Design Icons: What makes an original an original?

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” – Charles Caleb Colton

Design originals – the classic masterpieces of history. In the right context, they become storytellers that leave a lasting impression for years to come. But from when, then, is an original considered an original?

Not every interior innovation becomes a design icon. There’s no doubt that new things -furniture, appliances- always serve to stir up our curiosity and excitement. This feeling, on the other hand, lingers only until the next trend comes along. They have already proven their functionality and with their timeless design, evoking a feeling of security and peace. But how, then, does a design original actually achieve this status?

For an original to become an original, two things are vital: relationship and appreciation. For anything to even be considered an original, a designer must grant the manufacturer the right to produce. The appreciation a manufacturer has for design also plays an important role: A design wants to be understood and recognized, and that only works when there is a close connection between designer and manufacturer. We want to show you great design icons that emerged from such partnerships and levels of appreciation. Take a look at the following, a list of eight German manufacturers who have produced timeless design classics:

Gira E2’s simple design has inspired interior lovers for over two decades. Gira E2’s simple design has inspired interior lovers for over two decades.
Gira E2’s simple design has inspired interior lovers for over two decades.

The design icon behind the switches

The Gira E2 design line

Since 1998, Gira has been setting standards with the timeless Gira E2 design series.

Since 1998, Gira has been setting standards with the timeless Gira E2 design series. It was conceived as a solid statement against the then prominent trend of frivolity and opulence. It espouses a minimalist language of design, a pleasant feel and high-quality material which still inspires designers and architects today. That’s what makes this minimalist design a classic.

With subdued and modern colour tones like pure-white semigloss, pure-white radiant, matte black, painted aluminium and anthracite – or in the stainless-steel material version – the Gira E2 design line allows for the combination of many styles.

It’s not just the design and variety that are convincing. The high-quality frames enhance the appearance of light switches, plugs, touch sensors and the Gira home stations. The Gira E2 switch series thus combines design, function and the experience of 100 years of engineering art to perfection – a real original.

"Design creates peace, clarity and order."
Hans-Jörg Müller, Gira Head of Product Design
“This lamp has changed how we view light.”
Carlotta de Bevilacqua and Ernesto Gismondi, Artemide
Thanks to their tremendous flexibility, design original Artemide from Tolomeo allows for the optimal flow of light. Thanks to their tremendous flexibility, design original Artemide from Tolomeo allows for the optimal flow of light.
Decades of innovation: The Tolomeo Standing Lamp from Artemide.
Over the decades, the Conseta upholstered furniture system from Cor and developed into an international bestseller and a design original. Over the decades, the Conseta upholstered furniture system from Cor and developed into an international bestseller and a design original.
Conseta from Cor: Generations of originality and timelessness.
“A sofa that shaped the future. And wrote history.”
COR Sitzmöbel
“It is harder to build a good chair than it is to build a skyscraper.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Architect and Bauhaus Director
Material fusion: bent steel tube cantilever chair from Thonet. Wood & Viennese weave, still impressive after 90 years. This timelessness really makes design originals. Material fusion: bent steel tube cantilever chair from Thonet. Wood & Viennese weave, still impressive after 90 years. This timelessness really makes design originals.
Classic design from the Bauhaus period: The Stahlrohr-Freischwinger S 32 from Thonet.
Functionality characterizes design originals. Made from chrome-plated balls, tubes and connectors, the USM system creates modular furniture that fully adapts to the user’s needs. Functionality characterizes design originals. Made from chrome-plated balls, tubes and connectors, the USM system creates modular furniture that fully adapts to the user’s needs.
Allrounder: The USM System makes dreams come true.
“Flexibility – to expand, to reorganise and to implement step by step.”
USM
“With the 111 door handle, HEWI has created both an icon and a force field that the field of architecture simply cannot ignore.”
Hadi Teherani, Architect and Designer
High-gloss surfaces made from coloured polyimide have made the Hewi System a design icon. However, this developed gradually into a full system with wardrobes, handrails and sanitary products. High-gloss surfaces made from coloured polyimide have made the Hewi System a design icon. However, this developed gradually into a full system with wardrobes, handrails and sanitary products.
The Hewi Door Handle 111 is pleasing to the eye and touch.
At a time when single-hand taps dominated the market, Tara the two-handled tap was pretty outdated. However, this Dornbracht concept quickly became a design original of the modern bathroom. At a time when single-hand taps dominated the market, Tara the two-handled tap was pretty outdated. However, this Dornbracht concept quickly became a design original of the modern bathroom.
Slender and elegant: Tara from Dornbracht, the icon among the fittings.
“You don’t change an original, you refine it.”
Michael Sieger, sieger design
“Every point of the FK is clearly defined. This easy chair simply exudes timeless strength.”
Claus Sendlinger, founder of Design Hotels and SLOW Hospitality
With its familiar tulip shape, the FK bucket chair by Walter Knoll has been a furniture original for decades. With its familiar tulip shape, the FK bucket chair by Walter Knoll has been a furniture original for decades.
Style icon, film star and design original: The FK bucket chair by Walter Knoll.

Is every new product
an innovation?

Open forum “Design as an economic success factor”, with…

  • Thomas Tuma, Chief Editor, Handelsblatt
  • Norman Kietzmann, Journalist for Design and Architecture
  • renowned design experts and creative leaders

On January 14th, 2020 at 4.30 PM
imm cologne 2020, Hall 4.2,
Architects Lounge

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