25
Aug
10

Stendhal Moments

Industrial DesignCreative businesses are naturally emotional environments. We deal every day with the science of marketing and media, of ROI and metrics, of rather dense and impenetrable models. But ultimately, we’re about offering people the option to think differently about a product, a service, a person – and that means getting into their heads, and that’s an emotional process.

Just sometimes, though, that emotion creeps up on you entirely unexpected. Two recent examples, of when the whole thing got really rather overwhelming and where, were I Henri-Marie Beyle, I would have had a Stendhal moment.

The Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum are astonishing. Choir screens from Belgium; a house frontage from Bishopsgate in London, statues, stained glass, caskets and chalices ad what seems almost infinitum. When one visits a church in Italy, all of which seem like little museums in their own right, usually there is one piece of staggering beauty. Two if you’re lucky. But this is like someone’s backed up the European Renaissance and dumped it into the Museum, where it has been carefully, beautifully and lovingly arranged with the sole intention of overwhelming you.

There’s two floors of this. And a mezzanine. And just as you think you’re coping, you come round a corner and walk past an inconspicuous little brown thing in a case stood by the back wall of something utterly glorious. And you’re about to go past when you think, “I wonder what that is?”.

It’s the Codex Forster. The Codex-bloody-Forster. It’s one of Leonardo da Vinci’s own notebooks, in his own hand, with his own… you get the idea.

It was at this point that I went outside to calm down. Any gallery – and this is the permanent exhibition, not a special, only-open-for-a-month thing – that can hide the Forster Codex behind a wall as if it’s just another thing, creates Stendhal moments all the time.

And more prosaically, walking down a street in Copenhagen, I stumbled across the Danish Design Centre. And had another moment in front of, of all things, a set of tables. The “Little Friend, 2005” by Kaspar Salto, produced by Fritz Hansen, to be exact. It just works. It is beautiful, functional, the lines are perfect, every part of it thought out to within an inch of its life (but not so far that it has lost its essential delight).

This, I have to say, came on the back of design manifestos for Danish design on the walls, clear and thought through, video interviews of clarity and perspicacity, a standing exhibition of beautiful objects. I have a nasty feeling that the Danes are probably better at product design than anyone else, and the exhibitions – and the thinking underlying them – at the DDC just reinforces this. I mean, even their ‘you’ve paid, here’s your little badge to prove it’ is a lovely little clip, with their website address on it, not some little sticky thing that destroys clothing.

Anyhow. Two moments when design becomes beauty, and when that beauty becomes overwhelming. Is it any wonder that we get emotional when we create, when we stand – however slightly – in the same light that creates Stendhal moments?

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