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Design Classics

Glo-ball lights, 1999

Designer: Jasper Morrison
Manufacturer: Flos

In the current crop of young, high-octane, high-hype designers Jasper Morrison stands out for the simple reason that he doesn’t try too hard to stand out. A native of London England, Morrison was born in 1959 and studied at the Royal College of Art and in Berlin. His talents were recognized early and in 1986 he was selected to take part – as a designer – in Documenta 8, one of the series of famous bi-annual German art extravaganzas.

Morrison brings innovation and subtlety to the furniture, lighting, household products and appliances he creates mostly for European manufacturers such Alessi, Flos, Vitra and Capellini. In a daring gamble, the transit authority in Hanover, Germany chose Morrison – who had no previous experience in public transit or a project of this scale – to design a new tram that debuted at the 2000 Expo. The result is elegant elegance, stylish and useable. (Toronto Transit Commission are you listening?)

Morrison explains in his wonderful book, Everything But The Walls, that he had been trying to design a light for the Italian manufacturer Flos for five years before hitting on the idea of a simple, hand-blown opal glass globe. Available in a variety of sizes as table, floor, ceiling, suspended and wall lights it hides the light source and just glows. The suspended version is attached to the ceiling by a thin aluminum filament and can be hung at any height. When lit, the suspension and the electrical wire that snakes around it disappears leaving a miraculously radiant form. The diffuse light creates an ambience of simplicity and serenity, with no harsh shadows.

The success of Glo-ball is a credit to thoughtfulness rather than theatricality. Coolly sophisticated it harks back to industrial fixtures of the 1950s and looks almost anonymous – casting its glow without calling attention to itself. This is not by accident. Morrison has always been fascinated by and attracted to those vernacular objects created by un-signed craftsmen who didn’t feel the need to call attention to themselves. According to him they were more concerned with making objects for usefulness and survival rather than courting publicity “without any genuine effort to be helpful.” Glo-ball is certainly helpful and its iconic status reflects Jasper Morrison’s belief that it is “not the designer’s job to invent form, just to apply it in the right place at the right time and for good enough reasons.”