Beauty and design

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From the New Yorker:

But in the design universe, where the usefulness of an object takes priority over the elation of the spirit, beauty has a somewhat more ambiguous value. A utensil whose four stainless-steel tines protrude from the end of a delicate, triply pronged gold-plated handle like a gleaming hand extended from a sun-kissed sleeve may propose to elevate the enjoyment of a meal by its sheer gorgeousness, but a plastic fork will also spear food and get it into the mouth. The famous adage “form ever follows function,” coined by the American architect Louis Sullivan and emulated by modern institutions of design from the Bauhaus to Ikea, has set the priorities of design since the end of the nineteenth century. An object has a job to do. If it looks good doing it—so good, for instance, that an Italian coffee-pot design born from Fascist initiatives to promote aluminum is still sold around the world today, and can double as a lovely urn for the son of its inventor—so much the better. Seen that way, the curators of the Cooper Hewitt show are making a bold statement by throwing their lot in with beauty, calling for a readjustment of design priorities at the risk of cozying up too close to frivolity.

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