The Essence of Things


The Essence of Things investigates the motifs and motivations of reduction in design, particularly industrial design. Thoroughly researched and beautifully illustrated, it considers the importance of technological and economic conditions, as well as the dialogue between design and art and the changing ethical standards applied to design. Color illustrations and descriptions of more than 160 objects accompany (bilingual) articles by Dirk Baecker, Martin Hartung, Wiebke Lang and Mathias Schwartz-Clauss.

Organized by the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, the source exhibition brings together approximately 150 objects covering 100 years of design history.

From familiar items like flip-flops and paperclips, to conceptual chairs and lamps by superstar designers, The Essence of Things celebrates simplicity in design. The exhibition considers how furniture, appliances, lighting, graphic design, and architecture have been influenced by the art and the practice of minimalism. Among the designers featured are such well-known names as Gerrit Rietveld, Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Ettore Sottsass, and Frank Gehry.

Whether designing a piece of furniture, an article of clothing, or a basic utensil, many designers embrace minimalism as a way to achieve both functionality and aesthetic elegance. These designers are guided by the belief that good design happens when nothing can be added and nothing can be taken away. This principle has governed industrial design for over a century. The Essence of Things explores the many facets of minimalism and demonstrates the contrasting ways designers have sought to capture the essential in an object.