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Dons of Design

Jasper Morrison

Published: November 11, 2019

Category: Culture, Designers

For the second instalment of ‘Dons of Design’ we take a look at the Glo-Ball family of lights by British designer Jasper Morrison.

Image above: Jasper Morrison at work in his studio, sometime in the 1990s, photograph supplied by Jasper Morrison studio.

 

The Glo-Ball family of lights
Manufactured by Flos

 

For many years Jasper Morrison has been a great source of pride and prestige for the British design industry. He is quite rightly regarded as one of the finest designers of his generation. He is gentle, modest and quiet, but his designs speak volumes. They are concerned with a certain idea of rightness, one that he believes is intrinsic to all great objects.

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Glo-Ball family of lights by Jasper Morrison for Flos

In 2006, this idea was articulated as “Super Normal”, in a book and exhibition of the same name that Morrison produced in collaboration with Naoto Fukasawa. In the introduction to the book, he explains that the “Super Normal object is the result of a long tradition of evolutionary advancement in the shape of everyday things, not attempting to break with the history of form but rather trying to summarise it, knowing its place in the society of things.” The Glo-Ball family of lights, which he designed in 1998 for Italian lighting manufacturer Flos, is an important product on his journey towards the idea of “Super Normal”. The product is both a perfectly resolved physical representation of this approach to design, and a vindication of this approach.

The Glo-Ball is a product of great beauty, which looks like a moon in the room. Morrison is reputed to have worked on the design for five years before it was finally launched in 1998. It was, and has continued to be, a huge commercial success for Flos. The original brief Morrison worked on was to create a light that was suitable for any situation. Glo-Ball meets this brief by being available in different sizes, as either a table, floor, wall, ceiling, suspension or basic unmounted version. The base and stem are made from grey painted high-thickness steel, there is a dimmer on the cable and the diffuser is supported on a die-cast aluminium mount. Functionally the Glo-Ball is very versatile, but that alone doesn’t make it a great object. In my view, there are two elements that really elevate the Glo-Ball into something meaningful. The first is the even, diffuse light that it emits from its matt surface, which is achieved by the exposing the opaline glass shade to acid. The second is the fact that it’s not a perfect ball at all, rather it’s more of a slightly squashed ball, which for some reason is more right.

There was nothing new about the Glo-Ball when it was launched in 1998. Opal pendant lights had been in the material strata for at least a century, but Glo-Ball was such a tremendous commercial success that its inherent rightness as an object was apparent for all to see. It was released against a backdrop of experimentation and extravagance in the European design industry. A moment when the unconventional approach of Droog had come to the fore and, in terms of lighting, the fantastical designs of Ingo Maurer were making waves. Yet here was a modest and simple orb of light, perfectly balanced across functions, which showed the way forward for an industry that Jasper believed was infected by a virus that created a “competition to make things as noticeable as possible by means of colour, shape and surprise.”

There are other important products that Morrison designed on his journey towards “Super Normal” and beyond, but it’s difficult to argue against the Glo-Ball being one of the most important. In an industry where designers are predominantly paid through royalties, the need to create products that are commercially successful cannot be overstated. Critical success is secondary. The Glo-Ball is now rightly included in volumes on design classics, but it’s hardly a widely celebrated design. It almost goes unnoticed, but I suppose that was the idea.

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Glo-Ball suspension light by Jasper Morrison for Flos

Glo-Ball family at SCP