Castiglioni and the Celebration of the (Almost) Ordinary

Interruttore, designed in 1968, is just the kind of functional object that no 'name' designer would deign to create, much less to celebrate, today. Achille Castiglioni, who produced a range of icons that any designer would envy, actually said that Switch was one of the objects he "liked the most". It is exactly this level of "design modesty" (and he anything but modest), this celebration of the ordinary made slightly extraordinary, that I find so affirming. Celebration of the (almost) ordinary is a love of the common object; the simple improvement to the everyday; the love of the well turned design phrase.

Most designers have collections of objects they love, and some, like Jasper Morrison place these objects in the foreground. But even Jasper Morrison hasn't crafted an object as everyday and anonymous as Interruttore.

I say anonymous because I bought one of these little switches during a typical hardware store sweep in Italy years ago. I routinely collect hardware, lighting, electrical devices, writing implements, watches, gloves cameras, doorstops, materials, packaging, ephemera and lots of other almost ordinary objects when I travel and when I don't. So finding, years later, that the modest little switch I bought for about $1.50 was designed by Achille Castiglioni, was alarming and charming in equal measure.

Castiglioni stands, with Gio Ponti, Sottsass, Meda, Bellini, Colombo, Magistretti, Nizzoli, Munari, Sapper and Vignelli at the very apex of Italian design. A long and productive life, a charming disposition and an articulate way with the press didn't hurt making him a spokesperson for the entire world of design in Italy.

But he was no poseur, and his favorite little lamp switch, designed at the height of a period of high design, says it all.