Sunday, October 05, 2008

Luigi Colani - Making the world a groovier place

2000 seater aircraft

You'll know, if you are a regular dropper-in to this blog, that I love great design. Whether it be heat-sensitive wallpaper, curvy chests of drawers or curious little art toys, I go all gooey and wobbly over things that look good, that look a bit crazy, that look groovier than groovy. People who know me have been aware of this for some time. Some even share my passion. Consequently, they send me photos and links to sites that may interest me. Today, my photographer brother Simon sent me some links to galleries featuring the design work of Luigi Colani.


If you don't know him, Colani is one of the modern greats of futuristic, chunky, industrial and engineering design. His outrageously sexy trains, planes and automobiles have been popping up on the 'concept' podiums (podia?) at transport shows for over 40 years and he shows no sign of letting up despite having just turned 80.
His designs often look more biological than technical; more grown than built - much like Roger Dean's extraordinary architectural designs. But as Colani points out, 'The earth is round, all the heavenly bodies are round; they all move on round or elliptical orbits. This same image of circular globe-shaped mini worlds orbiting around each other follows us right down to the microcosmos. We are even aroused by round forms in species propagation-related eroticism. Why should I join the straying mass who want to make everything angular? I am going to pursue Galileo Galilei's philosophy: my world is also round.'
Many of his curvy visions are far more ergonomical in design than many more traditional forms. They are designed as much for comfort and aesthetic value as they are for functionality. And that's one of the reasons I like what he does. Colani is an artist first. There is not enough art in design.

Office workstation and chairs

For example, when you buy a sofa or a lamp or a mobile phone, I'll bet that you give as much attention to the physical look of the object as you do to its function - maybe even more so. After all, do you buy a kettle for its speed or for its shape and colour? So why are so many consumer goods so pig-ugly? Take computers and their peripherals. Why are they generally such ugly boxes? Okay, fair's fair ... Apple have done some great things. Their computers and printers and speakers and mouses are all very pretty and something you don't mind having on dispay in the house. And, let's face it, the i-pod didn't become the best-selling and best known of all MP3 players for its reliability, flexibility or quality of sound. It won because it was sexy and remains the sexiest player on the market. But PCs and laptops are generally hideous. And so are most of the electronic goods in your house. And that's a crime.
Every object - no matter how trivial - has been designed by someone. Surely it's the designer's job to make you love what they create. So why don't love my DVD player or my TV? I like what they do and they were the best looking ones in my price range. But frankly, they could be a lot sexier. So could my printer. And my headphones. Why do guitars and tables and forks and door handles and pens have to be stripped back to dull, pedestrian functionality? Why do pianos have to follow a boring, ancient, traditional design? Colani pianos don't.

Colani piano

Apple got it right because they brought in talented designers to produce things of beauty after the technicians had finished inventing the innards. So why not do the same with trains, cars, trucks, boats and even spacecraft? Why are there so many ugly airplanes? Concorde was sexy. It can be done. Why is the average family car - with few exceptions - a thing of horror to look at?

Colani has consistently proven that things can be gorgeous as well as cost-effective and practical; that we don't have to put up with monstrosities of bad design. We should be prostrating ourselves at his feet and urging our young new designers to take a leaf out of his book.
The man is a living genius.

'Frog' motorcycle
Visit the Colani Design Museum online by clicking here. Or you can visit his truck designs here. If you're still fascinated, there are a lot more of his more fanciful transport designs here.


Katie said...

ok I want that desk. now, how much is it? do I need to take out a loan? :)

Stevyn Colgan said...

A mortgage might be more appropriate ... Colani doesn't come cheap!

Anonymous said...

Check out more great designs by Luigi Colani at