Jeremy Hutchison

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Nothing Need Be Ugly, 2011

Heal’s is a manufacturer of modernist furniture. The brand identity is transformed into the iconography of a totalitarian regime. Curiously, this is licensed to the store, who mass-produce it across an entire product range.

This project explores the hegemony of British behavioural norms. A matrix of class relations are embedded in strict linguistic and bodily codes: there are rules for drinking tea, blowing soup, standing up, sitting down, laying tables, walking up and down stairs. Modernist design can be seen to enforce these rules: its rectilinear forms, polished materials and artificial surfaces turn the home into space of normalization.

Exploring the Heal’s archive, I discover a historic logo designed in 1915. Written across the centre, a slogan reads NOTHING NEED BE UGLY. Its monochrome pallette and bold font are accompanied by a geometry that is reminiscent of a fascist dictatorship. For decades, this logo was stamped on Heal’s furniture, apparently turning its products into vehicles of propaganda.

This project draws inspiration from Jacques Tati’s film Playtime (1967). Here, modernist design is seen to sterilise daily life and interfere with natural human interaction. The product range includes plates, mats, dishcloths, mugs, prints, cushions, doormats, stationary, mints, chocolates. These carry the following commands.

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