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interview with

Jasper Morrison The London-born, Tokyo-based industrial designer discusses his studio life and what makes him tick Words Laura Snoad Photography Nicola Tree designer profile Who is he? One of the world’s most respected industrial designers, he’s worked on everything from cutlery to tram carriages Best known for? An elegant, pared-back aesthetic that prioritises function over superfluous features What’s his latest product? A range of cast-iron cookware for Japanese brand Oigen, and a self-assemble chair conceived with Japanese designer Wataru Kumano


y design career started with Meccano when I was a child. I moved on to mechanics and engineering,

Vitra Design Museum Collection ©Vitra (

thought about being an architect, and finally settled on design as a profession. It combined structural thinking with something related to interior spaces and atmospheres. ‘The first break is always the biggest, I think. In my case it was a job for the German door handle producer FSB. The handles I designed 25 years ago are still in production today.

a fantastic flea market in my neighbourhood where I pick up odds and ends – things that seem beautiful to me, but are always inexpensive. ‘My London studio looks rather serious. It has a black asphalt tiled floor, a big desk for a maximum of 10 people, and good daylight. Most of the storage, furniture and the kitchen are Douglas fir plywood, and there’s a beautiful Danish wood-burning stove for occasional winter use. The Paris studio is a

‘I have studios in London, Paris, Tokyo and Milan. Moving between them always feels

pretty seamless to me. I’m not in London very often, though it is our HQ. The smallest of the four is the studio in Tokyo, and for the moment that’s where I spend most of my time. My home is a

three-storey ex-office building in downtown Tokyo, not far from the fish market, with a roof garden. There’s

turn-of-the-century industrial building, with floor-to-ceiling glazing on two sides.

Milan is a Sixties rationalist building made from white-painted concrete, with white walls and big windows. And Tokyo is a rooftop box with a big terrace wrapped around it.

‘The most important thing on my desk is a Bic biro, plus some A4

th e L o u vr e- L e ns mu se u m i n fr a nc e

sheets of copy paper for scribbling ideas. ‘The common thread that runs through my work is that I always look for the right january 2014


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‘I try to design things that may be appreciated through use as much as through looks’

Left and top: Jasper’s London studio and shop by Caseyfierro Architects. Above: Cast-iron cookware for Oigen, from £65, and cutlery for Alessi, from £3.50 for a dessert spoon, both Jasper Morrison Shop (; Fionda chair for Mattiazzi, £416, Aram (020 7557 7557;

kind of everyday character that I have noticed in the best objects of their kind. What we think of as design sometimes shoots itself

in the foot by looking too much like it has been designed.

In these cases, an object can handicap itself in terms of everyday, long-term function. I try to design things that look natural in an everyday setting, which may be appreciated through use as much as through looks.

more panels of anodised aluminium and roof lights that allow a precise daylight to fall on the antiquities, which I doubt have ever looked better. I recommend a visit.

is still made today – a masterpiece of form, function and efficiency. ‘In terms of iconic products, I’d be happy to have designed the Landi chair by Hans Coray (pictured on previous page). ‘I’m currently reading The Light Garden of the Angel King: Travels in Afghanistan by Peter Levi (£12.99, Eland Publishing), Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard (£8.99, Phoenix) (pictured on previous page), and several cookbooks. The last art exhibition that really

and Cappellini, some shoes for Camper and a light for Flos. ‘The cast-iron cookware for Japanese brand Oigen that I launched at the London Design Festival was organised by Japan Creative, a post-tsunami endeavour to work with Japanese craft-based industries.

‘Life without my Rex vegetable peeler (made by the Swiss firm Zena) would be tough! It was designed in 1947 and

impressed me was a display at the new Louvre-Lens in France. It’s about an hour north of Paris, and designed by Kazuyo

Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA. On arrival, it seems like it has landed from outer space. The anodised aluminium panels


that make up the exterior skin provide a soft-focus reflection of the surroundings, so the building seems to be only partly present. It’s very beautiful. Inside there are

January 2014

‘At the moment I’m working on some saucepans for Muji, the usual four or five chairs for companies such as Vitra

I’ve always wanted to work in cast iron as I think it’s a beautiful material, and great for cooking with.

‘When I started my career, very few people really knew what the design profession was about. I’d be asked where my workshop was, as if I made things with chisels. These days, it’s the opposite: the media attention has distorted things considerably and it’s hard to keep a clear idea of what design should really be about.’

Interview with Jasper Morrison  
Interview with Jasper Morrison