Serious design people aren't like the rest of us. You might think you know about, say, Mid-Century Modern, but you picked it up and you'll put it down again. Serious design types were brought up in it. Natural Europeanists all, they understand the world from a Dieter Rams default position. You might have a black linen something somewhere, but serious design people have 10 which they wear all the time. (In the winter they wear their black cashmere suits.) And they have a stack of those original Comme des Garçons catalogues on their architectural system shelves.
Designists are trained to profoundly despise the work of stylists and decorators, people who weren't reared in the wonderful disciplined ways of the early 20th-century design heroes - so many of whom were what we intellectuals call German.
It's annoying for true believers when charlatans make bits of what they like fashionable, in a revivalist, Post-Modernist or ironist way. True design values are eternal, not just for Christmas. Corb didn't re-upholster his leather and steel tubing chairs in devoré velvet and nor should you, they feel. (Design types can do "visual jokes", full of insider references, like that photographer who mixes the components of classical buildings with bits of old cinemas and supermarkets. But only if they a) are completely incomprehensible to 99 per cent of humanity and b) not funny.)
I love them; somebody's got to tend the flame now design's so compromised by fashion and collecting - it's a big category for the auction houses now - and all round grave-robbing.
Things conceived by proper design types are utterly recognisable. They've got that graphic look. If it's on paper you can imagine everything plotted out in squares - on transparent acetate. It'll look crisp and simple because, year in and year out, proper designers just don't like anything rococo except as a quotation. There'll be some black and some white and - especially if it's Italian - a shot of scarlet - but not too much else. And the wonderful thing about true keep-the-faith chic graphique is just how good something from one of those collector's-piece 1960s Graphic Annuals, produced in sanitary Switzerland, will look now. How fresh, how contemporary, how very ... stealable!
If I were a properly trained graphic type, I'd know all the references in the new Krups coffee-maker commercial. But as it is I just recognise the look. It's lovely, graphic to the max, white background, simple ingenious shapes, lots of circles. Plus James Brown and the opening bit of "Sex Machine" that they don't usually play. (James Brown is absolutely oak in designland, being black and old.)
As Brown gets going so the coffee-machines swing into the foreground under their own magical steam, in a tremendously syncopated way. There's a chrome one with a red bit that looks like a Cubist bird. Then cups appear, very graphic, shot from above. And it all gets going. The machines make espresso and cappuccino and it all looks good, that russety Arabica colour, not like the thin, grey-brown stuff you get at Starbucks. (Euro designland cares about coffee; it's just one long extended coffee metaphor, when you think about it.) There are clever, borderline corny, things done with foamed milk and last drops.
I'm in a lather of nostalgic excitement. It makes me think of the Fairfax Kitchen Shop in Swiss Cottage, providers of familiar Euro coffee systems to earlier generations of homesick Modernists from Berlin and Vienna.
Then they say, "Do you have a thing for coffee?", cluttering all the graphic purity with words. "Then we have a thing for you." It turns out that what I'd thought was a commercial for Krups is actually for a high-concept, Dolce Gusto system, which they're doing with Nescafé.
Well stop right there. We all know original Nes', the staple of a million bedsits. And we know Gold Blend too, no avoiding it. And we know it's not really Nessels from Croydon, Anglicised and familiar, but Nes-lay of Switzerland, gigantic owners of everything: Rowntree, because-you're-worth-it, baby foods to Africa, all that. But with absolutely no ground coffee credibility in this country. If you're in the market for a Krups coffee-maker you'd be down to the Algerian Coffee Stores in Soho; you wouldn't be filling it with anything from Nes-lay would you? Remember their instant cappuccino kit a few years back?
This is a beautifully designed and executed commercial, a clever bit of from-Bauhaus-to-our-telly, but it'll never work round the Finchley Road.Reuse content