International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Power symbol. 2002

Digital file

Curator, Paola Antonelli: You're looking at something that is so much part of your life you probably don't even notice it anymore: the power button.

Once upon a time, the way to turn on and off an object was that you would have two buttons, one red and one green, one would be a zero, the other one would be a one. And they marked the opening and closing of the electrical circuit. It's only when electronics were introduced that there was no more need to have two separate buttons, they could be merged into one, and the power symbol is a merging of a 0 and a 1.

There are many different types of design, you know. There are objects that really call attention to themselves that are a bit flaunty, and then there are others that just work so well that we don't even notice them anymore. And that's what we here at MoMA call Humble Masterpieces.

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