Since the late 19th century and throughout much of the 20th, designers have celebrated the socially uplifting promise of industrial production, believing the true path to modernity lay in standardization. A designer’s job was to conceive a model that could be converted into a working prototype—a blueprint for a series of objects, each identical and manufactured according to exacting rules. Yet it is human nature to crave individuality, and since the 1980s designers have sought to inject “chromosomes” of unique identity into objects produced on an industrial scale. Digital technology has made the dream of creating families of objects with common traits and distinct behaviors a reality; today, the model is the working prototype is the series. Standard Deviations showcases objects and designs in the Museum’s collection that belong to families, including an important recent acquisition of 23 digital typefaces, on view here for the first time.
Organized by Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator, and Kate Carmody, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design.