Can a book be deeply flawed and still be worth having? The Origin of Things delights and disappoints with every page. The book consists of a collection of design objects across the years, along with the sketches and related items used to achieve their final design, and the images are fascinating. The lowly paperclip is photographed as lovingly as the Frank Lloyd Wright vase, giving the paperclip the warhol-icon treatment and revealing its inherent beauty.
The text, however, fails the magnificent objects. It’s often incomplete, obtuse, or dry. The result is a tease that either makes you hunger for more, or mystifies, leaving you alone to decifer the drawings and results. Sometimes reading a dry but more complete text, one sense a thrilling story behind the design process– such as with Wim Gilles scooterette project, in which he fought to do a personal project to build a lightweight folding scooter/moped that got to final prototype then was killed preproduction– but the story doesn’t keep up with the photographs. Not bad, but unsatisfying.
However, I’ve really enjoyed the book, no matter how disappointed I’ve been with an incomplete story, because it is so neat to look at beautiful, well crafted objects and their creation artifacts: the prototype kettle made of two pans soldered together, the x-rays that informed a silverware set, the raw and elegant drawings that became Lloyd Wright’s vases.
Decide for yourself.