Now that summer is officially over, I can officially declare that the best part about this past season was my visit to Vitra with Be Original Americas, an organization we’ve shared before whose mission is dedicated to educating and promoting the importance of original design. (You might have caught the whole trip on Instagram Story if you’re following us over on @designmilk!) Vitra is a tremendous supporter of the program so I got to tag along with the 2017 Be Original Americas Fellows, Tom Groom and Irene Lee, to learn firsthand from Vitra about what it means to be an original design and how do fakes and copies measure up to the originals (spoiler alert: they don’t and never will).
It was hard narrowing down my 700+ photos but read on to see a small snapshot of what we saw, where we visited, and what we learned…
There’s a corner in Switzerland where, in 10 miles in each direction, you can be in France, Germany or Switzerland. During our trip, we visited the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany and the Vitra headquarters in Birsfelden, Switzerland.
If you didn’t already know, the Vitra Campus is home to some of most incredible architecture and design: the VitraHaus designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Vitra Design Museum designed by Frank Gehry, the Fire Station designed by Zaha Hadid, and so much more. An interesting take away I got from the trip is that Vitra is not just as a brand but a continuing project, like that of Apple or Google, in that it is constantly looking for new, innovative ways to spotlight good design, discover emerging talent, celebrate design with the community, and create conversation about the significance of originality.
Like Be Original Americas, Vitra holds steadfast to the belief that good design can only be celebrated through the original, which is why counterfeits can never stand up next the originals. Counterfeits lack the story and soul behind the design and while they may be cheaper, it’s because they lack the quality materials and innovative production techniques that make the originals superior for decades. An imitation is, and always will be, a stolen idea and that is something that’s not worth displaying in your home.
“Every Vitra product is an original, and every original has a story.” Vitra is committed to telling those stories because it gives us a tangible reason why the originals are important. The reason why classic designs like the Eames Lounge Chair or the Panton Chair are still revered is because they broke new ground at the time of their creation. Years later, these designs are able to sustain their allure because their revolutionary ideas and techniques still influence design today, more than 60 years later. I learned that over the years, Vitra worked (and still works) closely with original designers or their descendants to enhance these original designs (for example, to incorporate new color schemes or modify dimensions because people have gotten taller since the 1950s).
The visit to Vitra reignited my appreciation for good design because it gave me a deeper understanding of the creative thinking, process, innovative production, manufacturing, and stories that are instilled in each Vitra product. If you ever find yourself in this part of Germany, I highly recommend a visit to the Vitra Campus and clear your entire day (or even weekend!) for it.
If you’re interested in applying to be the next Be Original Americas fellows, be sure to follow Be Original Americas on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to find out when the next round of application opens. You can also get a recap of the 2017 program through Tom and Irene’s own words on the Be Original Americas website or Tom’s website.
All photos by Vy Yang.