The perfection of the orange

Oranges don’t exist in nature. They were invented in Southeast Asia a few thousand years ago, by a farmer whose name we’ll never know.

Which fruit would you like to invent?

The Bruno Munari quote comes from Good Design, published by the great designer for the first time in 1963. It’s a short book in which Munari analyses three natural products (peas, the rose and the orange) as if they were design objects. Where the orange came out of it as a masterpiece, the rose was excoriated as a “useless”, “even immoral” object that was “complicated to use”.

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The elegantly curved petals (like something by Pininfarina, while the stem calls to mind the Venini 1935 line), and the clear imparipinnate arrangement of the leaves and their rational layout along the branch – these are not sufficient to justify it as a popular, useful object. How can a consumer whose interests have not yet been differentiated appreciate such an object? And why the thorns? Perhaps to create a certain suspense, maybe to provide a contrast between the sweetness of the scent and the aggressiveness of the talons? This vulgar contrast can certainly not be appreciated by classes of consumers with undifferentiated interests.

With razor-sharp irony, Munari was on one hand celebrating nature as a source of inspiration for good design, and on the other highlighting the limits of an overly “functionalist” conception of his profession.

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