Nothing Need Be Ugly

Heal’s is a manufacturer of modernist furniture. The artist transformed their brand identity into the iconography of a totalitarian regime. Curiously, this is licensed to the store, who mass-produce it across an entire product range: plates, mats, dishcloths, mugs, prints, cushions, doormats, stationary, mints, chocolates.

This project explores the hegemony of British behavioural norms. A matrix of class relations are embedded in strict linguistic and bodily codes: there are rules for drinking tea, blowing soup, standing up, sitting down, laying tables, walking up and down stairs. Modernist design can be seen to enforce these rules: its rectilinear forms, polished materials and artificial surfaces turn the home into space of normalization.

Exploring the Heal’s archive, I discover a historic logo designed in 1915. Written across the centre, a slogan reads NOTHING NEED BE UGLY. Its monochrome pallette and bold font are accompanied by a geometry that is reminiscent of a fascist dictatorship. For decades, this logo was stamped on Heal’s furniture, apparently turning its products into vehicles of propaganda.  

Date : 2010 
Media : window installation, consumer products, digital correspondence 
: Heal’s (London)