Verner Panton (1926-98), famous for his use of bright, primary colors and new materials, is one of the best-known modernist designers. Through his inventive spirit, Panton ushered the modernist world out of the mid-century modern era and into the Pop era. In examining his life and unique assent to fame, it is clear there are a few things designers today can learn from him. Therefore, we have outlined four takeaways you can gather from this inventive originator.
1.) When creating a piece of art or furniture, think about how the piece will work in a holistic sense.
Panton believed in using Gesamtkunstwerk when designing. Gesamtkunstwerk means a “total work of art” and is understood as the synthesis of all artistic expression. This means when Panton created a piece of art, a chair, or even a lamp – he thought about how it would incorporate into a space as a whole. A perfect example of his genius for doing this was the Visiona II exhibition that he designed in 1970. The Visiona II was the excursion boat he produced for the Bayer showroom during the Cologne furniture fair. With its psychedelic feeling and incredible details, the Visiona II perfectly showcased the fact that Panton was simultaneously detail-oriented and holistic.
So whatever you are designing, make sure you view the piece in the context of the larger design. If you are designing a room, how does it relate to the rest of the house? If you are designing a home, how does it relate to the rest of the neighborhood? To borrow from another genius, Eero Saarinen, “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”
The above is a perfect example of Gesamtkunstwerk.
2.) Play with new materials.
Panton was always experimenting with new materials. At the time Panton was designing, plastics were only a few decades old, had loads of unknown potential and Panton was one of a few designers who were not afraid to experiment with this new material in hopes of unlocking its true potential. Over a half-century after Panton created the Panton Chair for Vitra, there are still new materials discovered or designed every year, so whether it is a new material entirely or a known material that is rarely used in design, consider experimenting with new or different materials.
3.) Don’t be afraid to use color.
At the beginning of Panton’s career, the most popular designers in Panton’s native land of Denmark were Finn Juhl and Hans J. Wegner who were famous for their use of organics and neutrals. Even so, Panton went against the grain and embraced his love for bright, primary colors. Through experimentation and invention, he eventually found the right material for vibrant colors in plastics. Though neutrals are having another big moment in interior design, take a lesson from Panton and incorporate color into your designs.
The Panton Chair is the perfect example of how Panton embraced the use of color in design.
4.) Learn from other designers, but stick to your instinct.
Panton worked with Arne Jacobson to create the well-recognized Ant Chair in 1952. However, despite the success of the Ant Chair, Panton soon set out to design his now infamous creations such as the “S” or Panton chair (which he originally designed using some of the technics he learned from Jacobson), Cone chair, and Moon Pendant. Panton tended to differ from Jacobson in many ways, including, but not limited to, Jacobson’s tendency to use muted colors. Panton was always drawn to bright colors, and he had an incredible instinct for how to use those colors well. By going with his instinct, Panton became one of the defining designers of the Pop era. Therefore the big takeaway for designers is to learn from others, but always stick to your own aesthetic and instinct.