But it’s designs that are deliciously subversive, inherently impractical and even marginally dangerous are the focus of a forthcoming show at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.
Featuring 130 objects in disciplines including product, fashion and furniture design, the show looks to explore how the pieces relate to the political and social issues at the time of their creation.
As such, Subversive Design is split into three sections – Big Issues; Form Vs Function; and Subverting the Body.
The Big Issues section covers political troubles, sobriety concerns – such as in Andrew Livingston’s Booze Britain plate – and environmental predicaments.
The fearsome Sitting Comfortably, a 1987 chair by Mishcal Sanders, is formed from razor wire, and is said to be a comment on the Greenham Common anti-nuclear protests.
The Form v Function section calls the idea of designing for purpose most sharply into question. We see some incredible, challenging designs that seem to refute the idea that beauty and utility are essential to good design, such as Tapio Wirkkala’s Tutenvases – crumpled old bags at first glace, which turn out to be ceramic vases.
The final section, Subverting the Body, features work from the likes of Vivienne Westwood (surprise surpise). Jean Paul Gaulter and Giles Deacon, whose controversial 2007 Who Killed Bambi? dress will be on display.
Subversive Design runs from 19 October – 9 March 2014 at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, 4/5, Pavilion Buildings, Prince’s St, Brighton, East Sussex BN1