Objectivity A Designer's Book of Curious Tools

David Usborne, Thomas Heatherwick

A cabinet of beguiling yet useful curiosities: the objects that get jobs done, improve domestic and working lives, and make our houses more comfortable.

If you have ever thatched a roof, measured a baby’s skull, or castrated a bull, you will recognize some of these objects. If you haven’t but admire the work of, say, Warhol, Duchamp, or Cornell, you will appreciate these accidental masterpieces of daily life.

Some tools were developed to satisfy basic human needs, some for less obvious ends, and still others are the relics of vanishing trades, yet all display a beauty and meaning beyond their function.

More than 400 objects, ancient and modern, are presented in sections that broadly characterize their use: hitting, cutting, holding, shielding, molding, spreading, gripping, rubbing, and testing. From a nineteenth-century fruit picker to Czech military food-mixing blades, from variations on the kitchen whisk to medical instruments that, thankfully, are no longer in use, there is something in these objects that will touch the inventor, designer, artist, or collector in all of us.


David Usborne


David Usborne is a London-based architect.

Thomas Heatherwick

Foreword By

Thomas Heatherwick is one of Britain’s most innovative designers.