On a tour of the wonderful Vitra Design Campus last year in Germany, I came upon this perfect little definition of what it means for something to be classic. It’s by Rolf Fehlbaum, Vitra Chairman Emeritus.
Of course, he’s referring to “classic” in the context of design. But I think it works as a simple and powerful philosophy for your own brand or organization. Brands built around a unique product or service, brands built upon honesty and passion, brands that lead rather than follow, and brands that stand for something beyond the trend of the day.
What is a “classic”
“A classic is not a classic from the very beginning. It starts by breaking the mould. It doesn’t become a classic by confirming to established norms; instead, it questions these established norms. A classic becomes a classic because it wins the battle; first against the products that already exist and then against all of the new products that it must beat out. A classic comes from a different era and yet is contemporary and current. It is iconic without trying to be iconic. It has the qualities of a piece of art without trying to be art. It is forever fresh. When it was presented for the first time, it was new – and it will stay new until another product breaks the mould and challenges it and questions the established norms. It is important to Vitra to produce these outstanding products from the past until they are no longer relevant. At the same time, we develop products together with the most talented people of our age – in the hope that one of them will one day become a classic”
Rolf Fehlbaum, Vitra Chairman Emeritus.