The staying power of a good design

Aguja magdaleniense Pulse para ampliar Aguja magdaleniense (Sala 5, vitrina 5.7)

Needle. Magdalenian Period

“If you can design one thing, you can design everything; if you do it right, it will last forever ” Massimo Vignelli

The needle is an object whose perfect design has hardly changed since it was first invented in the Upper Palaeolithic (40,000–10,000 BP ). Despite its simple form, it was considered one of the most complex tools of its day, as it could do two jobs at once, piercing the material being sewn while pulling the thread through. As there are no signs of wear on the upper part, this needle was presumably used on animal hides and leather in which holes had already been made with a punch. Needles were fashioned from different materials—bone, antler or ivory—by means of a simple process: a small piece of the material was broken off, shaped by abrasion, and pierced at the top using a stone punch to make the eye in which the thread would later be inserted. Finally, the entire surface was polished.

This object is a prime example of good design because it has endured, virtually unaltered in both form and function, for thousands of years. In addition to incredible staying power, the needle boasts a simplicity of form that is the key to its success, as the definition of good design is finding the simplest way to perform a task with as few elements as possible.

Today, needles are basic functional objects found in every home, and their image even appears in contemporary artistic creations, serving as a source of inspiration and channel of communication. This modern composition by Chema Madoz is a good example.