With the Serif TV, French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec make a case for a refined iteration of the television, one that brings typography into the design of everyday devices
VIEWING DECK. The Serif TV has a built-in curtain mode—an interface that shows an abstract image of what is going on behind the screen.
There was a time when television sets were the pride of every living room. They were the hulking furniture pieces around which attention was centered and sofas were organized. But then the flat screen took over, and it was almost as if the presence of a TV had become offensive. Good taste was now measured by how invisible you could get your set to be, whether it took buying the slimmest and sleekest or hiding it behind decorous cabinet doors. For French designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, however, it was in understanding this trend that they went and created the exact opposite.
The Serif TV, so named because it resembles a serifed capital “I” from the side, is the brothers’ first foray into electronics, made in collaboration with Samsung (samsung.com.ph). The Bouroullec brothers are best known for their furniture collections, having worked with prestigious brands such as Vitra, Artek, and Hay—so naturally a partnership with the Korean electronics conglomerate raised a few eyebrows. But the bottom line is that the Serif belongs less in the realm of tech than it does in design.
To design the TV, the Bouroullecs studied the way typographers interact with object and space.
As with any other furniture piece, the Serif is meant to be dynamic: its optional legs give you the freedom to be imaginative with its place in the room, while its colors—unapologetic in red, ivory white, and dark blue—make a case for keeping it out in the open. Finally, its shape, unconventional but unobtrusive, encourages you to pile decorative things on it in a way that’s reminiscent of our boxy TVs that doubled as shelves and mail tables.
That’s not to say that the Bouroullecs ignored the unit’s interface. A project three years in the making, the Serif TV’s most notable feature is its “curtain mode,” which applies a filter over the screen during unwanted content (say, disruptive commercials) to give only an abstract idea of what’s going on—literally like pulling down a curtain.
All told, the Serif TV’s most important contribution is proof that sleek and safe have finally reached their saturation point.