black rectangles

A Marshall amplifier. A hybrid electric car battery. A Braun ET66 calculator. A mortar board. A Moleskine notebook. An Apple iPhone chip. An American Express Centurion charge card. A Sony PlayStation2 console. A floppy disk. The letter “l” in the font Helvetica. An audio cassette tape. What do they have in common? Not much, you’d think, since they are so different in terms of function, price, complexity and how they were made. But they are all (various shades of) black and (roughly) rectangular.

When the German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic (that’s pronounced GEAR-tichich) started thinking about the color and shape of objects he most admired, he realized that many took the form of black rectangles. He has assembled a collection of them for “Black2 (Black and Square),” an exhibition running through Feb. 12 at the Swiss Institute in Rome. Among the items he included are a gravestone, a wallet, soap, a table, a perfume bottle, a cooking pot, a television set, a cart, an accordion, a Sudoko cube, a fireplace, a laptop, a Chanel handbag, a gas tank, a bible and Prince’s “Black Album,” from 1987.

“How is it that so many different things made in so many different ways end being black rectangles?” Mr. Grcic asked. “They can be extremely elegant and sophisticated, or very basic, but they are such strong and powerful parts of our lives that it is impossible to imagine a world without them.”