The Merely Different Is Not Always Better, But the Better Is Always Different

David Rowland? Dale Dauten? Art Weinstein? William C. Johnson? Sun Microsystems? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Attempting something new and innovative is crucial to success in many fields, but triumph is not guaranteed. An unfamiliar or unusual strategy may fail. Designers have advanced the following adage:

Different isn’t always better, but better is always different.

Memorability is enhanced by the rhetorical technique called antimetabole in which a phrase is repeated, but key elements are reordered. Would you please trace this saying?

Quote Investigator: David Rowland was a New York industrial designer who created the remarkable 40/4 stackable chair. The numeric name was based on the fact that forty of the chairs could be combined to produce a stack that was only four feet tall. An article about Rowland appeared in “The Miami News” of Florida in 1965. At that time the chair had recently won an American Institute of Interior Designers International Award. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

A designer of chairs since he was 13, the California native has an artistic family background. Much of his early childhood was influenced by the designers in his family. In his approach to design, Rowland’s motto is “the merely ‘different’ is not always better, but the better is always different.”

This phrasing of the adage above differs from the typical modern version, but it still represents a close match. Rowland popularized this expression, and QI tentatively gives him credit as creator.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Merely Different Is Not Always Better, But the Better Is Always Different


  1. 1965 February 7, The Miami News, Rowland Got To The Bottom Of That Chair Problem, Quote Page 32, Column 3, Miami, Florida. (Newspapers_com)