Thesis:

Beautiful design enhances experience.

We believe that the thoughtful, artful integration of graphic design with the design of the built environment enhances human experience.

This site is a curated collection of things we find compelling, inspiring, and original.

July 29, 2014 at 4:21pm
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cloud softlight

Todd MacAllen, cofounder of molo with Stephanie Forsythe, answered our questions about the company, cloud softlight, and the soft collection.

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Todd MacAllen and Stephanie Forsythe started molo 10 years ago, but have been working together as husband and wife for over two decades. Both trained architects, they wanted to set up a studio that would allow them to be their own clients; to work on projects that they personally “felt a strong emotion towards.” We asked Todd if there was a particular ethos that motivated their work.

“We wanted to work on products that were about enhancing particular experiences, bringing out the richness in life, bringing out the richness in the basic things,” Todd said. “We found that doing that—enriching the basic fundamentals of living—it’s just a simple luxury.”

Todd traces this philosophy back to drinking tea with Stephanie out of a tea set that they themselves had made. It was a simple thing to do, he said, one they could afford; but at the same time, the experience was really enriching for both of them. Drinking tea from that set became a ritual for them together. “We thought we would try making things and just put them out there and see what other people felt.”

Another part of the ethos molo has been interested in from the start is the idea of simple, flexible space; of open plans, of ways to use smaller amounts of space more generously. They began thinking about this when Todd and Stephanie moved into their first studio (a 700 square foot loft) after working in regular houses.

“It wasn’t the greatest place, but the fact that it was just an open floor plan—that we could do whatever we wanted with—we found to be a luxurious thing. We just had all this space!” In subsequent work, better use of space became a focus.

“We started thinking about modular, flexible wall systems or flexible rooms; ways of using a space where we could create intimate rooms, spaces where you could get away or hide things: hide the clutter or hide the fact that you’re also working there, make it a gentler space that doesn’t have clutter in it, or create a private space. But then, at the same time, we wanted to be able to pull it all back to reveal the open plan again and have that generous, large room.”

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We caught up with molo at their NeoCon 2014 display where they were featuring products in their recent soft collection. Though molo is open to many types of materials, this collection uses mostly an unusual, lightweight, paper-like material to explore some of the company’s ideals. The collection includes room dividers, seating, and several types of lighting, including the cloud softlight (discussed below).

The paper- and sheet-like material used for the soft collection calls us to look at structures in a slightly different way than we may be used to. Todd explained that, particularly in North America, we see a lot of heavy structures with the intention of durability—structures that can’t be destroyed no matter how hard you try. “We’re clunky and rough and hard on things, so we have high demands for durability and robustness and strength. When you think about structure, you think about rigidity and weight.”

In contrast, molo prefers materials that are simple, calm, and light. They started exploring paper and paper-like materials, and (rightly) anticipated getting some flak for it.

“There were a few people that we invited to look at it from the start who just thought, ‘What’s the point of this? Who are you selling it to?’ We would just say, ‘We’re not selling it to anybody. We’re just doing it because we like it.’ I think that’s another part of the ethos. We have to do things that we feel have importance and emotional strength for us.”

The paper-like material was inspired in part from their work in Japan, where they saw paper being used in the architecture of traditional buildings. Movable screens framed with very lightweight wood were sheathed with paper. “Nowadays, parents will complain about their kids poking holes in the shoji screens because they’re not in tune with the idea of it,” Todd explained. “They’re getting used to western heavy structure.”

Because molo’s material is so thin and unusual, Todd says he’ll sometimes see people trying to tear it. “You don’t need to poke holes in it just because you can. You don’t need to purposely try and tear it. Yes, you can tear some of the materials—but why would you?

“Why do we use things so roughly? We talk about sustainability and things lasting and being able to recycle things back into other things, so maybe we should consider taking care of things a little bit, too.”

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Molo’s product development process involves a lot of play and exploration. “Generally, things don’t start with a particular function. The direction might just be one of exploration, and then, as we’re working on something, it’ll just become what it wants to be.” Once they have a material to work with, they “look at different things it could be, or put a light in it and see what happens, or sit on it and see what happens. Or change the configuration and then sit on it and see what happens. It becomes a series of tests,” Todd said. “What it might mean is that you alter the structure or the strength, and then it becomes this other thing. As we work, we are becoming a bit more aware of what we’re trying to do with it.”

The cloud softlight came through this process as well. “Lighting was an idea soon into the development of soft products”—using that paper-like material. “We were putting lights in things—different types of light and different types of lighting fixtures—to see how it would react with the tubular cells. We talked to some lighting people, and they said, ‘This is really great, because your structure is distributing the light very well; the tubes act almost like light pipes and they’re bouncing that light around and creating a very nice, even distribution, which is quite a calm, ambient type of light.’

“Then we started to create some other shapes. We were literally just cutting out different shapes and opening them to see what they would turn into, like cutting snowflakes. We came upon a shape that we could manipulate and that could take on different forms. We liked it a lot, and that’s what we call urchin.”

After exploring several variations of lighting with urchin, the team started wondering how they could hang it. The idea was to flatten it out and turn it into a rigid form, then by hanging it, allow it to float from the ceiling and be affected by the warm and cold air currents moving around in a room. Iterations later, after hanging countless shapes, it became cloud.

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We asked Todd what architects and interior designers should know about cloud. He told us that a lot of people wonder if it actually gives enough light or if it just glows. “In fact, it does,” Todd assured us. “It’s giving a very high quality of workable task lighting which can be adjusted. You can dim it down if you wanted.” Specifics on luminosity as molo has tested them are available upon request.

“It’s a very calm light,” says Todd. “It’s not straining at all. It’s not making you squint when you look at it. It’s a great little light for many different types of environments or use. It’s adjustable light.”

A surprising feature of cloud is that it has great acoustic properties. “Instead of putting up ceiling panels, just leave your ceiling open and put up a whole bunch of these,” something that a few designers have already done, says Todd. Tested specifics on acoustics are also available upon request.

Todd is especially pleased with these features of cloud softlight “because they’re just there without shouting out ‘I’m a light’ or ‘I’m an acoustic panel.’” At first, people think they’re looking at a sculpture, but it turns out to be a thing of function. “I think a lot of the products are like that. I guess we look at them that way, too. We’re interested in them at first as abstract sculptural objects, and then, over time, they turn into a functional design.”

The cloud softlight has been received very well by the A+D community. Todd says that any of the offerings in the soft collection—softwalls, softblocks, softseating, all the softlights—they’re like building materials more than products. What this means, he says, is that designers can use them not as complete designs (like a chair or a sofa or a table), but to design something themselves and turn it into their own. “It’s like a brick. Then Louis Kahn creates something amazing with a brick, and then it’s his design.”

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Todd and Stephanie were brought to this point in design through a similar history.

“We’re both quite curious, always remaining curious about things and always looking at the same thing in different ways. We’ve both always been interested in art and making things. I think both of us, from childhood, would always be building stuff—not just strapping it together, but really crafting things.

“We both spent a lot of time at different trades: glassware and woodwork, heavy construction, even to the level of working on bridges and things like that; not as designers, but as builders. We both ended up in architecture because it seemed like an interesting application of art into function.

“I don’t think either of us would have become painters or become sculptors, but this is what we have become. For us, it still remains very much about fine art, sculpture, and curiosity.”

To see molo cloud softlight or get more information, click here or visit molodesign.com. To purchase, visit molostore.com.

July 23, 2014 at 3:14pm
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Felix Chair

Dean Jeffery, Marketing & Communications Expert at the Grand Rapids Chair Company, answered our questions about the Felix Chair.

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The Grand Rapids Chair Company was started fifteen years ago by founder Dave Miller in his own garage. There, he and another employee made what is now known to the company as the Baby Dome Chair. “It was for something like McDonald’s,” says Dean Jeffrey, Marketing & Communications Expert at Grand Rapids Chair. From there, the company slowly grew.

Now, Grand Rapids Chair is run by Dave’s son, Jeff. “Jeff’s really made a lot of progress as far as developing the brand from just a restaurant chair company to where we’re actually hiring designers and working with designers to create products specifically for us.” 

Grand Rapids has proved a perfect location for the company. “We have such great access to suppliers that we work with,” says Dean. For instance, “we don’t mold the wood shells at our office for the Felix Chair, we work with companies in the area to press the shells for us, and then we finish them with stain and topcoat. But I think having access to really highly skilled and talented partners—because of the Steelcases, the Herman Millers, all the big companies in the world being right here—we get in at that level and we use the same suppliers, but we do it with our own spin.”

One of Grand Rapids Chair’s big pushes is to try to stay as local as possible through every step of production. “We’ve been partnering with just Midwest designers lately,” Dean explains. “I think there’s such an energy for the Midwest, and a lot of times it gets overlooked because there’s the West Coast and the East Coast.” Grand Rapids Chair proudly showcases Midwest talent through their product launches.

The Felix Chair came about from a collaboration with external designer John Kaloustian. Grand Rapids Chair approached Kaloustian and told him their dream of creating something for the training room—for schools, universities, and educational settings, including training rooms in the corporate environment. Kaloustian came back with a new, original design: a two piece shell.

“We fell in love with the fact that it was extremely unique and it married our craft of wood with a training room application, because a lot of the training room chairs are plastic right now,” explained Dean. “Then, if you look, there’s a little smiling face. We thought it was fun.”

The happy face was not intentional, but was embraced when noticed. Grand Rapids Chair has a tradition of naming their chairs after either people that have worked for the company or their family members, so they decided to name this chair after the first employees of the company: Felix Ramos and his son, Felix Jr. Felix is the Latin word for happy, Dean told us. “Having a chair that was happy and could bring a smile or at least a little bit of a spark of curiosity to somebody was a definite plus,” says Dean. “We thought it was a way to make people smile through furniture, and one of our internal tag lines is, We want to be the nicest damn people you’ll ever buy a chair from.”

But the two-piece design is not simply to make people smile; it makes the chair more ergonomic. “The actual chair flexes in two different places, so it’s extremely adjustable for the body to just naturally move without any of the bells and whistles of ‘let me turn this crank’ or ‘let me adjust this knob.’ You just sit there and it moves with your body.”

Felix is available in custom laminates, in various upholstery options, in all wood, and twenty stain colors. “But we do custom color matches for anything,” Dean says. “A designer can send us a color they used—they can send us a rock from the ground that they found and we would do our best. We’d work with them to get the match created.”

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We asked Dean how Grand Rapids Chair connects with their customers. Digitally, the company has a very active Pinterest account that they use not only for keeping their own products visible, but for inspiration for upcoming trade shows or showroom design. Print-wise, Grand Rapids Chair has partnered with Restaurant Development + Design Magazine, which is targeted to designers of hospitality spaces. “It’s probably been one of the best investments that we’ve made, because it’s our exact audience,” says Dean. Grand Rapids Chair attributes 50–60% of sales to A+D. 

Grand Rapids Chair continues to grow. At NeoCon, they launched two brand new collections and revealed their first all wood table, as well as their first outdoor collection. Dean shared with us some images of two upcoming chair lines—not yet available on their website—Sadie and Andy:

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Dean has been at Grand Rapids Chair for a year and a half. Before that, he was at a Belgian school furniture company. “It’s cool to work for a company where you actually want to buy their products. Because you never need a student desk as a twenty-five year old. You can always have an awesome lounge chair as a twenty-five year old.”

To see all Felix products, click here. More information can by found at www.grandrapidschair.com or by emailing sales@grandrapidschair.com.

July 16, 2014 at 2:13pm
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Hinchada Modular System

Jessica Sanders, Brand Manager for Loewenstein, answered our questions about the company and Hinchada Modular System.

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Tell us a little about Loewenstein and its history.

In 1966 Hank Loewenstein founded our company, with a philosophy built on the foundation of bringing world class furniture to the North American contract market. For years we dominated the market with our unique and progressive designs, and now we are reinvigorating that philosophy for the modern day. “Loewenstein for your lifestyle.”

Where are you located? How does your location affect the products you make?

Loewenstein was originally located in Greensboro, North Carolina when OFS Brands acquired the company about seven years ago. OFS Brands’s main corporate office and production plants are located in Huntingburg, Indiana, but we also have a manufacturing plant in Hight Point, North Carolina as well, and Loewenstein products are manufactured in both locations. OFS Brands has a great pool of resources, and their history in woodworking really opened a lot of doors for Loewenstein as a brand, allowing us to expand and grow our product offering beyond just seating.

What is Loewenstein’s product development process?

Since Loewenstein has just gone through a pretty strong rebranding process, our product development process has undergone an overhaul as well. To decide what products we feel are important to have in our line we start by stepping back and looking at the current offering, noting areas in our product line that we feel are lacking solutions for Loewenstein’s specific market. From there we brainstorm within our own marketing and design group, and also bring in independent designers to help us come up with solutions. From there we begin the design/build process that ends up in great prototypes like those we showed at NeoCon.

What’s the story behind the Hinchada Modular System?

Hinchada was an in-house design that came about from discussions within our design team. We were discussing the idea of different lounging postures, and wanted to create a modular lounge collection for Loewenstein’s new “lifestyle” direction that allowed for a much more relaxed posture. Our other major design focus was the idea of the end user having more of a hand in the design and layout of the product I think that within the idea of a “lifestyle” brand it is important for the people who will be using these products every day to have input into the final design, both with color and configuration. The great thing about Hinchada is that color and material combinations are endless, and if the layout ever needs to change, it’s no biggie, all components can easily be switched around.  

What should architects and designers know this product?

Architects and designers should know that even though we are marketing this as a lifestyle product, it is engineered to contract furniture standards and has passed BIFMA testing. Hinchada is designed to be easily specified. With all of the options for upholstering Hinchada, we have fabric programs with all of the major fabric manufacturers and have literally thousands of fabrics already graded in to our standard program.

How has Hinchada been received by A&D?

Hinchada was very warmly received by the A&D community. Standing in the area of our NeoCon space with both products, I heard tons of comments from designers brainstorming where they could use Hinchada in their projects. I heard discussions about using it anywhere from public areas in higher education all the way to healthcare waiting areas.

Have you found any particular medium or method that helps you connect to your customers?

We are finding that our social media outlets are really picking up, especially Instagram. It is a great way to really connect with our customers on a more personal level as opposed to an e-blast or a new page on our website. We can show them what we are working on right this second and get their feedback which is a great way to connect. 

Does Loewenstein have anything new coming up that you’d like us to know about?

Definitely stay tuned, we are still in the process of finalizing all of the products that we showed at NeoCon, and we plan to have more exciting products to show at NeoCon East and BDNY this fall.

More information on both products can be found at www.ofsbrands.com/neocon in the product introductions section. Hitch and Hinchada will be available to order by Fall 2014. To see other products by Loewenstein, visit their website at www.loewensteininc.com.

July 14, 2014 at 4:12pm
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The Alexander Girard Collection

At NeoCon 2014, Skyline Design launched ten graphic patterns by 20th century architect and designer Alexander Girard. Today, Girard is mostly remembered for his textile designs and work as the director of the Herman Miller Fabric Division. Skyline Design seeks to honor this American designer by bringing his patterns to glass. Deborah Newmark answered our questions about Skyline Design and their Alexander Girard Collection.

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What inspired this product?

Charlie Rizzo, the President of Skyline Design, was inspired by “Textiles by Alexander Girard; Exhibition of Vintage Designs and Objects” at the Herman Miller showroom in Chicago in 2012.  Later on, he discovered Girard’s enormous body of work via “Alexander Girard,” by Todd Oldham & Kiera Coffee. It seemed obvious that much of it was transferable to glass application and that glass, as a medium, was suitable for exploration. 

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What was Skyline Design’s product development process for this project?

Lydia Esparza, Design Strategist at Skyline Design, reached out to Girard’s grandson Alexander Kori Girard and a constructive dialogue quickly established. The Girard Studio, led by Kori and Aleishall Girard, felt that it was important to bring Girard’s legacy forward by seeking out partners with common values, ethos, and esthetics. The partnership between Skyline Design and the Girard Studio seemed like a natural fit, and the translation of Girard’s work onto glass an important evolutionary step. The project progressed quickly, and, in fact, was completed to introduction within a year’s time. Skyline Design worked closely with the Girard Studio to uphold the integrity and retain the spirit of each original pattern. Available color options were selected from the many iterations created by the prolific Girard, and adhere to strict application guidelines set in terms of colors, techniques, and scale. This is Skyline Design’s first archival collection and, unlike our other collections, the patterns may not be customized.

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What should architects and designers know about The Girard Collection?

As a trained architect, Alexander Girard was interested in all building materials and their interaction in space. Layering and translucency form a continuous thread in his architectural work. Thus, glass seemed an ideal material to explore his interest in patterning in a contemporary context.

Translating the woven textile to the translucent medium of glass enhances the patterns with luminosity and affords areas of privacy. Girard’s designs become architectural with all the benefits and characteristics of glass. Skyline Design’s efforts resulted in a collection that enhances color, luminosity, movement, and privacy in the built interior.

Throughout the process Skyline Design worked closely with the Girard family to retain each pattern’s original expression. Archival research yielded meticulously translated images into digital files. Color was equally important. Though Girard was known primarily for his perspective on color he also developed many neutral variations of his designs. Skyline Design selected to develop both neutrals and color for the collection to celebrate the Alexander Girard Legacy and bring it forward into the 21st century.

Adding a graphic anchor to spaces, the Alexander Girard™ Collection is suited for a broad variety of markets and interior applications such as room dividers, conference room walls, workstations panels or accent wall panels and feature walls. Application techniques were chosen by Skyline Design to accurately represent the intent of the original ten artworks and result in products that enhance color, luminosity, movement, and privacy in the built interior.

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To see The Girard Collection or request additional information, visit www.skydesign.com or Skyline Design’s Chicago showroom in Merchandise Mart, Suite 1060.

 

2:22pm
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Wayfinder Wallpaper

Mike Simonian and Maaike Evers work together to form Mike&Maaike, a progressive industrial design studio. Mike answered our questions about their Wayfinder Wallpaper.

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Tell us a little about Mike&Maaike and its history.

Maaike is Dutch, Mike, Californian. Our studio functions as an industrial design laboratory. We work independently and with partners/clients on a wide variety of subjects including products, furniture, technology, wearables, environments, and vehicles.

Where are you located? How does your physical location affect the products you make?

San Francisco. We are in a land of variety and contrast—city, nature, high tech, old-world architecture, laid back California mixed with frantic innovation. This affects our work by providing variety and a feeling that anything is possible.

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What’s the story behind your Wayfinder Wallpaper?

Wayfinder is a line of wallpaper produced by Rollout. We designed it to serve a functional purpose within the context of architecture. Wallpaper is typically decorative. Symbols are typically functional. The combination of the two creates new possibilities for architects, interior designers and space planners. Creating a wallpaper series, for us, required a departure from the decorative approach that is usually associated with wallpaper. We wanted the wallpaper to serve a functional purpose and it seemed natural that the design would convey information, rather than decoration. We experimented with applications and information that may be useful to apply to entire walls and came up with a list of things- numbers, symbols for common things that people want to find in a space. In doing this research, we discovered that in 1974, a system of symbols was produced through a collaboration between AIGA and the US Department of Transportation. These open-source symbols were created for use at the intersection of modern life and have become some of the most widely adopted and universally recognized in the world. We started experimenting with applying these symbols to wallpaper in a variety of ways. We were also inspired by an application of supergraphics inside the women’s changing room at the Sea Ranch pool, where Maaike and I often go for short summer vacations. Painted on the walls inside are the most amazing and beautiful supergraphics created by Barbara Stauffacher Solomon in the 60s. We wanted to apply non-descript, universal symbols and numbers to wallpaper in a vibrant and colorful way that captures this optimism and confidence and creates new possibilities for architects, interior designers and space planners.

Where has your Wayfinder Wallpaper been installed?

Lots of different types of places—probably the most interesting is a medical marijuana dispensary.

How has your Wayfinder Wallpaper been received by A+D?

We were pleasantly surprised by the reception. There seems to be a renaissance around wayfinding/signage and the wallpaper is just one of a lot of interesting approaches we’ve seen recently.

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Wayfinder is available in a very wide range of symbols, patterns and colors. More information can be found here. To see other products by Mike&Maaike, visit their website at www.mikeandmaaike.com.

July 11, 2014 at 5:12pm
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Michael Nÿkamp—Architectural Illustrations

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Michael Nÿkamp grew up in a small farming town in southern Ontario, watching Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings, disliking grade school (except Art class), and being considered an “art nerd.” “My parents were mortified when they found out I was going to ‘Art School,’ as they called it,” he says, “but are glad now that I didn’t listen to them.” Michael studied Fine Arts, Illustration and Interactive Design in Toronto, Canada, and has since established his own studio, mkn design.

“As a kid I loved to draw and create. I always knew I wanted to do something within the arts field. That was where my ‘love’ was and I focused on that throughout my young pre-teen and teenaged life and throughout college. In college I studied illustration, but didn’t love it enough to make a career out of it. I then moved into interactive design and then naturally into graphic design. It was only about five years ago that I started getting back into illustration.

“Getting back into illustration, I decided that I would start an illustration sketchbook on my website and produce illustrations, artwork, and artifacts to get myself loosened up and see what I could do. I soon found out that I had somewhat of my own style—line work or simplification of objects—which I have latched onto and continue to enjoy.”

About five years ago, Michael decided to go independent. “It was a risk,” he says, “but the better risk, for me and my family.” Michael says that the name of his business, mkn design, only came from the necessity to attach his name to an entity. Now, “mkn design has grown enough for people to know who I am and what I do.” Some of those things include direction of projects, graphic design, and illustration; “but being independent, I’m also the accountant, project manager, mediator, etc.,” he adds.

We asked Michael why clients work with him. “I hope they work with me because they perhaps like me, value my thinking, illustration, and design sense,” he says. “Maybe it’s the security they feel that I have 14 years of experience working with large, small, and non-profit companies, or maybe it’s a ‘novel’ thing to be working alongside a Canadian.”

While we enjoy all of Michael’s work, we were particularly attracted to his series of architectural illustrations, featuring four Chicago buildings: Merchandise Mart, Marina City, the Civic Opera Building, and the Smurfit Stone Building. The inspiration for these illustrations came from his first travels to Chicago. “I was amazed at the varied styles—from the old Chicago Water Tower to the 1960’s modern Marina City to the modern Smurfit-Stone Building.” Michael admitted that he doesn’t know much about each building or their architects, but “just the same, I love to look at their facades.” Working for a lot of furniture manufacturers over the years has taken Michael to NeoCon every June—held in Merchandise Mart. “I love its immense size,” he says, “it’s like it has its own city inside.”

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Michael describes his process for making these illustrations this way:

  1. Find a building that I like.
  2. Scale it to the correct size of the series.
  3. Find reference and detail images on Google.
  4. Use Photoshop, but create the buildings out of solid, defined pixels.
  5. Iterations, iterations, iterations.
  6. Hang on wall.
  7. Post on my private website, as an “art show.”

“My intent was merely for self promotion when I had downtime between clients,” says Michael of this project. We asked if he had plans to continue developing illustrations of this type, beyond Chicago. “I hope to,” he said, though “trying to find the time to do so is hard, especially in-between work, family life and other projects that I want to create or have interest in—I have pages of ideas and most likely not enough time to get around to doing them… . [But] maybe there is a series for other cities around the US and other countries.”

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Michael Nÿkamp lives with his wife Kaylyn and sons Emmett and Landon in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and wishes that people in the United States would greet each other with hugs more often. Specifiers, enthusiasts, fans, groupies, and fellow Canadians can see these illustrations, more of Michael’s work, or request additional information at www.mkn-design.com, or by emailing Michael directly at miken@mkn-design.com.

3:01pm
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2x4 Pendant

Multidisciplinary designers Allen Slamic and Alexandra Burr of New York answered our questions about AlexAllen Studio and the 2x4 Pendant.

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Tell us a little about the history of AlexAllen Studio.

The studio was formed in early 2013 after we received the Bernhardt Design / ICFF Studio Award for our Lightbracket which debuted at ICFF that year. We received a considerable amount of press from the fair which quickly moved us into the spotlight as new young designers.

Is being in New York an important part of the AlexAllen Brand?

Working in New York is very important to our design studio. Our studio works out of a shared fabrication and artist space. We feel this type of studio environment promotes cross-discipline collaboration which results in greater innovation and design. From a PR and marketing standpoint, being in NY is extremely helpful. Like every discipline, who you know is important.

What is AlexAllen Studio’s product development process? How does this differ from your experience as a practicing architect?

Well, its very different! With product design, we get to be our own client. We come up with the idea, design the object, and fabricate ourselves. We typically begin with a big idea about using a specific material or improving on an existing product. We also let the fabrication process inform and refine our initial conceptional ideas. Architecture tends to be more client and budgetary driven which hinders the development of grandiose ideas, and can greatly affect the final product.

How did you come up with the 2x4 Pendant?

We have always been interested in minimal forms and objects that embrace one simple material, especially when it is as mundane as a 2x4. We were doing a lot of tests with led strips at the time, we also had just gotten access to an old Bridgeport milling machine and wanted to experiment with it on wood. The pendant just evolved from there. The first prototypes were pretty rough. It took us a while to work through all the details and really figure out all the innards (which are quite complex). A lot goes into this light, all so that the final product will look like a simple 2x4.

What were the business goals and objectives of this project?

Our business objectives were to create a light that would reach a broad audience while being relatively affordable. We wanted it to fit many applications from a low tech work space or residence or to a high end showroom or restaurant. The option of adding custom metal end caps really adds a touch of luxury. 

Do you intend to maintain the design and production of all AlexAllen products, or will you scale with demand and find additional production resources?

We plan to maintain full design and production of all of our products. We work with a selected group of fabricators from the Midwest and Northeast on the fabrication of many components, and do all the assembly ourselves. This way we can make sure the quality remains consistent and up to our standards.

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What should architects and designers know about the 2x4 Pendant?

The 2x4 Pendant is made from the most common piece of dimensional lumber, the simple 2x4. It comes in a variety of finishes and lengths and can be customized per project. We use the highest quality 24V LED modules that can be dimmed. We also offer optional end caps that come in brass, blackened steel, or natural steel.

How were the AlexAllen products received at ICFF? What has the reaction been from the A+D community?

There was a lot of interest! I think people appreciated the cleverness of some of our products: the dual function of the Lightbracket, the hidden LED and transformer in a 2x4, as well as the whimsy and playfulness with brightly colored cords, and powder coated candlesticks. We got some good press as well. The New York Times T Magazine included us in their ICFF trends article.

What insights and inspirations inform your creative work?

We are driven by interesting materials, technological processes or design challenges. We draw on tradition but like to put a twist to it. We like to create products that are simple and minimal, but not too serious.

Have you found any particular medium or method that helps you connect to your customers?

Blogs, and Pinterest. Information spreads really quickly through both, and they have become really popular among non-designers as well.

Do you have any new ideas that you’re currently developing that you’d like to share?

We’re currently developing a few pieces of furniture that we hope to debut next year. And we are experimenting with a new material (new to us that is), rubber. If it all works out, you may see it soon. 

Allen Slamic and Alexandra Burr work from their studio in Gowanus Brooklyn. For more information about the 2x4 Pendant or AlexAllen Studio, visit www.alexallenstudio.com or email info@alexallenstudio.com.

… And here’s a snapshot of our Thesis studio, where we work by 2x4 Pendant light:

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1:31pm
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Mocho—Portuguese Stool

João Timóteo is currently working on his Master of Product Design at ESAD—Escola Superior de Artes e Design, or School of Art & Design—in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal. In July, the homepage of the school’s website featured a curious bench, made of a single, natural log supported by two wooden structures. It was Mocho, one of João’s designs.

Mocho is a makeover of the traditional Portuguese stool. “Mocho emerged from an assignment released to masters students in which we had to redesign the Portuguese traditional stool in two weeks,” says João. “[A classmate] and I got together and decided to deconstruct the idea of the ‘stool,’ and to take the material apart.” What resulted was a stool that takes an ordinary log and turns it into something one can comfortably sit on. The stool is often pictured being used around a fire. This links the stool to both its environmental and cultural contexts: environmental because this product comes with a saw to cut off a piece of your bench when the fire is getting low; and cultural because the fireplace has long been held in Portugal as a space to socialize.

João told us a little about himself and his work. “During my creative path—which, so far, is a very short experience—I have tried many different approaches. I don’t have one very specific message in my work; sometimes I don’t even know what it’s supposed to be. But in everything, I force myself to be true to myself and always try to draw a parallel between my imagination and my everyday experience.”

We asked João about his product development process. “I have no specific method,” he said, “I think every creation is like a new language—like a trip into another country where they speak a foreign language, and always with their natural accent.”

Living in Caldas da Rainha—the small town near Lisbon where ESAD is located—has had its benefits. “Resources are available and easily accessible here, and that makes this school almost a hidden creative lab in Portugal, which also helps me be able to do projects outside of school,” says João.

João is now working on his master’s thesis, and will soon be publishing more of his work to his website.

To order Mocho or request additional information, email João directly at timoteo_joao92@hotmail.com or visit his website.

 

9:03am
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LaFlor Lamp

Jon Marín, a biologist with his MSc in Industrial Ecology and one of the cofounders at Nutcreatives, answered our questions about his company and the LaFlor Lamp.

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Tell us a little about the history of Nutcreatives.

Nutcreatives is an integrated product design and ecoinnovation agency. We help companies and public entities reach their aims. We develop solutions from their conception to final release. Our mission is to solve problems by taking into account functionality, aesthetics, and quality, as well as environmental, social and economic impact in order to reach a good design proposal. Since 2008, we have tried to make a better world by designing better things. For us, objects belong to systems, so questions such as sustainability, ecological transparence, social issues, and local economy development are the core of our design vision.

What’s the story behind the LaFlor lamp?

Lucirmás wanted some new products, and we wanted to collaborate with local artisans and providers. We used Lucirmás’s know-how with glass upcycling and tried to search for more small companies that would value designing a lamp. We found a local artisan of metal spinning and the awesome workshop he had, and that’s how LaFlor began.

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How is it made?

Watch this video on the production of the LaFlor Lamp.

What were the goals and objectives of this project?

LaFlor Lamp combines the upcycle of a glass bottle with the design of a copper lampshade in order to revive the lasting beauty of a lamp. The new object is totally handmade by local artisans using traditional manufacturing methods with simple technologies.

LaFlor is easy to assemble and disassemble. The copper lampshade is known to keep its luster over time, and the oven-fixed enamel allows the lamp to come in three different colors: white, yellow and black-brown.

Our main goals when designing were:

1. No excuses. “When designing a piece with a recycled raw material such as a glass bottle, our main goal is to create a piece that works by itself. A lamp is a lamp, no matter what is made of. To use recycled stuff is not an excuse to make a worse product.”

2. Local production. The main producer, Lucirmás, is a local artisan from Barcelona. We tried to work with other local small industries for the rest of the pieces, which brought us to the copper lampshade.

3. Perfect logistics.  LaFlor is easy to assemble and disassemble by the final user. Also, it has been designed to be sent by post, so it is both as lightweight and as flatpack as possible.

4. Lasting. We wanted to create a product that could last over generations, so we created a lamp with noble materials and far away from current fashion trends.

What should architects and designers know about the LaFlor lamp?

LaFlor can be used as a single unit or combined in a sequence of more elements. This functional and timeless lamp fits in every place—homes, restaurants, hotels—and is an item with lasting value over time.

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How does the LaFlor lamp compliment your other offerings?

One of our focuses is habitat. We have designed a range of furniture that follows the same principles: sustainability and local production. You can have a look at www.noemfurniture.com.

Are you developing more new products? Is there anything exciting that you’d like to share—or have us keep a lookout for?

Indeed, we are developing more products, such as a natural park signage system under sustainable criteria, a range of bow ties made with recycled materials, and a bike for families. As you can see, our design process is valid for every object!

Jon Marín works with cofounder Àlex Jiménez, designer and engineer. To see the LaFlor Lamp or request additional information, click here.

July 19, 2013 at 4:25pm
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How’s the weather?

(Source: jedcarter.co.uk)