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Archives: May 2011

Seven Questions for Fast Company Creative Director Florian Bachleda

The June issue of Fast Company, celebrating the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” is covered in Conan O’Brien—nine of him, in guises ranging from Madonna to Moses—and ends with Margaret Rhodes‘ delicious backpage infographic about pastries (in honor of National Donut Day, which is this Friday, June 3). At the creative helm of all this creativity is Florian Bachleda, who since his appointment last fall, has dedicated his considerable talents to ensuring that the design of Fast Company is just as visionary as its subject matter. Bachleda, whose previous positions include creative director of Latina and design director of Vibe, was kind enough to pause his Memorial Day festivities to answer our questions about his lead-off presentation at next week’s ABSTRACT conference, career highlights (other than those involving O’Brien and exotic costumes), his summer reading list, and more.

1. You’ll be presenting at the upcoming ABSTRACT Conference in Portland, Maine. Can you give us a sneak preview of your presentation?
I’ll be talking about the four or five guiding principles of the ongoing Fast Company redesign. For previous titles, I’ve always employed specific design frameworks based on an editorial idea, so I’ll be sharing how that approach works, and doesn’t work, for Fast Company.

2. What is your greatest graphic design or publication design pet peeve?
People who don’t create content passing judgement on those who do.

3. What is your best or most memorable design-related encounter?
Three things: 1) Working for many years under Bob Newman, and trying to practice daily the lessons he taught me; 2) My first SPD Board meeting in 2002, and sitting at the same table with people like Diana LaGuardia, Janet Froelich, and especially Fred Woodward, who is the reason I’m a designer; 3) Having the opportunity to get to know George Lois, which is an experience and a privilege all it’s own.

4. What do you consider your proudest design moment?
Seriously, it’s every single day that I get to make a living doing a job I love. My father worked as a steel smelter for one company all of his life, from the age of 16 (he told the company he was 18) to 62. He never understood what I did, but he saw that I loved it. It’s a luxury he never had.
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Sneak Peek: Eight Reasons to Watch Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators

Pictured from left, Kathryn Ireland, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Mary McDonald, Nathan Turner, and Jeffrey Alan Marks. (All photos courtesy Bravo Media)

Tonight is the premiere of Bravo‘s newest docu-series, Million Dollar Decorators, and if you can make it past the unctuous opening montage and obligatory round of sassy, arms-akimbo introductions (“I don’t follow trends, I set them,” says Jeffrey Alan Marks, smoothing a lushly textured rug and plopping down on a coordinating settee), you’re in for an entertaining peek into the lives of five Los Angeles-based interior designers: Marks, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, Kathryn Ireland, Mary McDonald, and Nathan Turner. These high-charisma characters offer plenty of reasons to watch, but having previewed the series (thanks, Bravo!), we offer eight additional enticements to tune in.

UnBeige’s Eight Reasons to Watch Million Dollar Decorators

8. The designers’ offices. Not up for watching the beat-the-clock challenge of furnishing Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne’s new apartment? Cut the sound and delight in the glimpses of the designers’ workspaces, including McDonald’s glam/mod aerie and Ireland’s Provence-infused pool house. And while Lawrence-Bullard’s home teems with exotic rugs and Hermès Balcons Du Guadalquivir china, his offices are dominated by white lacquer and inspired accents—fur-covered task chairs, anyone?

7. The seersucker blazers. We’re suckers for seersucker, and the premiere episode doesn’t disappoint. For those inclined to TV-based drinking games, take a sip anytime someone wears a seersucker or a plaid, or says “madness.”

6. The birthday parties. This series runs for eight episodes, and there are about as many elaborate parties. Tonight’s premiere features a birthday bash for Ireland, whose three teenage sons offer to do the cooking (weak-stomached viewers may want to turn away during this portion of the program). The trio gets waylaid by preparing tortilla chips from scratch, so the dinner menu is abridged. No worries, says Ireland. “Give [the guests] enough tequila and we can skip the middle course and go straight to the cake…if there is cake.”

5. The design concepts. “I’m kind of thinking of doing antlers, but in a hip way. There’s nothing ski house about it,” says McDonald of her concept for a new project. Meanwhile, Marks advises, “You should always decorate a room and then put one thing in there that’s an accident.” [Cut to: the wooden rowboat suspended upside-down from the ceiling of his living room.]
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First Product Born This Way from Lady Gaga/Polaroid Collaboration Now Available

Remember last year when Lady Gaga was named the rebooted Polaroid brand’s Creative Director? Or earlier this year when, at the Consumer Electronic Show, the three products she’d reportedly helped develop for the company received their high-profile debut? Well, hot off the heels of the release of Gaga’ new album, the first fruit of that collaboration were finally made available this weekend for public consumption. Zdnet reports that the GL10, a mobile printer from its Gaga-connected Grey Label line, has been made available for purchase at Bloomingdale’s flagship store in Manhattan and for pre-order on Polaroid’s site, shipping sometime in early to mid-June. While aesthetically appealing, and technically interesting, in that the small device will print wirelessly from cell phones, cameras, or anything with Bluetooth connectivity, to this writer, it isn’t the most thrilling release. While we’re sure they’ll sell, both to the gadget-inclined and the Gaga-enthused, we’d much rather have seen a quicker release of the GL20, a pair of glasses with a camera built in that allowed users to immediately display photos onto the lenses themselves. It’s an utterly ridiculous product, and likely won’t sell as well as something that’s occasionally useful in the real world, but surely would have captured a bit more attention and excitement than a mild-mannered printer. But we’ll reserve any more judgment than that until we’ve seen the GL10 in the flesh.

Isaac Mizrahi’s Chicago Storefront Falls Apart, Landlord Sues for Defaulting on Lease

Another Chicago-centric retail story from over the weekend. Fashion designer/general media personality, Isaac Mizrahi, was to have his own storefront open up in the city, in the swanky Gold Coast area near downtown, a second location in addition to his shop in Manhattan. According to the Chicago Tribune, Mizrahi’s company leased out the space starting back in the fall, with a planned opening on April 1st. However, as that date has long since come and gone, with no store in sight, the space’s future was in question. Now the building’s owner, Rush Walton, has sued the company, asking for close to $700,000 for defaulting on its lease. Here’s a bit more from the paper’s report on the suit:

“Shortly after” Mizrahi took possession of the space, the designer’s firm notified Rush Walton “that it would never open the planned Isaac Mizrahi store and would not make the required rent payments,” the lawsuit said.

Rush Walton began proceedings March 1 to take back the property, winning a court order to do so April 11 and issuing Mizrahi’s firm a formal notice of default May 6.

Anatomy of an I.P. Controversy: Urban Outfitters Feels the Weight of Design Theft Allegations

For fashion retailer Urban Outfitters, this long weekend past couldn’t come quickly enough. Just before everyone left the office for barbecues, road trips, and hopefully some memorializing along the way, an accusation was leveled against the company by Chicago designer Stevie Koerner, who claimed the company had stolen the concept behind a popular set of necklaces she’d been making for her Etsy-based shop and were now selling them in stores and on their website. “My heart sank a little bit,” she wrote, “The World/United States of Love line that I created is one of the reasons that I was able to quit my full-time job. They even stole the item name as well as some of my copy.” While the retailer is no stranger to these sorts of accusations, something about this allegation took hold and by the end of the week, was everywhere, swamping Twitter and landing mentions in surprising places, like on the Apple-focused Daring Fireball. By the time pop star Miley Cyrus tweeted, “Not only do they steal from artists but every time you give them money you help finance a campaign against gay equality,” a reference to the company’s founder’s contributions to the campaign of Rick Santorum, it was all over. Originally remaining silent during the early days of the controversy, Urban Outfitters eventually issued a statement, saying that a) they did steal the idea and b) that Koerner’s idea wasn’t original to begin with, and even vaguely accused her of copying the idea from others. “…We believe the media response to her campaign is threatening to impact the dozens of independent designers we work with on a daily basis,” the company wrote on their blog. “For many of them, having their work sold at Urban Outfitters is a very positive turning point in their careers, and we will not allow their hard work and commitment, or ours, to be undermined by these false allegations.” Fortunately for the company, following that burst of negative press, the weekend came and the fires seemed to die out a bit (until, of course, people like us decided to do a wrap-up post about it). Between then and now, they also apparently decided to pull the offending product from both the site (now just a blank page) and from their stores as well. And meanwhile, Ms. Koerner received a flood of support and what sounds like more orders than she’d ever expected in record time.

AIGA Maine to Present ‘ABSTRACT: The Future of Design in Media Conference’

What do get when you combine six design world stars who have collectively held senior positions at more than 35 leading publications, one amazing moderator, and the delightful destination of Portland, Maine? ABSTRACT, a conference on the future of design in media to be presented by AIGA Maine on Friday, June 10. Alice Twemlow, chair of the unstoppable MFA Design Criticism program at the School of Visual Arts, will guide the day of in-depth, highly visual, and interactive sessions led by names you know: Gael Towey, Luke Hayman, Florian Bachleda, Arem Duplessis, Dirk Barnett, and Scott “The iPad Whisperer” Dadich. Come for the business-focused discussion of design as a driver of innovation (and revenue), stay for the practicum on launching an iPad publication. Ready to register? We’ve finagled a $100 discount for UnBeige readers: simply enter the code unbeige2011 at checkout. Think of it as our Memorial Day gift to you.

Motion graphics by Erick Fletes

National Design Awards: Deftly Balancing Art and Industry, Knoll Honored for Corporate Achievement

Knoll’s Model 1500 Series desk (1956) designed by Florence Knoll and Model 70 chair (1950) designed by Eero Saarinen, Eclat (1974) designed by Anni Albers, and Jehs+Laub lounge chair (2008). (Photos from left: Knoll and Ilan Rubin for Knoll)

Following in the footsteps of organizations ranging from the U.S. Green Building Council and the Walker Art Center to Google and Adobe, Knoll is the winner of the 2011 National Design Award for Corporate and Institutional Achievement. The honor recognizes the East Greenville, Pennsylvania-based company’s use of design as a strategic tool and its efforts to advance the relationship between design and quality of life. Founded in 1938 by Hans Knoll on the conviction that good design enriches lives, the company pioneered the planning of office interiors under Florence Knoll (who turned 94 on Tuesday), championed modern design and innovative manufacturing processes, and has worked with designers from Alvar Aalto to Otto Zapf. “Everyone who has ever been involved in designing, manufacturing, or selling our products deserves credit for, and should take pride in, this award,” said Andrew Cogan, CEO of Knoll.

It’s been a busy May for the company, which earlier this month celebrated the opening of “Knoll Textiles, 1945–2010,” an exhibition on view through July 31 at the Bard Graduate Center, and is now completing final preparations for NeoCon in Chicago. So what does Knoll have in store for the mega trade show? “We will introduce ReGeneration, the latest member of the Generation family of chairs,” Cogan told us of the new streamlined piece designed by New Zealand-based Formway. Made from fewer parts, the chair uses post-consumer recycled content from soda bottles in its structure as well as corn-based renewable material and bio-based upholstery foam. Among other big Knoll NeoCon debuts are “enhancements to our Antenna Workspaces and Reff Profiles furniture lines, a new collection of conference tables designed by Lehman Smith McLeish, and the Krusin Seating Collection for KnollStudio, as well as new textiles from Dorothy Cosonas and Suzanne Tick.”

Slighted ‘Art in the Streets’ Artist Decides to Install Work in LA MOCA Anyway

Following painted-over murals, a slew of arrests and tsk-tsks from the city, the “Art in the Streets” exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art continues to be fun to watch. Most recently, street artist Becca Midwood, whose work was originally intended to be included in the exhibition until it was pulled when the museum made a “last minute curatorial choice,” decided she still wanted to be a part of it all and took matters into her own hands. Buying a ticket and sneaking materials into her purse, she made her way to the women’s restroom to install a piece of her own. Here’s the video:

SFMOMA Releases Snøhetta’s ‘Preliminary Sketches’ of Its New Wing

The seemingly non-stop push to get Donald Fisher a posthumous building has inched closer to reality this week with the release of some architectural renderings of SFMOMA‘s planned expansion to house the founder of Gap‘s massive modern art collection. You might recall that Fisher suddenly passed away in the late summer of 2009, shortly after his many, ultimately failed attempts to have a brand new museum build inside San Francisco’s Presidio had finally come to an end and he decided to just pass everything along to the SFMOMA. Following his passing, last year went by in a blur, with the museum announcing that, within just six months of his death, it had already raised $250 million to help build the wing, an unprecedented amount in such a short amount of time. Then, of course, came the starchitect-heavy shortlist and the announcing of a commission that was eventually handed over to the Norwegian firm Snøhetta. Now the museum and the firm have publicly released what they’re calling “Preliminary Sketches,” showing the new structure that dwarfs their current building in height and length but is a bit thiner in the middle. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s John King reports that the new building would offer “seven levels of gallery space topped by two floors of offices” and would connect to the rear of original building. And to get the new building in, the SFMOMA will have to demolish to existing structures, including a fire station, which the museum has already pledged to relocate and rebuild with the help of a $10 million gift to the city. It’s still very early days, but if all goes as planned, the new wing is set to open sometime in 2016.

National Design Awards: Steven Heller Recognized as ‘Design Mind’

Our 2011 National Design Awards reaction round-up continues with a look at the coveted Design Mind honor, which recognizes visionary individuals or firms that have affected a shift in design thinking or practice through writing, research, and scholarship. The 2011 award goes to the indefatigable Steven Heller, a man with a million great ideas and approximately the same number of published books to his name. “For me little is more gratifying than writing about, teaching, and making design,” said Heller, fresh from lecturing in London (on publishing as a method of writing history), offering a window into the graphic design of Iran (for T: The New York Times Style Magazine), and investigating efforts to save one of New York City’s few remaining functioning print shops (for The Atlantic). “In one way or another it’s what I do every day,” he told us. “Ergo, nothing could be a greater honor than receiving this award in this amazing company past and present, and especially following on the heels of Ralph Caplan.” Planning to attend a design-minded Memorial Day bash? Prepare to be the life of the party by journeying back in the UnBeige time machine and reviewing our list of little-known facts about Heller, gleaned from his 2007 on-stage chat with another Design Mind-to-be, Michael Bierut, who won the award in 2008.