From a Bauhaus dollhouse to Pee-wee’s Playhouse to Slinky and the Sims, design for children is the topic of a new MoMA exhibit entitled, “Century of the Child.” Among the postwar contributors are designers Charles and Ray Eames.
It should come as no surprise that a couple like Charles and Ray, who showed such child-like exuberance themselves, would have designed for children. Animal masks, kites, “The Toy” building kit, a “Do-Nothing Machine,” and the House of Cards are all playful examples. On view at MoMA are the Hang-It-All and a child’s chair—one of the Eameses’ first successful molded plywood furniture designs.
“Century of the Child” is open now through November 5, 2012.
Swiss graphic designer Felix Pfäffli lives and works in Lucerne, where he runs his own studio and lectures at the Lucerne School of Graphic Design. On August 14, Felix will be unveiling a new Herman Miller poster he designed as part of Then x Ten, an exhibition celebrating the power of the poster.
What led you to pursue a career as a graphic designer?
I don’t know. I kind of always enjoyed designing things. And to be honest, I really do not know what else I could do. It is simply the thing I enjoy most.
Do you have and any rituals or routines you follow before embarking on an design?
I usually start with some comprehensive research. I read myself into the subject, talk with people who are well informed, collect images, write down thoughts, and look for correlations between the subject and the visual language.
I work almost exclusively on the computer, but I’m pretty sure I never had a useful idea in front of a computer. The ideas come from somewhere: on a walk, shopping, talking to someone. The computer is simply my design tool, as the brush is for the artist.
What element of design could you not live without?
I create and look for the beauty in things every day, but to be honest there isn’t one element that’s more important to me. It is much more about the moment when I see something beautiful, something perfect, that moves me. It’s the surprise.
What advice would you give to aspiring art makers?
Make big plans. Read more
What if someone sculpted the objects in your office in nickel, turning everything into a mirror? What would the scene say about you, your work, and your world? Nicolas Baier’s “Vanitas,” inspired by the artist’s own office, poses these questions and more.
The installation is like a fun house hall of mirrors eerily devoid of human reflections. Baier houses the sculpture in one-way glass and covers the objects—a computer, a tangle of chords, an Eames Aluminum Group Chair—in mirrors. You can look at the installation and the objects within as you would an exhibit in a zoo, but you cannot see your own reflection.
The mirrors in Baier’s office may not reflect, but they do cast light on a compelling truth. Whether you are an artist, an architect, a designer, or an engineer, your office tells a story about who you are and the way you work.
An ocean and five times zones can’t keep illustrators Craig Redman and Karl Maier from being creative collaborators. (Craig lives in New York, and Karl in London.) With much thanks to Skype, the two create bold and thoughtful—and often humorous—graphic works for Google, Nike, LVHM, and The New York Times to name a few. In just a few weeks, the pair will be showing a new piece for Herman Miller as part of Then x Ten, an upcoming exhibition celebrating the power of the poster.
Can you tell us a little about the new Herman Miller poster you’re working on?
We’re lucky enough to work on the Hang-It-All by Charles and Ray Eames; both designers and object fall right into the heart of our aesthetic. We’re going to tackle the piece in our portrait style where we divide the face into colorful parts then recompose it back into it’s traditional form with emphasis on the individual components. It’s going to be fun to try and integrate all the parts into one cohesive piece.
Your style is hard to pin down, what are you influences?
Our influences are pretty eclectic, from PONPONPON to Urs Fischer, Peter Max to My Bloody Valentine, NeNe Leakes to David Hockney, The Renaissance to Memphis design and John Baldessari. There’s no conscious decision towards one or another; our personalities just loosely guide us in a direction.
What’s a typical day in the office?
Since we live in different parts of the world, we talk daily via Skype to discuss what’s going on. Usually as one of us is finishing up for the day and the other is beginning. We’ll talk through projects and discuss ideas for new ones. We’ll work and reconvene at the end of the day or the beginning of the next.
How do you approach a new project?
Whenever possible we work together because it tends to result in new or unexpected outcomes. We think it’s important to collaborate during the initial stages of a project to figure out what we’d like to do and how we’ll do it. Then we’ll consider the project in practical terms: the nature of the project, our individual strengths, how much time we have, and so on. Sometimes we both work on a project together and other times we divide the labor.
Is your work influenced by the past?
We’d like to think there’s a healthy combination of nostalgia mixed with internet futurism in our work. We’re constantly aware of our surroundings, taking snippets from lots of different things—from any era—which we frankenstein together into a big new idea.
For more than 60 years, the Eames Lounge Chair has been an American icon made in West Michigan by local people. Using a process that has changed little since 1956—molded plywood shells formed under heat and pressure, finished by hand, upholstered with leather cushions, and then carefully assembled—workers merge machine manufacturing with the human touch of handcraftsmanship.
A recent trip to the Herman Miller archives uncovered some photos documenting the production of the Eames Lounge in the early 1960s. Visit the HermanMiller Store to see how the process is similar today.
Good design solves a problem. But how does a designer know which problem to solve? For Jeff Weber, a personal experience related to a foot injury made it clear there was a problem with standard-issue crutches.
After just two days of hobbling around, Weber was suffering from “an all-out assault” on his body. Sore armpits, irritated skin, and numb hands, stemming from nerve compression and restricting blood flow, were impeding his recovery. Clearly a problem to be solved.
Familiar with ergonomics, Weber set out to design a crutch with mobility in mind. Looking to reduce secondary injuries, conserve physical energy, and improve the overall recovery experience, the final design of Mobilegs looks more like a distant cousin of the Aeron chair than a traditional crutch. (Weber worked alongside Aeron designer Bill Stumpf and co-designed the Embody work chair.)
One of the most striking differences is the under-arm saddle. A pliable membrane sling provides suspended support, not unlike the suspension seat of Aeron, and articulates on two pivot points to keep the saddle in constant contact with the underarm. The single-component structure of the shaft “facilitates a better hip-to-hand clearance,” explains Weber, and “allows the walker to move through doorways and narrow passages more easily.”
Had designer Jeff Weber never hurt his foot, the plight of crutch users around the world may have gone unnoticed.
You may recognize the work of Australian-born illustrator Jonathon Zawada from such high profile clients as The New York Times and the Sydney Theatre Company, or perhaps from his humorous pokes at the fashion world with his side project Fashematics. Later this summer, Zawada will be unveiling his contribution to Then x Ten, an new exhibition celebrating the power of the poster.
What influenced your style?
I still feel like I’m struggling to find my personal style. I tend to get bored quite easily so I like to mix things up. There’s not really one style that I would say is right but rather a range of approaches that I employ in each unique circumstance. I only realized I had a style when people began to approach me for it; even now I’m not sure what that style is.
What led you to pursue a career as an illustrator?
Pursue is probably a more proactive word than I would choose. I’ve always loved drawing, for as long back as I can remember it’s about all I would do. For a while I thought I would be an animator, then a computer programmer, then a graphic designer, but in the end I feel like all of those things were always just skirting around the inevitable happy home of illustration and art.
Many things, of course, and certainly the workplace’s architecture and furniture (maybe even where the boss sits). But primary among them is to know something about how people are feeling, what they’re thinking, what motivates them, and, yes, what irritates them. Community Pulse—an interactive tool we offered recently to our website and trade show visitors—gauged what’s on people’s minds when it comes to work. Their answers fed into a real-time infographic that added to responses from the larger community. We hope this Q&A exercise will get all of us thinking about what fosters community in the workplace.
French illustrator Genevieve Gauckler’s quirky characters have graced magazines, ads, and gallery walls around the world. Later this summer, Gauckler will introduce her playful style to Herman Miller as one of ten new artists commissioned to create posters for Then x Ten, an upcoming exhibit juxtaposing old and new to celebrate the power of the poster.
What influenced your style?
I loved American graphic design from the 1950s to the 70s: Paul Rand, Saul Bass, George Lois. Their work is like good design—form and function are working together, it’s well balanced.
What led you to pursue a career as an illustrator?
I started my career in graphic design, working for publishing companies and record labels. More and more I was attracted to illustration, I was starting to draw characters and realized it was so much fun. Making an illustration is like building a miniature world, it reminds me of when I was a child playing with toys and imaging a landscape with people and animals.
Does the past influence your work?
I want to be influenced by the past! I’ve always studied the masters of the past. If you don’t know them, your work may be superficial. The more rooted, the better, the further you can go creatively. Read more
Our bodies aren’t designed to stay in one position for long periods of time—sitting or standing. Studies have found back injuries are as likely for those who sit all day as those who stand. That’s why we encourage people to do both throughout their day.
Changing your posture as you work—from sitting to standing to sitting again—is the best way to keep your spine healthy and body happy. At first, it may take some practice to remember to keep moving, but once you do, it will become second nature. You’ll feel better and work better.