Susan Lyons follows her nose. And her hands, eyes, and ears. In fact, her love for all things sensate has led her to exotic as well as homely places. India, for example, with its riot of scent and color as well as its craftsmanship and reverence for materials and finally to New York where she began designing textiles. Lyons was an early champion for the environment, which led to a partnership with architect Bill McDonough and, in 1995, to an award-winning, cradle-to-cradle collection of compostable textiles.
Still in New York, Lyons has her own design firm, and she consults with Herman Miller on materials and finishes, where her passion for sustainability and love of color and texture has found a likeminded partner.
Here are seven questions for Susan Lyons….
1. What are you working on right now?
A new color system for Herman Miller Healthcare. It is a big, messy, collaborative project—I’m working with the healthcare teams from Herman Miller, Brandrud, and Nemschoff. We’re trying to bring coherence, logic, and beauty to the healthcare market—a market that historically has been “aesthetically challenged,” which is crazy given the importance of the physical environment on recovery and wellness.
I am also excited to be working on the color and materials for Yves Béhar’s new chair. Yves has a very keen understanding of the power of color and material choices—how they can contribute to the visual narrative of an object.
2. What projects are you most proud of?
I am really proud of the new materials program for Herman Miller. There’s still more to do, but I think that the program is simple to use and rich in its offering. Color and materials have a unique role at Herman Miller; we think of them as much more than just applied surfaces—they are developed organically with the product. Michael McGinn did really great work designing the website and the new sampling program. It’s a dream.
I am also proud of a project that I worked on with a company called ReProduct. It’s a patented, closed loop system for printing that returns the material back into a technical cycle. It’s really cool because it takes cradle-to-cradle thinking and demonstrates how it can really work in an industrial framework.
3. Where do you go for inspiration?
I live in New York City and that is a constant source of inspiration. The city is a tapestry of color, texture, contrast. I love Red Hook in Brooklyn—it’s an industrial neighborhood on the water that reminds me of the grittier parts of Venice. I can ride my bike to the soccer fields that, on weekends, turn into an international festival of futbol, music, and food—Honduran papusas, mangoes on a stick, and every manner of tortilla. Wonderful.
4. What work do you most admire by another artist or designer?
5. What would be your dream project?
To design a product AND the system to take the product back and re-deploy the materials infinitely.
6. What place in the world would you most like to visit?
Patagonia and Egypt…to name only a few!
7. What one thing do you want to accomplish before you die?
Learn how to make a perfect loaf of bread.