What inspires us and what we hope will inspire you and all the members of the Herman Miller community.
From his studio in Melbourne, Australia, designer Fabio Ongarato provides identity design, publishing, art direction, and placemaking expertise to clients in architecture, fashion, and retail. Collaborating with Herman Miller on the recent Then X Ten exhibition, Ongarato helped select the ten contemporary artists commissioned to create new poster designs.
What was the thinking that led to the concept of the Then x Ten exhibit?
[We] looked to the past to shape the future. The poster designs created for Herman Miller by Armin Hofmann in the 50s were our inspiration—we imagined what would the modern versions look like today and who would be invited to create them.
Was there challenge in balancing the posters from the past with the new ones?
I wanted them to have equal value—a mirror reflection of past and present. The contemporary image-makers provide a view of Herman Miller today, while the posters of old reconnect people the value of what came before. Steve Frykholm, one of Herman Miller’s most famous poster designers, has helped curate the past images.
Do you have a personal favorite?
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman poster by Mrzyk & Moriceau has become one of my favorites; it’s a simple black and white drawing depicting amorphous figures sandwiched between two lounge chairs. It’s daring, surreal, absurd, humorous, and sexualized, but most of all, it’s very memorable.
From product ads to movie propaganda to concert promotions, posters are a compelling vehicle for telling stories, communicating ideas, and capturing history.
Then X Ten: The Power of the Poster is a new exhibit showcasing unique Herman Miller posters designed by ten of the world’s foremost graphic artists. In addition, a collection of vintage Herman Miller posters, curated by Herman Miller Creative Director, Steve Frykholm, is also on display.
Showing at fortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne, Australia, Then X Ten: The Power of the Poster is free and open to the public from August 14th through August 25th.
You may not know his name, but you’ve likely seen Kam Tang’s art grace the album covers of The Chemical Brother and Gnarls Barkley, or in ads for Burberry and Adidas. His work is typified by meticulous attention to detail and constant reinvention. Invited by Herman Miller to create a poster for Then X Ten, Tang choose the Aeron chair—the work chair of choice in his home studio.
Herman Miller’s Asia Pacific blog recently spoke with Tang:
Can you share with us some early ideas of what you will be working on to create your poster for Herman Miller?
I’ll be creating a poster for the Aeron chair. I use one myself and love it on many levels. At the moment I’m exploring which facet to communicate.
What are some of your tools of the trade?
My brain, pen and paper, graphic design software like Illustrator and Photoshop, and a camera.
Describe a typical day at the office?
Morning cup of coffee, check some emails and news feeds, then start working.
Do you have any rituals before beginning an illustration?
No rituals, I just read the brief and starting with a pen and paper.
Has technology influenced your work?
It has taken a lot of the mundane and time-consuming aspects out of the process, but not without the dangers of removing the human touch.
Do you feel like a citizen of the world in terms of your trade, or are there geographic anchors to your work as an illustrator?
Yes, with the internet every person, act or event is on the global stage. Geographically, I can pretty much work anywhere with my laptop, but you can’t beat being at home!
A self-described jack-of-all-trades, artist Sanghon Kim moves seamlessly between media and often mixes them up in mysterious ways. Watercolor, drawing, or computer graphics, the viewer can never really be sure. With such a strong visual language, it’s not a surprise that Kim has attracted the attention of clients like Nike, Hermès, and most recently Herman Miller. One of ten collaborators to Then X Ten, Sanghon Kim has applied his considerable skill to create a new poster for the upcoming exhibition.
Herman Miller’s Asia Pacific blog recently spoke with Kim:
You choose the Eames Walnut Stool, can you tell a little about how you will incorporate it into your poster design?
It’s about the content and the container. I wanted to take the stool and use it to create architecture. There are columns which can be seen as trunks of a fantastic forest. I also referred to the material. Walnut Boy, a character was inspired by one of my daughter’s drawings, lightens the scene and symbolizes the joyful spirit of the Eames. He is smaller than a man so that the columns can look bigger.
How did your style come about? When did you know it was right?
My style was influenced by all the artists that I admired. I guess you know it’s right when you feel free enough to have your own ideas and do your own thing.
How has your approach design evolved? Do you have any rituals or routines?
I take more time to think and take notes before even sketching.
Old family photos, 1950s fashion catalogs, and other paper ephemera are the building blocks from which illustrator Eda Akaltun constructs her detailed collages. Invoking a sense of nostalgia, her unique style has graced the pages of The Telegraph, Harvard Business Review, and, most recently, the BAFTA awards and invitations. Herman Miller has commissioned Akaltun to create a new poster to be unveiled at Then X Ten, an upcoming exhibition celebrating the power of the poster. Akaltun has been kind enough to give a sneak peek at her early concept.
Can you tell us a little about the poster you’re creating for Then X Ten?
I am working with the Eames Molded Plywood Chair and was inspired by its creators Charles and Ray Eames and their famous house. The Eameses were playful in their approach to design and created pieces that were meant to work in any environment: home, school, or in the office.
In my poster I’m illustrating four rooms, each depicting a different contexts for the chairs. Charles and Ray will be characters interacting in the spaces. I want the image to be as playful as they were.
You have a unique style, how did it come about?
When I was at Central Saint Martins, the pace of projects was so fast that I began using collage to express myself quickly. While there I also became interested in all forms of printmaking. I ended up merging these techniques and over time the style I work in today began to develop.
What are some of the tools you use?
I have a large collection of old photos, magazines, fabrics, catalogs, and general ephemera, mostly from the 1950s. I also kept prints I made during university and use them as textures in my collages. All of these help me build layers, textures, and colors in my digital work
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.
Herman Miller’s Asia Pacific blog recent spoke with Pfäffli:
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.
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.
Herman Miller’s Asia Pacific blog recent spoke with Craig and Karl:
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.
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.
Herman Miller’s Asia Pacific blog recent spoke with Zawada:
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.
Simply designed to communicate a message, posters are all too frequently the tools of advertisers. But under the direction of a keen eye and talented hands, posters have the power to spark action, elicit emotion, and join the ranks of art.
Then x Ten is an upcoming exhibit celebrating the power of the poster. Alongside classic posters from Herman Miller’s graphic design past will be ten new images created by some of the world’s top talent. Works of Don Ervin, Armin Hoffman, and John Massey will be joined by contemporaries Eda Akaltun, Sanghon Kim, and Jonathan Zawada, among others.
The show will be hosted by fortyfivedownstairs in Melbourne, Australia, from August 14-25, 2012.
A sneak peek of a few of the poster to be on display after the link. Read more