Balance, Design, Products
March 31, 2010
Australian-born, Berlin-based artist Rilla Alexander is one fifth of the design collective known as Rinzen. Her illustrations have graced the walls of the Fox Hotel in Copenhagen, appeared on credit cards for the Swiss Cornér Bank and danced across ceramics for German porcelain maker Rosenthal. She is currently creating a range of children’s products for Madrid’s Museo del Prado based on the Hieronymus Bosch masterpiece “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. She shares her live/work space with her husband and her adorable little Jack Russell Terrier “Mr Tom”.
How long have you been working from home? I’ve been working here for two years now. Over the last fifteen years I’ve worked in a variety of studios as well as home workspaces, and I’ve got to say this is the best situation yet. Berlin apartments are huge and this one used to be three apartments. So the “commute” from home to work is, if not actually long, at least noticeable… but I can still easily start at 5am or have a mid-day nap if the mood takes me. (Below is a billboard illustration Alexander did for Australia’s Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.)
What’s a typical day like for you? Drawing at my lightbox while consuming a steady stream of radio documentaries from NPR, ABC and BBC. I have just spent a week in Italy and am itching to assume my favourite position at the drawing table again. It’s an addiction. Of course once the drawings are done I need to scan them over on the “computer desk”. It doesn’t have the drawing table’s sunny window position – so I make a quick retreat as soon as possible.
What do you like most about your space and is there anything you would change? I love that it’s a space all to myself, but that I can go to the next room for feedback/input/conversation from my husband, who is currently converting his space into a painting/sculpture/music studio. Our dog, Mr Tom shares his time between us – usually switching studios depending on who has the most food. I also love being surrounded by books. The only thing I would love to have is a view to the beach, or a tropical rainforest. Moving from Australia to Berlin does has some downsides.
I notice on your desk you’ve got lots of interesting objects. Can you share some of your favorites with us? Above my desk you can see the edge of a poster for Jacques Tati’s Mon Uncle – which, like so many things from Europe, I actually bought in Japan. Tove Jansson’s Moomins, her books “Who will comfort Toffle” and “The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My” and the box set of stop-motion animations from Film Polski are always within reaching distance. She is one of my greatest inspirations. You can also see a Porcelain Elephant money-box (designed by Luigi Colani for the Dresdner bank) and a ceramic jar from Nymolle – a Danish company that Bjorn Wiinblad designed for before he began to work primarily with Rosenthal. The Nymolle pieces are my favourite examples of Bjorn Wiinblad’s work – I’ve always been drawn to mono-coloured design and illustration – and I love that his work which would probably now be dismissed as “for children” is for everyone.
Do you have any tips for organizing your home office space? Feeling comfortable and cosy is very important to me – and surrounding myself with furniture and objects that inspire and excite me, makes me want to be in my studio more than anywhere else. The more teak and porcelain, the more likely I’ll stay. If only I had teak desks…
March 31, 2010
Dee Adams‘ home office in her lovely Oakland loft drew a lot of comments. The bright orange retro calendar on her desk was particularly popular. Dee found another similar vintage calendar in very good condition which she is giving away. Just head over to her blog and leave a comment for your chance to win. Good luck!
Balance, Design, Products
March 31, 2010
Earlier in this series, we introduced you to Emily Hamma Martin of Orange Beautiful. Now meet her blogging partner and friend, Laura Naples—a graphic designer and calligrapher who creates handmade stationery. Just before moving her studio into a new room in her Northeast Ohio home, she gave us a glimpse at how music inspires her workday.
What do you listen to while you work? Typically, music that falls into three categories: mellow, nostalgic, or energizing.
How do you listen? Computer speakers or my iPod docking station if I’m not doing work on the computer.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? Pandora! I love it. My best friend from high school just created a shared Pandora station for us comprised of all the ’80s love songs we used to listen way back when. It’s called “Separate Lives Radio”—named after the Phil Collins song, but it also alludes to the fact that we live two states away.
Does music influence your work? Can you show me an example? Probably. I sometimes try to match a musical genre to the type of project I’m creating, for subliminal inspiration. When creating my daughter’s birth announcement, I listened to sweet, happy songs that reminded me of her—like “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by The Mamas and The Papas and songs by Ingrid Michaelson. When blogging, I like to listen to one of the Pandora stations because the element of the unexpected mimics the blogging process—browsing blogs and sites, following newfound links, discovering amazing companies, designers and products I never knew existed—or seeing new work by old favorites.
Where do you find music recommendations? Friends, blogs, independent radio stations, and, occasionally, magazines. Blueprint magazine used to have great music recommendations, so I still dig out back issues of that magazine for ideas. Even NPR—that is how my husband and I first heard Arcade Fire.
Who influences your musical taste? My dad listened to a lot of classic rock when we were growing up, and my mom loved musicals and show tunes, which I also still enjoy. But other influences include travel—a trip to France many years ago introduced me to Carla Bruni’s music; my husband—he always finds new bands that we both like; friends.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? Feist. I saw one of her shows and she incorporated some really interesting shadow art and silhouettes. Visually, it was simply executed, not fancy—but it gave the show a warm, creative energy. It resonated with the kind of work I like to do.
Leather and Lace, Stevie Nicks with Don Henley
Fitz and the Dizzyspells, Andrew Bird
In Between Days, The Cure
Happiness is Overrated, The Airborne Toxic Event
Ses Monuments, Sea Wolf
Bittersweet, Big Head Todd and the Monsters
The Relator, Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson
Straight On, Heart
One Evening, Feist
Strawberry Swing, Coldplay
Black Balloon, The Kills
Lucky Man, The Verve
All Night Long, Lionel Richie
Balance, Design, Products, Technology, Trends
March 31, 2010
Piers Fawkes is the editor-in-chief and founder of PSFK, a trend forecasting company that throws a very broad net. Check out their site and you’ll find stories on everything from design (David Trubridge’s lighting) through to marketing (capturing young car buyers in the auto industry). Fawkes talks here about our work lives, cell phone apps, Cloud technology, telecommuting and his own work habits.
As a forecaster how do you see the future of work? Will more of us be working from home? Telecommuting seems to be here to stay but how will it grow? The opportunity to tele-commute or work separately has been around for a long time now but we still are living in cities and working in offices. Cities and offices and cafes are where ideas get created by people coming together and reacting to one another. That doesn’t happen too well when people are apart. Sure a few people can work well in the woods but I believe that the rest of us need the energy of gathering to foster our creativity.
Saying that, Cloud technology allows us to work on a speed and scale that we haven’t been able to before. Even simple tools like Google Docs allows us to work with people around the world immediately. PSFK tells its clients that we can do trends research and innovation in any market because with these web based tools we really can.
What’s an innovation that has changed the way we work today? What innovations do you see on the horizon that will change the way we work over the next decade? I think ambient lifestreaming will evolve and impact the workplace. Right now there’s an incredible amount of information about ourselves that we’re volunteering both consciously and subconsciously (and of course without our knowledge). We’re seeing a lot of services and applications that allow us to visualize this data and the next step is to use it. For example, I have an App on my phone that monitors my sleep through the microphone on my phone and gives me a nice visual (Owl) – but that’s as far as it takes it. You can imagine that a similar app could measure my stress at work. What these applications will soon do is give me options to share personal data with services like Google Health or my building to get medical advice or just the heating turned down.
You come across fascinating people in your work. Tell us about the most interesting person you’ve met this year. Everyone who is speaking at my event PSFK Conference NYC on April 9. I know of so many innovators but these really are the cream of the crop. (Click here for the full list of names).
PSFK started with your blog in 2004 where you collected ideas you found interesting. Can you tell us how PSFK has developed? PSFK.com is a daily ideas site. We publish up to 30 times a day on an array of subjects from art to business, from cars to tech. It was launched in June 2004. PSFK began as my personal project when I moved from London to New. My first collaborator was Simon King and I mixed his initials with mine to name the site. Over time the site became popular as more content was published on a wide array of subjects by contributors from around the world.
In the summer of 2005, PSFK was first commissioned to provide advice to Anheuser Busch about trends in Europe. Our consultancy business has since grown and recently we today we are working Apple, BMW, Pepsi and Target.
In March 2007 in New York, I started the first of a series of conferences to bring to life the conversations that were taking place on the site. Since then, PSFK Conferences have taken place in London, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Singapore. In late 2008, PSFK created the Good Ideas Salons as intimate forums around single topics. These salons are run by PSFK and friends across the globe.
Then in January 2009, PSFK launched the Purple List network of experts to help introduce corporations and creative service organizations to innovation and research freelancers. At the end of 2009, with growth in staff to 10 full time, we moved to a new office on Broome Street in SoHo.
Do you still find your work spilling over to your home? Where do you work when you work at home? Before the move to the office space in Soho we worked over at a loft space on Broadway. In 2006 I borrowed a desk at the ad agency ‘Anomaly’ while I was working on PSFK which then was just a project. Surrounded by creative and entrepreneurial spirit my business took off and we grew seat by seat until they ran out of seats. I work a lot from home. I start work between 6.30 and 7 at my dinner table and work through to about 10.30. It’s the time I do research. I don’t check email, I don’t take calls, I scan 1,100 RSS feeds for the latest news. I do get distracted occasionally and play with my son and daughter Cy and Georgeanna.
What are you reading? A few chapters into the Happiness Project. Checking into Box Bottle Bag a bit. Sort of half way through Linchpin. Completed PSFK’s Good Ideas for 2010 book.
Where do you see PSFK in 5 years? Educator, retailer, charity, events space, VC fund, bar.
Images: Catalina Kulczar-Marin
March 30, 2010
“We’ve gotten used to typing on a compact laptop keyboard. But there’s something to be said in regards to comfort and speed when you can stretch out and type away on a full size keyboard and not worry so much about keyboard commands to make up for lost real estate. That was the driving idea behind Yang Yongchang’s compact concept laptop design, which folds out to reveal a full size keyboard inside.
In conjunction with the unveiled keyboard hidden within, the concept specs include a 6.5″ 16:9 capacitive touchscreen display for pinch and zoom use, LED backlighting and a front panel camera. Is this the form factor netbooks need to help cross from niche to fully mainstream? We’re not sure, as this design adds a bit of engineering and structural complexity, and as is often the case, simple is better (more affordable and less likely to break).
[via Yanko Design]
By Gregory Han.”
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.
Balance, Design, Products
March 30, 2010
The editorial team at Remodelista.com (l to r) : Julie Carlson, Francesca Connolly, Sarah Lonsdale, Janet Hall. (Pic via FIXR)
Francesca Connolly works from her brownstone in Brooklyn Heights that she shares with her husband and three children. She is the east coast member of the four-woman team that edits Remodelista – the go-to site for sophisticated renovators. Look out for our interviews with the rest of the Remodelista team over the next few weeks.
Connolly and her husband restored their down-at-the-heels brownstone with the help of architect Steven Harris. She is well acquainted with the burgeoning design scene in Brooklyn; she admires local lighting designer David Weeks and shops at local stores such as Layla. And she works on Remodelista from her dining table. No home office for this award-winning blogger.
How would you describe your workspace? How does it impact your work? I work at the dining room table. The space is light bright, uncluttered, and centrally located.
Does anyone else use your office? Everyone uses everything. I have no privacy.
You see so many great workspaces. Is there one that really stands out for you? Architects always have the best offices. They typically use inexpensive materials to create genius storage and work areas. Steven Harris Architects has a great office on the street level in Tribeca with floor to ceiling windows. They use the front of the space as a gallery for art exhibits making the space multi-functional, and engaging the local community.
How do you organize the space? I constantly try to eliminate clutter. I’m not super organized, but I know where everything is.
What impact do you think color has on a workspace? I prefer a white space as a backdrop for all the designs and colors I am looking at all day.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? A lamp and a notepad. Even though everything is done on the computer, I still scribble notes to myself.
Is there a piece of furniture you’d love to replace? I can’t genuinely say I have a need for it, but there is this steel base and oak top table (below) from Ochre that is on my wish list.
What inspires you? I have a background in textiles, so I am a bit of a fabric connoisseur. Because we live in Brooklyn, I have an affinity for a bit of urban glamour (a sequined pillow from Liberty of London, for instance). I like streamline upholstered furniture but can’t resist covering pieces in subtle florals, stripes, or velvets.
How do you manage a balance between work and the rest of your life? Working at home allows me to be in in easy contact with my family. I love being around for all the constant coming and going of children. It helps that having grown up in close quarters with two brothers, I have a great ability to tune things out when necessary.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
March 29, 2010
The editorial team at business magazine Inc. had published thousands of articles on the pros and cons of working from home. But what was it really like? They found out this year when the office produced an entire issue from home. Read senior writer Max Chafkin‘s report here. It’s a fascinating look at the virtual office and the reality of telecommuting. There’s also an interesting interview with the magazine’s editor, Jane Berentson on APR’s Marketplace .
Berentson says of the experience: ”Well, it was different for different people. So I think there were some people who were a bit skeptical before we started it and thought, “No no no. We really have to come into an office. The magazine’s a collaborative venture.” But one of those people, for instance, decided that why do we ever have to come to the office again, because he could get out of his bed; roll 20 feet to his desk, still in his pajamas; save $300 a month on commuting and thought it was great. There were other people — I, personally, for instance — missed the social and collaborative aspect of coming to an office.”
(Photo: Philip Toledano)
Balance, Design, Products
March 29, 2010
With healthcare top of mind right now it seemed timely to include an interview with Jay Parkinson, the co-founder of Future Well. Parkinson is a pediatrician and preventive medicine specialist with a masters in public health from Johns Hopkins. He works from his apartment in Brooklyn and hopes to make the country not just healthier but also happier.
First tell us about Future Well. The site is only a few months old and like a lot of start-ups you’re working from home. How much time do you spend in your home office? The Future Well is a creative firm that marries the worlds of design and health. We identify creative opportunities within the health space and design beautiful solutions that positively impact health and happiness. Sometimes we identify the opportunity and find the right partners to execute it and sometimes we build it ourselves. Other times, we help guide clients so the product/service is simple, elegant, and wrapped up with a business strategy that leverages their core competencies.
Health needs products and services that make optimizing our health and happiness fun, easy, and, most importantly, simple. This applies to to the traditional healthcare industry as well as this new consumer space we’re calling health creation. So we work with some traditional companies as well as companies who are looking to enter the consumer health space.
We launched The Future Well in the beginning of February after I left Hello Health and Grant Harrison left Humana as VP of Innovation. Scott Switzer, the co-founder of Open X is our third partner.
I actually spend a ton of time in my home working on my laptop. In fact, it’s by far the unhealthiest thing I do in my life. I want to be active as I work. Just think if we could replace sitting with moderate activity! So many people sit for 8 hours staring at glowing rectangles. It’s really a public health problem. What if we could replace just one of those 8 hours with activity? Our nation would shed billions of pounds!
How would you describe your workspace? What is the design aesthetic? I’m a minimalist and don’t want to have any more space than I really need. If I don’t use something on a weekly basis, it doesn’t exist in my home or office. I’d much rather buy experience than things. And I have this thing for symmetry. So I feel a bit weird buying two of everything, but I like the balance. My space also has to be bright and happy. The natural lighting has to be magical and blanket the most important parts of a room.
I also love photography. I consider myself a photographer so I tend to hang photos I’ve taken of my friends or people I love. And I can’t let go of my roots. I grew up in rural Missouri and my grandfather had a zoo of taxidermy in his trophy room– so I convinced him to give me a few of them. I have a javelina and a reedbuck. I also a dog and don’t want him sitting home alone for hours on end. So I really enjoy working from my home and don’t see us getting an office space anytime soon. We’d all like to keep the structure of The Future Well as decentralized as possible. Nowadays, so many things can be done virtually. I think the definition of “workspace” is significantly changing.
Does anyone else use your home office? Does my dog count? He uses it as a play space but only when I’m trying to get serious work done. Scott and I sometimes meet here to do some work, but that’s rare.
How do you organize the space? Since I don’t have many things and mostly work only on my MacBook, I try to arrange a room to maximize open space. I have a long and narrow Brooklyn apartment so furniture is arranged to feel like I have more open space than I really do. Many people have walked into my apartment and asked if I just moved in!
What impact do you think color has on a workspace? There are happy, productive colors and sad, distracting colors. The color of a workspace should surely be designed for happiness– because productivity and creativity stem from happiness.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? I’m such a minimalist, I don’t even have a desk! So I’d have to say my MacBook. But next to my sofa I have two Bisley file cabinets where I hide things when I’m not using them. They’re beautiful little storage pieces that hold more than they should. I have two white ones next to my bed as well. When you live in a small space, creative storage is key. I couldn’t live without those Bisley’s cleaning up the clutter of my space.
Is there a piece of furniture you’d love to replace? I’d love to replace my sofa as my primary workplace. I’m on a mission this weekend to find a standing desk, drafting table, or maybe even a pulpit!
What inspires you? People who design elegantly simple things in response to questioning the status quo. I’m so frustrated by health and healthcare in America. I truly believe being healthy can be so much easier if we rethink our physical environment, what it means to receive and pay for healthcare, the supply of food we eat, and the small changes we can make in our life that make a huge impact on a person’s sustainable health and happiness. Our nation’s health has been quickly deteriorating. If we want to improve our health, we have to use good design as a trojan horse to create things that make a healthy lifestyle as easy as possible.
March 29, 2010
1. Ground Scissors These award-winning hardened steel scissors are made using low-tech pressing and grinding techniques by designer Michael Antrobus. Get it: spunique.com
2. Pocket Size Scissors Small enough to keep in your purse or pocket; smart enough to snip loose strings or itchy clothing tags while you’re out and about. Get it: Amazon
3. Clear Handle Scissors by MUJI The simple, straightforward design and easy-grip plastic handles by Japanese retailer MUJI make this affordable pair easy on the eyes. Get it: MoMA
4. Vintage Scissors The gold-tone plating and retro look of these well-made scissors are so lovely, you might want to stare at them more than you use them (but don’t—they’re actually comfortable and ergonomic). Get it: Kate’s Paperie
5. Anything Scissors The whole collection of “Anything” office accessories—a collaboration between UK designer Michael Sodeau and Japanese company Suikosha—makes a day at the office a little more fun (case in point: this pair of bright orange scissors). Get it: A+R
March 26, 2010
National Public Radio just finished a fascinating 3 part series on working from home. It’s an in-depth look at the way we work today exploring the benefits and costs of flexible work hours and family-friendly work. As NPR correspondent Jennifer Ludden reports “U.S. labor laws are perfectly suited to 1960, says University of Minnesota sociologist Phyllis Moen. The 40-hour workweek and 9-to-5 workday were all codified in an era when men went off to an assembly line and women stayed home. ‘We’re really in the middle of something like an industrial revolution,’ Moen says. ‘But it’s a work time revolution.’”
What is really interesting is that this debate is finally being framed differently. It’s not just about parents pushing for more flexible work hours so they can spend time with their children. Gen-X and Gen-Y are also keen for a better work-life balance regardless of whether they’ve got children or not.
If you don’t get a chance to listen to the series you can read it here.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this topic. How flexible are your work hours? Do you feel you have a good work-life balance?
Image: Work Life Balance mittens from MouthyMitts.