April 5, 2011
Michael Townsend is an associate in the San Francisco headquarters of Gensler, a global architecture, design, planning and consulting firm. He is also behind a photo shoot that involved taking the Setu chair all over the city of San Francisco. “We were actually approached by Pivot Interiors and our local Herman Miller representatives about a competition they were hosting between a handful of local design firms called ‘Where’s Setu?’.” The competition guidelines were simple. ‘Setu is designed to fit all shapes and sizes. But, equally important, Setu is designed to fit virtually all spaces and places. YOUR MISSION is to take the chair and photograph it ANYWHERE! Use wardrobe, props, celebrities, back-drops, story lines and of course, location! location! location! Show us how Setu fits into your life’
“Essentially we were tasked with celebrating the idea of an “everywhere chair”! A small group of us that included Melissa Mizell, Rebecca Ruggles and Annie Book here at Gensler have really enjoyed working together in the past on the USGBC’s Sustainable Suites Competition as well as a packaging re-purposing design competition, so we jumped at the challenge. Not only are they fantastic ways to stretch ourselves creatively but they also lead us into research and design thinking in fields that we may not get much exposure to in our daily work.”
Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind the shoot? We embarked with the original plan of re-enacting some of our favorite movie scenes set in San Francisco with Setu as the lead role. With screen captures such as Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” or James Stewart and Kim Novak at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge in “Vertigo”, we loaded Setu in the company van and began to drive across the city. We made it halfway to our first stop before noticing an airstream trailer on the side of the road with the words “everywhere tour” painted on the side. It would have been downright irresponsible to not photograph the “everywhere chair” on the “everywhere tour”, so we stopped for a photoshoot. In the process, we met representatives of Threadless Tees, a fantastic company supporting great graphic design as well as partnering with the likes of Architecture for Humanity to support disaster relief efforts.
This was a tipping point for us and we all agreed we would likely build a better photo story just letting the beauty and randomness of city present itself to us. With only a loose plan, we set out to photograph the chair as if it were an integral part of the variety and energy that makes this place so great. Stopping in the marina green, we worked up the nerve to ask the Baracus Rugby Club to humor us by mixing the chair into their practice time. Our second day started at Dolores Park where we loved the character of the girls on the green bench and the nonchalant attitude they had in letting Setu join them for a smoke.
There was also a playfulness in rolling the chair to the dog park that really speaks to the spirit of Setu’s versatility.
Our last stop was in Clarion Alley in the Mission, which has an incredible array of street art in a district famous for its murals. There happened to be a vibrant trio being photographed in parallel to us who were more than happy to pose for a few shots with the chair.
We really feel like the warmth and spirit of the people and locations we visited tie perfectly with the intent of approachability and versatility of the Setu chair. Not only did we have a lot of fun doing it, but we also found out that it is possible to clean a wide range of grass, mud and dog stains from a stark white Setu chair!”
April 5, 2011
Some people rearrange their furniture when they get bored with their surroundings—I change my desktop wallpaper. And after years of searching through 10+ pages on Google Images, sifting out the too-techy and too-cutesy graphics, I’ve found a few sites that never let me down.
Whether you’re looking for a desktop wallpaper or a background for your blog, these five sites offer up literally millions of great options. You could change your wallpaper every day for the rest of your life, if you wanted, and never be embarrassed to open up your laptop.
Check ‘em out:
What it is: A collection of cool, hipster patterns and illustrations, perfect for tiling a desktop or becoming the stylish background pattern on your website.
How many? 270
What it is: A site devoted to Marimekko fabrics and fashion, with a section of Marimekko-inspired desktop designs.
How many? 15
April 4, 2011
1. Standard Umbrella, $30 We’re charmed by the lightening-bolt detail on the underside of this otherwise unassuming umbrella. Get it: standardhotels.com
2. Sofrap – Assymetrical 8-sided, $85 The asymmetrical design is perfect for walking down busy streets; just rotate it to easily slide through tight, umbrella-filled crowds. Get it: rainorshine.biz
3. Googles Umbrella, ¥580 Find your way through the rain with the viewfinder feature on this whimsical pick. Get it: 25togo.com
4. Color Wheel Stick Umbrella 2010, $40 Pantone overload. Get it: momastore.org
5. Guy de Jean Striped Long Umbrella, $75 Classically cool French styling from the combined forces of Jean Paul Gaultier and Guy de Jean. Get it: openingceremony.us
Images linked to their sources within the numbered text
Balance, Design, Products
April 4, 2011
We came across artist Mark Sahm on Twitter. Can you guess why we were interested in his work? Read on to find out…
Tell us about the kind of work you do. How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I make paintings with hand-rendered die-cuts and LED backlighting, but I also work as a design production manager in Manhattan (to pay the bills). I commute between NYC and my townhouse in Stamford, CT. My wife and I moved here in 2007, and it was actually the first time I had a proper studio. All the way from college until then, I either painted in my bedroom, a garage, and even an unheated storage space. But those sacrifices were good, since I’m able to truly appreciate it now. You don’t know relief until you don’t have to paint with gloves and a hat on during the winter!
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? My style and aesthetic are contemporary and abstract, but I’m always trying to evolve. I also try to embrace as much technology as I can. Aside of using low-energy LEDs to light my paintings, my composition design makes heavy use of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Often I will snap a digital photo of the painting in progress, and play with different colors and shapes in AI & PS to get the best option. This helps to reduce mistakes, as dried acrylic paint is as unforgiving as a woman who caught her boyfriend cheating.
How do you keep your work space organized? It’s strange, but when a camera comes into the studio, almost everything magically finds its way to the bins, shelves and closets! But when I’m at work, I like having everything out in front of me to see what might inspire me as I’m immersed in the process. Once you’ve acquired a fair amount of art materials, you forget about things that are hidden away. So when the time calls for spontaneity, you go with what catches your eye.
When you set up your studio what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? Our building is a New York style brick townhouse built in 1890, but renovated in 2007. My wife and I wanted to use the basement as the studio, but it was the only area that hadn’t been renovated. This was compounded by the fact that we didn’t have the money to afford a professional contractor to do it all at once. So over the span of a year, I did a lot of the work myself— laid a subfloor, hung drywall, installed a drop ceiling, and so on. But the rawness of the space allowed us to quadruple the amount of ceiling lights, as well as adjust many of the soffits to fit shelves and workstations in different nooks. Of course, not a lot of art was produced that first year. But the investment has already paid itself off tenfold in karmic value.
Is there any piece of studio furniture you covet right now? Is it any secret? I want an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman to sit in while I’m sketching! Although, I wouldn’t dare keep it within 30 feet of my paints for fear of a drip. I’d have to keep it in a giant plexiglas display cube when not in use. But I’m saving up to get one someday, so if anyone knows of one with paint drips already on it, call me, I’m in the market.
What accessory can’t you do without? It’s actually something inexpensive and commonplace: A utility knife with a fresh blade. Cutting through thick canvas with several layers of acrylic on it dulls an edge very quickly, so I go through 1 to 2 industrial strength blades per painting.
What would you change about your studio space? You know you’re an artist when you’ve once asked your partner, “Honey, what do you think about turning the living room into an art studio?” Obviously, the answer would be more square feet. But right now I have most of the tools I need and want. So I’m focused on creating art that helps make someone’s room complete.
What inspires you? This answer could be endless for me, so I’ll give you four examples: Music that makes the hairs on my arms stand up. An idea that invigorates my mind so much that I can’t leave the studio until I’m completely exhausted (or out of caffeine). The belief that creativity is never truly dead, despite what the cynics say. The knowledge that my art and design heroes were all unknowns once, and they worked hard to become great— so maybe I can too.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
April 1, 2011
Where we’ve been this week…
1. Commune Design because I want to live in the prefab house that Jens Risom built.
2. Design Milk for its architecture coverage. These playhouses could make interesting home offices.
3. Core 77 for design writer Ingrid Fetell’s latest piece “In Defense of Delight“.
4. Australian House & Garden for its home office round-up.
5. Home Designing for its huge database of interior and architectural images.
6. Ideas for Your Home for its clean simple design and nicely edited images.
7. The Design Files for its incredible collection of Australian homes.
8. The Style Files for its home offices. I love the parquet floor in this one.
9. Chair-E-O-Mate! for its great collection of weird and wonderful chairs.
10. Geninne’s Art Blog for its lovely home office post.
April 1, 2011
New York City-based Angela Kantarellis is a professional organizer. She founded her business, AKorganizing, in 2006 and since then has helped hundreds of busy New Yorkers get organized both at home and at the office. Angela, who is an active member of the National Association of Professional Organizer, holds a master’s degree in psychology from the New School for Social Research – which must come in handy when dealing with her clients!
With tax deadlines around the corner we asked Angela to help out Lifework readers with a few key organizing tips. Feel free to add your own tips or questions in the comment section. I know Angela would love to hear from you.
Above: Angela’s home office and her dog, Max.
The key to a stress free tax season is to have a system in place to collect receipts and tax related documents throughout the year. It’s a classic organizing principle of “a place for everything, everything in its place.”
1. Prepare a Tax Folder in January for the year ahead. Place the folder at the front of one of your file cabinet drawers for super easy access. You want to gather all of your tax related documents in one place throughout the year – even though you won’t necessarily be looking at them till the following January. If you make charitable contributions for example, put the acknowledgment letter into your tax folder. Use a checklist to determine if you have all the documents you need. If your accountant hasn’t given you a check list, use your previous year’s taxes as a guide.
2. Collect receipts in a centralized location. A client of mine who works out of her home office simply puts all receipts in a basket on top of her file cabinet. Once a month she enters the receipts into a spreadsheet. She includes income at the top followed by expenses. At the end of the year she totals each of the categories and voila – she has a list of all of her income and expenses. You can also use a software program like QuickBooks to track income and expenses for your business.
3. Don’t wait till the last minute but if you did…don’t panic. Are your receipts and 1099’s buried under mounds of papers with no records of your income and expenses in sight? There’s still time to get organized. Use the quick sort method to locate your tax related documents. You’ll need a staging area – an area to do all of your sorting. Gather all your receipts in one pile. Sort by category. Total all of your categories. Enter into a spreadsheet. Locate your end of year credit card statements. Highlight tax deductible expenses. Add to your spreadsheet. Review your checkbooks. Pull out personal expenses such as medical and education that can be deducted. Add to spreadsheet. Do the same for business expenses. Not sure what’s deductible? Use last year’s tax return as a guide.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
April 1, 2011
Meet Brendan Dawes, the brilliant mind behind MoviePeg – a little stand that holds your iPhone at just the right angle. This is the first time I’d heard about 3D printers and I’m still not sure I quite understand how they work but I feel confident that Brendan does. And I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
What kind of work do you do and how much of it happens at home? And where is home? There was a time when I could easily describe myself as an interaction designer, and I still do that a lot. But I recently got into creating physical products so I think maker of things probably suits what I do a lot more. For me interaction in its widest sense is the commonality running through all the work – whether that’s an interface that encourages curious exploration such as doodlebuzz.com, the data visualisation of Cinema Redux or the packaging design on MoviePeg, the objects, if we can call them objects, have to illicit some form of emotional response from you. I’d like to think that I design objects that have the capacity to be loved.
Home is where a lot of the initial prototypes and thinking takes place. My office is more of a hackerspace come laboratory; a place where I can concentrate free from distraction or the noise of the everyday. All my personal projects were made in this space and even things like MoviePeg was first realised at home. I’d had this idea for a super simple iPhone stand after getting home late one night from London. I still have the cardboard version I made that night.
Home itself is a place called Southport, a Victorian seaside town on the north-west coast of England. I live in a Victorian town, in a Victorian house, go to work on infrastructure put in place by the Victorians and work in a building built by the Victorians, in Manchester the birthplace of the industrial revolution! They were pretty clever those Victorians and it’s amazing how much we still relay and use the things they invented. Yet with work as with everything else, things are changing – no longer does the “go to a place of work to do some work” model really work. I can’t say though I’m a big fan of total home working. I think it works for some people, but for me I have to have that social interaction that with a team of people. As someone who practices interaction design surely the best thing I can do is actually interact with other human beings?
Describe your style and how it influences the work you do and the space you work in. Random, eclectic, non-linear. I get bored quite easily so I’m always looking for new things to play with, to tear apart and to put together in new ways. So the space that I work in is a kind of extension to that. I’d love to say it was this modernist utopia of simple clean lines that is a completely considered space but it wouldn’t be the truth. Instead it’s a jumble of an old generic office desk, a Danish chair from Ebay, shelves from Ikea, and a horrible cheap shelving filled with industrial plastic bins brimming with curious electronic parts and objects that may or may not appear in a future project. One day I will start all over and build my dream space. Until then the space kind of works.
How do you keep your work space organized? I try and keep surfaces clean and clutter free as possible, and I try and keep things in compartments on the actual shelves. There’s no system as such but I can tell you where anything is at any time because the objects themselves have almost become part of the furniture. I also used to have something like eight hard drives, all stacked up on my desk, all with separate power and it was a nightmare to find files. I simplified all of them down to one hard drive – a Drobo; now it’s much simpler and, of course, uses less power. Plus it has very sexy blue lights on the front!
When you set up your home office what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? Nothing springs to mind.
What is your favorite piece of workspace furniture? I think the chair I use at home. My wife Lisa found it on Ebay a few years ago and whilst I haven’t a clue who made it I do know it’s Danish – which fits well with the 60’s Bang & Olufsen hifi I bought from Ebay. I love the size of it – it’s huge – and the leather and wood, but most of all the reason I love it so much is because of what Lisa went through to find a chair she knew I would like, spending days on Ebay to get the right kind of thing. It’s an object that is impregnated with a story and means so much more to me because of that.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? The Kum Long Point pencil sharpener is a thing of wonder. I own three of them; one at home, one in my bag and one at work. Having tried various pencil sharpeners over the years, and being a bit of a pencil geek, this thing was a revelation; a beautiful piece of design that does it’s job really well, like all good design should.
What would you change about your work space? Storage. Infinite storage shelves that could constantly expand, like some kind of shelf based hard drive for my things. Think I might need to work with a particle physicist to make that one happen though. But I can dream.
What inspires you? Right now the proliferation of personal 3D printers such as the Thing-O-Matic from Makerbot. I have this machine on my desk, I design something on the computer, press a button and kapow! There is the object that a few minutes ago was just pixels on a screen now being held in my hand. The possibilities of such things completely blow my mind; imagine a future were you can jump on the web, buy and download an object it and have it print out in front of you – no postage, no fulfillment, no packaging just delivered to you instantly. I’ve even designed and printed my own modular desk tidy system for my pencils that I use everyday. Why buy one when I can design one that was perfect for my needs and print it out? Of course it makes duplication and piracy really easy, in fact I know that our MoviePeg product already exists in a copied form on a 3D printing site. But those are things we’ll just need to work out as we move forward with this incredible technology. But here’s the thing – only a short while ago personal 3D printers were a pipe-dream, yet here we are today and I have one sat on my desk, at home. Who knows what will come about, next year, next week, tomorrow.