When we usually think of solar powered devices, we tend to imagine something utilitarian and awkwardly designed. Although that often seems to be the case, there is definitely some tech out their that is able to incorporate solar panels in a subtle and chic way. Even though we’re not quite at a point where we can power a laptop purely from sunlight, we can however recharge the batteries they run on. Take a look at some of the cool solar rechargeable tech we’ve found, after the jump.
Jennifer Bass and Lance Glover are founders of Treehouse Design Partnership, a Los Angeles-based firm specializing in environmental graphics, identity, book and furniture design. Jennifer’s book on her father, Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design, co-authored by Pat Kirkham, is due out in November 2011. Lance also teaches at the Art Center College of Design and is a member of the improvisational music/video collective Health and Beauty. Below, the couple describes how the studio integrates their design practice with their many other interests, including art-making, instrument-building, writing and music.
We moved our office to this space about 12 years ago, a modest 1,000 square foot corner of a 1950’s bow-string truss warehouse on what was then a sleepy industrial block of Culver City– since then the neighborhood has changed dramatically, with new art galleries, restaurants and bars cropping up almost daily.
Our intent for the space, in addition to being a home for our graphic design studio, was to balance our various activities and interests. To that end there is a soundproofed shop for building things (with a combination of new and inherited tools from Lance’s grandfather), space for making music and storing music gear (the main floor often becomes one big rehearsal room, and our daughter Amanda’s drum kit sits in a loft space above the shop), places to stash Lance and Amanda’s silkscreens and Jennifer’s many objects from nature that she uses both in and for inspiration in her art (tumbleweeds, branches, seed pods, rocks etc.), an area for flat files, samples library, bookshelves, a small kitchen, and a few under-the desk snoozing spots for our two dogs, Ben and Puma.
It is a space unstructured enough to allow for continuous experimentation– the only fixed elements, aside from walls demarcating the shop and Jennifer’s office are the kitchen and the bookshelves- everything else is on wheels or portable sawhorses.
We find that working in this environment brings an open-ended sense to our time there– on those days we’re not crunching a deadline, when the skylight darkens it’s a cue that it’s either time to go home or to step away from the desk (or workbench) and make a little noise…
The last question we always ask Playlisters—“If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be?”—is notorious for stumping even the most creative of folks. But we think graphic designer Carolyn Sewell’s answer takes the cake. Take a look-see to learn what the Southern-born creator of Postcards To My Parents and Postcards To My Peeps listens to (and feels inspired by) in the home she shares with custom furniture designer and builder Richard Sewell of The Proper Carpenter.
What do you listen to while you work? Having to answer this, I’m realizing my listening style is quite manic…my process is a bit scattered (read: teeny tiny attention span) so my music shifts with my mood and focus. If I’m sketching or working in Photoshop or Illustrator then it could be anything from Black Keys and Beastie Boys to Arcade Fire and Heartless Bastards. If I’m working on copy edits or estimates, then I prefer to take it down a notch and listen to Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Ray LaMontagne, etc. And I’ve recently started listening to Debbie Millman’s podcast Design Matters…not only is her voice like a caramel blanket, but the creative folks she interviews are so amazing and inspiring that my skin starts tingling and my brain starts oozing. It’s a great feeling.
How do you listen? I work by myself in my home (so no need for earphones) and usually listen from my computer. I used to listen to my iPod when commuting to meetings, but found that I kept missing my metro stops. I’d get so wrapped into my music that I’d forget that I actually had a destination. Have I mentioned my short attention span?
While digital photo frames are becoming more and more convenient, printing out photos is still something that a lot of people will do (we’ve got large prints on our walls while our digital photo frame is mostly switched off). Most people will take snaps with their iPhones or smartphones, and having an easy way to print them out is handy. Some of these printers are full of features will others still require a cable to function.
1.HP ENVY 100 e-All-in-One: This AirPrint-enabled printer allows you to print out photos from almost anywhere in your home, which makes it pretty convenient. It’s an ePrint printer, so you can email it a picture and it will print it out as well. The only problem is that it’s an InkJet printer. It’s listed at $249.99 but you can get it for $164.80 on Amazon. It does 30 ppm in black and white and 25 ppm in color.
2. Polaroid GL10 This printer looks good on paper, but we’ve had problems with it when we saw it at CES 2011. However, it does print wirelessly from Android phones, which is a plus, and it’s somewhat portable.
3. Photo Cube: This is a printer that almost looks like the Bolle BP10 from last year. It looks pretty decent, but there’s no AirPrinting with this one. You’ll need to dock your smartphone in order to print your photos. We like the convenience of being able to print our photos from all over the place, but if you don’t need this, then this printer might work for you. However, it’s somewhat overpriced for what you get. It’s available from Hammacher Schlemmer for $160.
4. HP Photosmart Plus e-All-in-One: This printer will scan and copy documents as well. The list price on this printer, which is also an InkJet, is $149.99, but we’ve found it on sale for $89.95. It does 32 ppm in black and white and 30 in color.
Bill Birchard’s new book Merchants of Virtue explores Herman Miller’s commitment to building an environmentally sustainable business. That word ‘sustainable’ gets tossed around a lot these days. How did Birchard define it? ”For a company, sustainability means operating with no long-term impact on the health of the planet or its people. The definition widely recognized by business comes from a U.N. commission report from 1987. The commission defined “sustainable development” as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” That’s the definition Herman Miller adopted, and many others have also. Many people today have expanded the definition to include a wide range of benefits to the communities and society in which we live. The short definition of sustainability is leaving the planet as good as we got it, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. ”
Birchard interviewed over 100 people for the book – from CEO to factory heads. He also found himself trawling through our extensive archives. The result is an in-depth look at a company committed to sustaining the planet for generations to come. Here we take a tour of Birchard’s home office in Amherst, New Hampshire, where he wrote the book, and learn about his work habits.
“I use a pivot screen, which I usually keep in the vertical position. It’s much easier for writing, since you can see (and move, cut/paste, etc.) a lot more copy.”
“I keep many sizes and kinds of notepaper, tablets, and post-it notes in the shelves in front of me, and I use whichever seems to “feel” right when I’m brainstorming. Sometimes I use a post-it to capture a small thought. Sometimes I use a tablet to sketch out a long chapter lead. Sometimes I use cheap paper or the back of an envelope for “throwaway” thoughts I’m “testing” but doubt I’ll keep, etc. Although I also keep many notes on the computer, I find the tactile and sketching qualities of paper helpful in shaping thoughts and arranging priorities. I’m definitely not in favor of a “clean desk,” since inspiration for metaphor, etc., come from anywhere, even pictures of family camping trips, etc. The exception is when I’m writing. I write almost exclusively from electronic documents on my computer, since the volume of documents needed to write a book is much too great to arrange on a desk.”
“By the way, one of my favorite quotes about writing (which will appear in my upcoming book on writing), is the following, which explains why a good chair, an Aeron, is so important to me:”The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” It’s from Mary Heaton Vorse, suffragette, journalist, novelist, single mom, 1874-1966. I spend a lot of time glued to my chair.”
Update: Herman Miller has just been recognized as a leader in corporate sustainability by The Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World). This is the eighth year we’ve garnered the attention of DJSI World. It was launched in 1999, and was the first global index tracking the financial performance of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide. Herman Miller joins 300 other companies in the top 10% of leading sustainable companies in the world.
Magdalena Keck‘s interior design work spans retail, commercial and residential spaces and also moves up and down the east coast from Miami to New York. The homes she works on for her clients inevitably include a home office. Here the designer talks about a signature style and what inspires her.
You’ve been working as an interior designer for over a decade now and we see your work published widely. Do you have a signature look that typifies what you are trying to achieve with your residential work? I strive to create more space and light then the spaces have in actuality. I like a good functional use of space and an easy flow with one or two interesting pieces. No fuss really, but elegant simplicity and comfort. I love a really light or a really dark palette, you will not see much of in between in my projects. I am drawn to colors that are hard to define: blue grays, brown grays, black browns, brown aubergine etc.
Looking through the homes you’ve worked on I see a common thread of clean-lined simplicity and restrained color schemes. There’s a real serenity to your work. Is that a conscious choice on your part? I think it is subconscious, but I do believe we have enough stimulation in the “outside world”.
Tell us about some of the favorite home workspaces you’ve created. Do you find people ask for similar things in a home office? People want home work space to be integrated well into the home instead of being some forgotten isolated corner.The home office of Upper East Side Residence is one of my favorites (pictured below). I love the huge window one can look out from at NYC from 34th floor. It’s dark: a combination of browns, grays and aubergine, which I think it makes it sophisticated and warm at the same time.
How do you strike a balance between work and home life? Do you find yourself designing at your kitchen table or are your work hours clearly defined and contained to an office space? I like what I do, so I have no problem working at home when inspiration strikes. I do quite a lot of research in the evening if nothing else is going on. I think as a designer one never really stops working, the wheels are always turning.
What inspires you in your design? Many different things: it sounds like a cliché, but one of them is Nature. She has it all figured out: the light, the darkness, the textures and colors. I am drawn to “found objects” in nature as well as made man. Art history and European renaissance and baroque architecture are beginning to play a significant role as well.
Zoe Melo has worn many hats in her life: she’s been an international model; she has worked as a product developer; she’s a mother; she’s Brazilian but has also lived in New York, Portugal and now Los Angeles. A few years ago, she brought the various aspects of her life together in her design consultancy firm, zoemelo.com, which she founded with her partner Peter Scherrer, a graphic designer, out of their home in Culver City. The two then launched a product design firm and showroom called TOUCH that collaborates with emerging international designers and artisans and is specifically focused on social and sustainable design. Most TOUCH products are handmade or made in limited editions; in this design studio relationships and quality of life come first. The studio provides a structure for TOUCH designers, helping give them a global reach as well as educating the world that good design and sustainability go hand in hand.
We began TOUCH from our home, but after a year or so, the business grew and the space felt too small. We found our new studio, this terrific open ceiling space with room for our studio and a showroom for the amazing products we feature.
Above: TOUCH LA showroom
My desk there is usually full of objects, prototypes, samples, new materials, a travel journal and catalogs. I like to have objects around me, they are my inspiration and I constantly change them. I call it a curator’s mind revealed.
Above: Melo and American intern Jessica Hudson at the studio in Brazil.
Right now I am setting up our new studio in Brazil. It is a fantastic experience opening a new market and developing new projects and products with communities. I have reached my dream by combining travel and work, and have this mobility of using technology to coordinate various projects in different places at the same time. This is very satisfying work for me; to learn a lot about different cultures and places, while helping people to have a better living condition.
Above: A meeting with designer makers at Aglomerado da Serra Slum in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
I now travel to many countries to develop products in artisan communities and to organize exhibitions during design fairs and events. Since I am on the road for work constantly, I can say that my “office” goes with me wherever I am working. So I work from hotel rooms, airplanes, friends’ houses, cafes. In fact, after we created our office in a cloud, things became much simpler. Truthfully, wherever I am connected to the internet feels like an office.
Above: At designer Domingos Tótora’s studio in Maria da Fe, MG – Brazil. This encapsulates Melo’s ideal live/work space – a studio open to nature.
An ideal work/live space for me is the combination of having a studio, showroom, home and nature. It is a place that feels like I can produce much more without much of the stress of the big cities.
But when I am on the road, a library at a hotel is my favorite. The Unique hotel in Sao Paulo, Brazil is a very inspiring social space; the bookshelf, the Campana Brothers beautiful pouf, and the Gaetano Pesce chairs make it a perfect place for a design talk.
Above: Melo meets with designers at Unique hotel in Sao Paulo, Brazil – another ideal work space.
Maybe the best of all worlds would be a mobile office space, where I could travel around showing our projects and exhibiting our products and living deeply within the talents of the world’s creative peoples.
This is the first in a series of posts on the designers we’ve welcomed into the Herman Miller family through our new relationship with Magis. Konstantin Grcic, who is based in Munich, is the designer behind the beautifully faceted Chair_One – a piece that now sits in museum collections all over the world.
You’ll find a slideshow of Grcic’s designs over on Discover. Below is an interview done by Crane TV (a beautifully edited online video-magazine) when Grcic won Design Miami’s Designer of the Year award last year. In the interview Grcic talks about designing the iconic Chair_One. It offers a great insight into his process – and his studio which is filled to the brim with prototypes of his work.
For more on his Munich workspace check out Dwell’s excellent slideshow, written by Sally McGrane and shot by Oliver Mark. The portrait above is from the slideshow.