We congregated at the East Gate to clear security. The line was filled with a who's who of the design world: Francisco Costa, this year's winner for Fashion Design; Michael Bierut, last year's Design Mind Award recipient; Tom Kundig, last year's architecture award recipient; Lisa Strausfeld of Pentagram and a finalist in this year's nascent Interaction Design category. And the list goes on and on...
Here are a few of the specifics:
- A mix of Presidential china (Bush, Eisenhower and Truman), a practice unheard of prior to Mrs. Obama. Here's a photo of the dish that served up my delicious dessert:
- Toy robots sat amongst the flower centerpieces; these struck me as an unusual choice, and at the event, no one gave any explanation as to their significance. I read later it was a reference to technology and innovation. In any case, they allowed us to take one home, and I snagged a lovely, red, "Lost in Space" model:
- The portraits of all the former First Ladies were lovely to look at. Unlike the Presidential portraits, which feel more formulaic, these paintings of Presidential spouses seemed to truly reflect the tastes and unique character ad style of each subject. Here's my favorite, of Jacqueline Kennedy:
- Members of one of the nation's military bands (ashamed to say I don't know which) offered a beautiful musical backdrop:
- I cherished each small memento of the event, including my place card:
The First Lady sadly only stayed long enough to delivery some nice remarks about the importance of design in society and the role that designers play in firing the imaginations of the next generation. She was then quickly ushered out of the room as lunch was served. As I fumbled to get my camera, she walked by me in her striking yellow suit, and she was gone.
In thinking back on the whole experience, I must admit that meeting so many design luminaries in one setting was kind of overwhelming. Which brings me to the big conundrum of the event itself: when faced with a limited amount of time, does one focus on the people, or the extraordinary setting? Trying to take photos, meet every amazing person, and follow all the protocol required in such a setting, I didn't take much time to really soak it in and live it while it was happening.
But I did get to meet many remarkable people. And I did see many amazing sights and soaked up many of the details so painstakingly planned by The First Lady's staff. Below is a slide show of all the photos I took at the event. And if you're looking for great coverage of the foodie details, check out Obamafoodorama's blog post. Enjoy!
The size is perfect; truly fits in your purse. And the red hardware is hot. I'll feel like a secret agent when I use it in cafes. While the red satin holder isn't particularly functional, I figure it could always work as a lingerie bag. HP, you really know the way to a girl's heart! Here are the rest of the photos....
Favorite things: Eva Zeisel dishes, originally uploaded by margaretgouldstewart.
When I got married at the ripe old age of 24, I pretty much did what my elders told me. Part of the list of do's when you're about to say "I do" is to register for china. So I paged through magazines and settled on a very "of the moment" Wedgewood pattern called Clio.
We received 14 place settings of the stuff, and when I calculate how much money was spent on those dishes, I feel a bit ill. Years went by, and the china gathered dust. It was too fancy to use every day, and we didn't really have parties that seemed fancy enough to justify unpacking it.
After 10 year of marriage, during which time I had developed an allergy to unnecessary stuff, I horrified my mother by unceremoniously selling it all on eBay. Oh, and I sold the Waterford crystal, too. I hope that whoever bought it enjoys it for years to come. I used a portion of the proceeds and bought a set of Eva Zeisel Classic Century tableware, reissued by Crate & Barrel, and have never been happier.
Not only do these dishes elevate my cooking, but they work in every context. We use them for Sunday pancakes and dinners, for holiday meals, and even for weeknight suppers when we get our act together to cook a real dinner. They are timeless, lovely, and dishwasher-friendly. I'm pretty sure my grandmother would approve.
Mini tent fetish, originally uploaded by margaretgouldstewart.
What is it about the mini-tents that stores like Target and REI have on display? They are so tiny and cute. Maybe it goes back to our childhood fascination with the miniature; think Polly Pocket, mini tea sets, etc. As children, it's comforting to have tiny versions of things; it makes us feel big and powerful in a world where we are regularly told we are small and powerless.
Or maybe they are just tiny and cute.
The space, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is extraordinary, as it transforms an early 20th century industrial complex into a state-of-the-art exhibition and performance space. The collections the space will house, are equally impressive: Prada's archives, visual art of all sorts, and space for performances and festivals. Looking forward to the opening....
This year, the lucky makeover was given to flax. Meindertsma explored many uses of flax, from candle making to rope to fabric sacks, and created re-imagined versions of these quotidian objects that transcend the pure function to new levels of beauty. My personal favorite? The most evocative extension cord I’ve ever seen.
Here’s an interview with the highly personable Eyck, whose enthusiasm for his designers and their work made the installation even more enjoyable to experience.
And here are photographs of the work featured in this year's show...
Many thanks to Paul Thompson and Cara McCarty of The Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum for providing me the opportunity to meet Mr. Eyck and many other luminaries during Milan's Design week. I'll be featuring additional interviews by Tom Dixon, Kenya Hara, and others in the weeks to come....
You can access the whole set in my Flickr stream, including annotated links to all available talks on YouTube. The folks at TED were nice enough to feature them on their blog, too. If you haven't seen Ted Talks before, you are in for a treat. Carve out some time, prepare your mind to be blown and expanded, and enjoy.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post for their blog that I wanted to share here as well. In it, I shared some thoughts about the design awards, the process of jury deliberation, and the role of the designer as creative problem solver.
As a member of the 2009 National Design Awards Jury, let me first and foremost congratulate all of the winners and finalists. It was an exciting, exhausting, and inspiring process to review all the submissions and debate the merits and accomplishments of each. As a designer who has spent most of my career in the digital realm, I found it fascinating to delve into the categories that I am less familiar with as a practitioner: landscape architecture, fashion, and architecture. And my fellow jurors, each experts in their own fields, were so generous to the rest of us, sharing their insights into the peculiarities of their own discipline, and putting the many different portfolios into a larger context.
Let me make an admission: as a designer of software and products driven by technology, I have a bias towards functionality. Working at Google for a few years has certainly made that bias more pronounced. I enjoy intellectual design, and the kind of work that blurs the lines between art and design, but I also am fairly adamant that chairs should be comfortable to sit in; cups should have reasonably ergonomic handles; and shoes…well, I do love beautiful shoes, and in this realm I foolishly let go of my bias to favor style over comfort. But in most respects, and certainly in my work at Google and YouTube, I am a Bauhaus girl. So what philosophy is right? Does great design have to be functional? Is communicating an idea enough to make a product well designed?
There were certainly interesting exchanges about these timeless debates during our two days of deliberation: what distinguishes design from art? I’ve thought a lot about this since the jury convened, and I’ve come up with something I know to be true for myself. As a designer, my goal is to take my creative faculties, and those of my team, and use them in service of others. When I reflect on the impressive array of candidates for this year’s award winners and finalists, I was so inspired by the many ways these master practitioners have succeeded in improving the lives of people in so many ways. It could be through putting technology to work for humans, and not the other way around; creating spaces for living and working, both indoors and out, that bring out the best in ourselves and in each other; producing housewares that are a pleasure to hold and behold for decades; creating exquisite clothing that makes the wearer feel beautiful; taking complex issues of the day and helping us understanding them better through visual explanations; and finally, using design to prompt humankind to care for the fragile resources of our planet.
And what about beauty? The Shakers thankfully gave us the greatest lesson on how to marry design and art: “Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”
I am proud to count myself among the community of terminally curious, compulsive problem-solvers that make up the design world. And I look forward to watching new designers emerge in the years to come who will brazenly tackle the problems that, though we may not recognize today, will undoubtedly impact our future.
Margaret Gould Stewart
User Experience Manager, YouTube/Google
2009 National Design Awards Juror
I was at a school supply store buying chalk for our giant chalkboard wall when I came across this graphically hot Pi chart. There were other school room posters equally alluring, so get thee hence if you want to find cheap art AND brush up your math skills (or grammar, or history, or foreign language)....
Pandora takes the blame, originally uploaded by margaretgouldstewart.
"I'm sorry, I had a small problem while saving your feedback. It's my fault."
Having too many times heard users in the usability lab blame themselves when they can't use a broken UI, I found this message refreshingly honest and reassuring.
One of the big themes at this year's Milan Furniture Fair seemed to be sustainability. No surprise there; "greenwashing" is all the rage, with seemingly everything being promoted as "made from recycled", and firms and products broadcasting their carbon footprint to the world.
How did this manifest itself in Milan? Tom Dixon's self-described "plain" designs, Thomas Eyck's collections based on humble, traditional materials such as flax, and Royal Tichelaar Makkum's wonderful, homey cups and dishes that seem optimized for comfort food. Video interviews with each of these designers to be posted soon...