I wrote my master’s thesis on the historical relationship between product design and social class and I really wish I’d found this advertisement in time to have included it. I’ve never seen an historical document spell out in more brutal terms the extent to which product innovation has changed the means and behaviors of menial labor to render the working class more “presentable” and the leisure class more able bodied. Whether they were on their way up or on their way down, families at the beginning of the 20th century who found themselves members of a new middle class were suddenly forced to maintain house and composure simultaneously; and mass produced consumer products filled the gap left by unaffordable servants, creating a huge market saturated by what have come to be known as labor saving devices. I was searching for something else when I found this ad in an early 20th Cent Brooklyn Blue Book here.
I just completed teaching Design Performance for the first time in the inaugural year of SVA’s MFA program in Products of Design. I developed Design Performance for the department at the request of my department chair and mentor, Allan Chochinov. Design Performance is a five week course that examines the rituals of design exhibition and pushes students to explore and develop the space and behaviors they stage around the pedestal instead of solely fixating on the artifacts they place upon the pedestal. The official course description is here. The five weeks of the course at year’s end are followed by three intensive weeks of supervised production wherein the students prepare their work for public viewing.
The process my students went through culminated in “ALSO! Project,” which we presented at Wanted Design this passed weekend. The reception by the public and design community was beyond expectation. I am thrilled. We got a great tip of the hat from Julie Lasky on page 2 of her review of design week for the New York Times. Margaret Badore gave us a huge shout out in a dedicated post on Treehugger. And there’s a thoughtful post on Core77 by Ray Hu with some valuable crit and suggestions. The department has thoroughly documented the project on its blog here.
The coverage aside, I am primarily proud of the 16 dedicated individuals who dared to be this department’s first class and who followed me down the rabbit hole for the first run of my course. It was not always an easy ride. I am grateful to them for their trust and for their patience as I worked out the ideas of the class for the first time. They are an amazingly close, creative and energetic group. They deserve all the praise they are getting. They are (from left to right above in white shirts):
Zena Verda Pesta
Gaia Orain (not pictured)
The work they did in Design Performance was a group project. Each student took on specific responsibilities based on their strengths as unique designers but they worked as one and deserve to take credit equally.
Kathryn McElroy gets a massive photo credit; her insane diligence and skill is best seen on the ALSO! Project documentation tumblr. Additional credit is due to PoD faculty member Benjamin Critton who provided graphic direction and supervision for the project, actors Jason Schuler and Anna Foss Wilson who provided voice overs for “BOOM”, and Samantha Hinds and Marko Manriquez for their tireless coordination of administrative and technical needs of the department and students. Many thanks to Claire Pijoulat & Odile Hainaut of Wanted Design for hosting us, giving us carte blanche to do our work and providing access to the space and vendors. And last but not least, huge thanks to my mentor and friend Allan Chochinov for bringing me on as faculty and even bigger congratulations on an incredibly successful first year with the department. Here’s to many more!
I’m super excited to have just launched a new song and a site for it. We Are NPR is a punk anthem for National Public Radio that I’ve been singing to myself for geez, like 10 years now? I’ve been writing it in my head and for the past year or so I’ve been talking to my good friend Timo Ellis (of The Netherlands) about recording it together. My chops are pretty out of shape for a super-charged punk tune without a lot of practice and I knew that with Timo being the ultra badass that he is, we’d be done lickety split. And we were! We tracked it all one day at a really fast tempo and then Timo re-tracked it slower another day and I put the vocals down and Ron Shaffer at Atlantic Studios West mixed it and then I designed a site for it and Isaac Lubow coded it and voila!!! So without further ado, using my old bandname, The American Trampoline Company presents We Are NPR!!
(The project page for it on this site is here.)
I saw this product Multiplo on Treehugger and had to curse a little for the similarity it bears to one of my student projects, Gogo Blocks. Of course I’m not claiming foul play, and I applaud the people at Multiplo for the one thing it takes to make any idea come to life– follow through. They made it happen and their
product totally outshines my student models below…
These have been getting a strong response. Particularly from bankers and lawyers who are like, “shit, this is way better than the one I got.” I handed one of these to a former professor last week and she asked, “will you always be retro?” I’m sure I gave some bullshit neither-here-nor-there answer at the time, but the answer is yes. A resounding YES! I can do many things, but I will always have one foot in the past. Now to start that locomotive company I’ve been dreaming of…
Work is complete on Dolce Vita’s latest shoe and ready to wear store on Elizabeth Street in Nolita and the doors are open! Congrats and thanks to everyone at DV for another great project!
More photos to come….
Now I just need to build one.