Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Educated Eye

Check out the interview with Arango's David and Marianne Russell from

The Educated Eye
By Paul Clemence

On a grey Tuesday afternoon, as ICFF exhibitors and attendees prepared to depart the confines of the Jacob Javits Convention Center after the latest edition of the design fair, I went to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. There I sat down with Marianne and David Russell at the airy, light filled indoor patio of Le Petit Cafe to catch up with the design retail duo, principals at Miami’s iconic design store Arango. This year, during the fair, I was busy with my video project screening at the Boffo Showhouse and attending parallel events outside the fair, so I had seen very little of the fair’s new design offerings. Their refined, educated, and experienced eyes, lead me to ask Marianne and David to tell me what I missed. Here are 5 highlights of what they saw and what they had to say about them. The words are Marianne’s:
  1. One piece that stood out in simple sculptural form was the Plateau Chair designed by Danish designer Erik Magnussen. This is a comfortable lounge chair and work chair, with a high back perfect for relaxing and TV watching, while the right armrest is designed to hold a cup, glass, iPad, book, or laptop. Plateau Chair was awarded the prestigious Red Dot Award in 2011 when it was first introduced in Europe. We were impressed by the quality and workmanship. Each chair’s upholstery is hand-stitched in the same manner as the Egg chair. The Plateau Chair is the best example of an elegant and personal design.

 Lighting was the most interesting category this year, with LED technology generating stimulating new design concepts. Pablo’s Circa Lamp, one of several using flat panel LED light source, was unique in its design allowing the panel to pivot to direct the light where needed, and giving a warm balanced ambient light.

 Events and exhibitions outside the fair were even more interesting, with great finds. Down the street from Javits, at Wanted Design, we ventured into the stand of the American manufacturer Kontextur. They were introducing a new WC Line of bathroom accessories, designed by Josh Owen, made of durable sanitary silicone and tanoak. The most beautiful, I may even say poetic, piece being the tissue box cover; all pieces from plunger, toilet brush, to waste bin are available in pure white, black, and terracotta red.

Also at Wanted Design, Josh Owen was presenting “Metaproject 02,” an impressive exhibition of work by students from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Glass designers were paired with industrial design students in projects utilizing recycled glass. Of the many interesting solutions we enjoyed was “The Receiver” by August Kawski—an object derived from the constant cultural clash between technology and community. The Receiver, a large round glass dome with a handle cast in form of a classic Dreyfuss handset, is intended to hold and mute mobile phones during social gatherings, leaving everyone free of distractions and able to interact with one another. A beautiful frosted glass prototype was on display.

 In Soho we went to Alessi to see the results of “Metal Workshop: Cranbrook for Alessi.” An exhibition of prototypes from a collaboration of a mixed group of recent graduates from the 3D Design and Metals program at Cranbrook Academy of Art, working together for a week in the metal shop to explore techniques and forms, which might later translate into Alessi products. Presented were four pieces selected for production. Our favorite was VTray designed by Adam Shirley.

 A stunning piece of highly polished stainless steel, about 16” long, folded in a repeated V profile with separate clear acrylic elements fitting into the folds. A perfect tray for fruit, cheese and crackers, crudités and condiments, also great in the office for paper and pens, paperclips and note cards, or in the bathroom for Q-tips, soaps, and small towels. This well-thought-out product is sure to be a commercial success.

 To comb through the array of new products and designs offered each year is no easy task. It takes a well trained eye, like David’s and Marianne’s, to go over countless stands and showrooms in search of items that are not just “cool,” or “pretty,” but that actually have the function and price that can make it into potentially a new design classic.  After doing so many fairs, here and abroad, and successfully carrying Judith Arango’s legacy into today’s highly competitive design consumers’ market, it is safe to say that the Russells know a thing or two about how to select product. The items highlighted here, other than ‘The Receiver’ which is a study project, are sure bets and will be in their Miami store this Fall.

Paul Clemence,

Friday, May 25, 2012

Welcome to the Era of Design

All businesses, no matter what they make or sell, should recognize the power and financial value of good design.
Obviously, there are many different types of design: graphic, brand, packaging, product, process, interior, interaction/user experience, Web and service design, to name but a few.

In this post, I am referring to design as a broad and deliberately applied discipline, with the aim of creating simpler, more meaningful, rewarding experiences for customers.

You see, expecting great design is no longer the preserve of a picky design-obsessed urban elite—that aesthetically sensitive clique who‘d never dare leave the house without their Philippe Starck eyewear and turtleneck sweaters and buy only the right kind of Scandinavian furniture. Instead, there’s a new, mass expectation of good design: that products and services will be better thought through, simplified, made more intuitive, elegant and more enjoyable to use.

Design has finally become democratized, and we marketers find ourselves with new standards to meet in this new “era of design.” To illustrate, Apple, the epitome of a design-led organization, now has a market capitalization of $570 billion, larger than the GDP of Switzerland. Its revenue is double Microsoft’s, a similar type of technology organization but one not truly led by design (just compare Microsoft Windows with Apple’s Lion operating system).

Every day my Twitter feed populates with astounding growth facts about the likes of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest and the more recent travel site, AirBnB. It is no coincidence that these successful brands seem to really value design and utilize it to secure a competitive advantage.

Even the UK government has issued its “design principles,” naturally on a clean, easy-to-navigate website.
But why have people become so design sensitive? Why does that credit card mailer look so bad and dated now? Why can’t you access my account details? Why does airport signage seem so unhelpful? Why doesn’t that technology plug and play?

Perhaps Apple’s global dominance has elevated our design expectations, or Ikea’s vision to bring great design at affordable prices to everyone on the planet has finally taken effect, or perhaps the Internet has taught us what well-designed user experiences and good design really are. Likely, it is a combination of all.
What is certain is that the design bar has been raised and design-oriented businesses are winning.

Think how swiftly and strongly a design experience shapes our opinion of that brand, company or store, for good or bad. For instance, we know quickly when a website is bad. And we associate that feeling of frustration, or worse, disappointment with that brand.

Design-oriented organizations invest in thinking this stuff through. They put design at the heart of their company to guide innovation and to continually improve products, service and marketing. They recognize that a great design leads to differentiation, customer loyalty and higher profits.

First Direct, a UK bank, has designed all its service touchpoints so carefully that it has become the most referred financial brand in the UK, with over 82 percent of customers happy to recommend it to friends. It’s a joy to use via any channel, and despite being a bank, I’d happily recommend it.

When you buy Apple Care, instead of receiving the standard bland letter or email, you receive a nicely designed box containing the paperwork, guidance and all the information you need. You have questions? No problem. There are clear user diagrams and a simple section on the website to help you.

The impact on brand is that customers see these brands as both progressive and customer-centric.

Thoughtful and innovative design makes us feel good. It is no surprise that we are happy to advocate them, talk about them in social media and can be fiercely brand loyal.

As Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney, once said, “A brand is a living entity—and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.” That thinking still holds true, but it all happens a lot faster now. Thanks to the Internet and a hyperconnected, social-media-fueled society, brands can be instantly undermined and that experience shared with millions.

So this is a call to action for executives to recognize this new era and make the effort to transform even a mundane product or service into something more rewarding and more memorable. Try to assess each element of your service or product and better it—to see design not just as a marketing thing but as a genuine source of competitive advantage, customer and employee satisfaction and, lastly, a route to higher profits.

  Adam Swann, gyro,
Adam Swann is head of strategy at gyro New York


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

World’s Best Museum Gift Shops By By Karina Martinez-Carter

Putting in the time to peruse stands at local markets can certainly unearth some winning on-the-road finds, though it often seems that most vendors are selling the same forgettable tchotchkes. The best place to search out memorable, quality items tied to your travels is oftentimes found in museum gift shops. Since you likely already plan to wander the halls of a local museum or two, tacking on a stop in the gift shop could easily take care of your souvenir needs in one easy shot. You’ll definitely want to spend a bit of time—and money—in our five favorite museum gift shops, outlined below. 

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
The MCA Store is a bona fide toy store for the art- and design-loving adult searching for interesting contemporary items to wear, play with, or display. Merchandise spans categories such as apparel, art objects, and home goods, and invites hours of fascinating playtime. Many of the objects and books for sale relate to current and past contemporary artists on exhibition, such as whimsical mobiles evocative of Alexander Calder or Frank Kozic plush toys. For good measure, other goods pay homage to the museum’s home base of Chicago, such as the Chicago baseball.

Design Museum, London
The Design Museum Shop can practically be considered another section of the museum itself. The staff is thoughtful and discerning in its selection process for the merchandise they put out, and the many up-and-coming designers behind it. For those who particularly enjoyed an exhibit or featured artist, the shop always has some related merchandise, be it books, screen prints, or replicas of actual items, like this New Objectivity Stool. The museum also secures and sells a number of exclusive items, such as these sassy State of the Obvious accessories and office supplies.

Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The MoMA Design Store is such a standalone attraction it has even branched off with additional storefronts throughout New York City (plus, its one international locale is located halfway across the world in Tokyo). International big-name designers and budding talent have their wares up for sale here, including New York resident and jewelry designer Alexis Bittar and Italian architect and designer Mario Bellini. For memorable and creative holiday gifts, the MoMA Store is a one-stop shop, and staff even introduce seasonal decorative items for the occasion.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris
This decorative arts and design museum, as well as its accompanying shop 107 Rivoli, are located in the western wing of the Louvre. "Gift shop" is an unfitting term for 107 Rivoli, which is billed instead as a proper boutique. Designer Bruno Moinard was put to work on the four-part space, which includes sections for books, jewelry, and design objects of both bygone eras and contemporary times. A little slice of French and Parisian glam are on full display
and available for purchase here.

 Museu d'Història de Catalunya, Barcelona
Catalonia has a character entirely its own. This museum in Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, chronicles the history of the unique state and has a gift shop to match that singularity. Though it might seem ho-hum and book-heavy at first glance, display cases hold delicate jewelry pieces at varying price points from local artists, and smaller items like artistic postcards featuring impressive photography, as well as other mementos that incorporate the art and style of Barcelona. To brush up on the history of the region, a multitude of books fill the shelves; varying in genre and length, they're all related to Catalonia or its capital city.

 By Karina Martinez-Carter, Fodor's

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Danish Restaurant Ranked World's Best for 3rd Year

A menu of lichen, pine needles and hay once again has trumped classic cuisines in a ranking of the world's top restaurants.

For a third consecutive year, chef Rene Redzepi's diminutive but innovative Danish restaurant Noma earned the top spot in Restaurant magazine's annual S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards, announced Monday in London.

Redzepi cooks with a meticulous focus on indigenous ingredients, from moss and snails to sloe berries and unripe plums. Since it opened in 2004, the Copenhagen restaurant has been credited with redefining Nordic cooking and gets thousands of reservation requests a day. The current menu includes items such as "Cauliflower and pine" and "Pear tree!"

The list's second- and third-place restaurants also remained unchanged from the 2011 list. Spain's El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, and Mugaritz, in San Sebastian, once again were ranked Nos. 2 and 3. Also placing from Spain was Arzak, in San Sebastian, at No. 8.

The United States had three restaurants in the top 10, with Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York leading at No. 6 (moving up from the No. 10 spot last year). Alinea, Grant Achatz' ode to molecular gastronomy in Chicago, fell one spot to No. 7 in this year's ranking. Daniel Humm's Eleven Madison Park in New York shot up from No. 24 last year to tenth place this year.

Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck, London's nod to the molecular gastronomy movement, fell from fifth place to No. 13. But Blumenthal remained in the top 10 with his recently opened Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, also in London, going straight to No. 9.

Other U.S. restaurants to place in the top 50 include: Le Bernardin in New York (No. 19), Daniel Boulud's Daniel in New York (No. 25), David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York (No. 37), Keller's The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. (No. 43), and David Kinch's Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif. (No. 48).

The Top 10:
1 — Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
2 — El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
3 — Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
4 — D.O.M., Sao Paolo, Brazil
5 — Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
6 — Per Se, New York, United States
7 — Alinea, Chicago, United States
8 — Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
9 — Dinner by Heston Blumentahl, London, Britain
10 — Eleven Madison Park, New York, United State