Can a jean be adapted for the 21st Century?
Luxury denim brand 3x1 has partnered with award-winning designer Joe Doucet to create a pair of jeans expertly altered to address the needs of 21st century life.
The catalyst for the invention of the 3x1 | Joe Doucet jean was to address the basic fact that, “the classic 5-pocket jean we all know, and love is really a piece of 19th-century technology designed for workmen,” explained Doucet, winner of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for 2017. “Rather than focusing on making aesthetic changes, I wanted to update the technology to accommodate how we work and live today.”
Addressing the fundamental differences between the jean of the past and the jean of today, Doucet and 3x1 Founder Scott Morrison fashioned a jean that employs simple yet impactful finishes: microfiber pockets, to clean and protect one’s devices, a slightly larger coin pocket to accommodate credit cards, lined with RFID blocking fabric, and a 3M singular reflective black 8” strip that runs down the center back leg for extreme reflection while commuting in low light. Crafted in a 12 oz. stretch selvedge denim from Kurabo (Japan), the jean is not only beautiful but also extremely comfortable.
“The subtle changes Joe incorporated make a huge difference,” noted Morrison. “At 3x1 our central focus has always been to invite people into the jean making process in our SoHo atelier, and give them the opportunity to make something completely unique; together we have been able to create something that is more than just a jean it is a utility.”
The 3x1 | Joe Doucet jean has been constructed for men and women in a slim and straight fit. For men, in the best-selling M3 fit and for women in a WM3, both styles will retail for $395 and will be sold exclusively at the 3x1 store, located at 15 Mercer St., in SoHo, NYC and online at 3x1denim.com. As part of 3x1’s Custom Made Program, patrons will be able to add the 3x1 | Joe Doucet Custom Made Package to any custom pair for the price of $750.
Can Public Seating become a beacon?
I was asked to submit an idea for seating to service people congregating in Times Square as part of a new series by the Times Square Alliance bringing good design to the “Crossroads of the World”. Now this request was part of a competition which is something I typically avoid. My reasoning for avoiding competitions is that the party conducting one doesn’t really know what they want and are fishing for free ideas, hoping that one of the participants will come up with an idea that they can all agree is what they are, in fact after. But this was a chance to leave a mark on Times Square, the symbolic heart of the city which has been so good to me. I knew instantly I would, in fact, submit an idea and that it had to be not only good enough to win, but what Times Square needed in my option. An icon recognizable from a great distance, where people could use as a meeting point and want to spend time there. A tall order which required more than a simple bench. With an understanding of what I thought needed to be achieved, I set to work on deadline to present ideas in two weeks.
When designing in a competitive format, a submission must not only solve for the problem at hand, it must win over the judges. Particularly in this case, the idea must be compelling to both the people judging it and the more than one million people walking though Times Square each day. With this understanding, I hopped on the subway and emerged in the single busiest intersection in New York hoping for an idea to strike which would serve these purposes. Upon making my way through the throngs, one thing struck my attention. There were few landmarks one could point to over the heads of tourists from every part of the globe. I knew then that whatever I came up with would require verticality to be noticed in the visual cacophony of the busiest intersection in North America. I began to think about how different my understanding of New York is from when I first set foot in Times Square. I saw the city as an overwhelming metropolis, magnificent and energetic yet intimidating and uninviting. I thought what was needed was a glimpse of an understanding of the city which I came to love over time, which is a collection of neighborhoods, each one New York but their individual New York. Each one a refuge in their own way.
Right then I came up with a vague idea for The Village. A place rather than just a seating system. Something tourists and natives alike could take refuge in and collect their thoughts. Something they could equally describe to one who has never seen it and use as a reference for a meeting place. The next issue was what for should these seats have. The idea of a house began to form in my mind. The location is surrounded by some of the tallest buildings most people have ever seen and I wanted this oasis to be welcoming. To impart the sense of home to relieve the natural anexiety which can occur when one is overwhelmed by the scale of their environments. The idea of a house morphed into very tall houses, so that one could see them at great distances and use as a reference. I chose the color taxi cab yellow as I felt it is the single most color associated with this city and breaks though the visual mélange of the city. I also chose navy, to remind us that this is an island, a not so intimidating thought regardless of the eight million people occupying it. The concept seemed to win over the judges and we worked quickly to take The Village from an idea to an installation. It remains one of my proudest contributions and an homage to the people and city who have given me so much.
The Village can be seen at 42nd Street & Broadway in the heart of Times Square.
Can designing a rug be a social statement?
Joe Doucet x Odabashian
For our second collaboration with the Odabashian, I wanted to do something quite meaningful and to serve a larger purpose. Odabashian works in several traditional techniques, and Jaime Odabashian and I spoke about doing a different rug for each technique around a central theme. There is little difference in designing a rug than designing a poster. It is in essence a work of graphic design which is placed on the floor rather that a wall, but it serves as a large canvas which could be used to express an idea. I put this thought in the back of my mind and let it simmer for a while with the hopes that something would present itself to me in due time.
It didn’t take long. A day or two after the conversation with Jaime, Trump tweeted a ban of transgender people serving in the military. A brief period of shock quickly turned to anger. How could we single out a group of people so brave that they are willing to endure so much to live their lives the way they feel they were born to be? What could I as a designer do to show support for them. The rug project came to mind, but honestly didn’t at first seem like a likely medium for support. It also seemed a risk that I might be tone deaf in using a series of rugs as a form of protest. I decided that instead of protesting their discrimination, it might be better to celebrate their bravery. With no small trepidation, I opened up my sketchbook and began working.
The uniting theme of the series became Transcendence. I wanted to capture the beauty of outwardly becoming what you are internally. The four rugs each attempt to convey this thought in a different visual language. I shared the concept and designs with Jaime, not knowing if he was willing to go down this path with me, but to my delight, he was willing to throw his hat into the ring. A few months later and the entire collection was ready. I hope the rugs and the thought behind them are received with and understanding of the intent that each of us have a responsibility to use our skills to stand up for what is right. We chose to donate our royalties to the ACLU, the organization who fights the fight for equality for all in the US.
Can gloves make running more exciting?
Reebok approached us though their agency in London, M&C Saatchi, to come up with a project to highlight their new Flexweave material. After a conference call where my business partner Richard and I asked many questions around the specifics of the project, we came away with the sense that the opportunity could be quite interesting. There was no specific brief other than that whatever we did had to use the material and be something that could physically be presented and should relate to running. A fairly wide open brief can be an intimidating place to start, but we decided to commit to the project with a blind faith that we would come up with something that would work for them.
After receiving samples of the novel material, we were asked to submit ideas within a few days. When I looked at the construction, the fact that there were parts of it that had a bit of a grip contrasted with other sections that were quite open and breathable, the idea of a glove popped into my head. A day or two later when pressed with what we were going to do I shot back “a glove”. Met by silence, I quickly followed up with “a glove that makes running far more interesting.” I could hear their enthusiasm on the line followed by a green light to the project and a deadline to have a fully functioning prototype ready in three weeks when a crew would be coming to film a video around the glove and its making. In fact, I had no idea of how to make a glove that would make running more interesting and had painted myself in quite a corner with an impossible deadline approaching.
I quickly decided to focus on the occasional runner rather that the die-hard. What pain points could a glove address? In asking what the number one problem was, I encountered “boredom” over and over again. Running was to some people monotonous and in that problem there was an opportunity. What if each time you ran you had no idea where you were running to? The idea occurred to me that if you were to put into an app the distance you wanted to run and a program figured out a novel route, each run could be more exciting, as well as show you things you would otherwise not see. The gloves themselves, via bluetooth sensors, could navigate you through haptic and visual cues as to your next turn. When the crew showed up three weeks later, the prototypes were complete and ready for their debut on the streets of London a week after that.
Could we create an interesting game intuitive to play?
Frog Design reached out to us to participate in an event for charity to design a dartboard along with other American talents. Being a bit obsessed with new typologies, I unhesitatingly said yes. I am by nature a bit competitive so knowing my work would be shown along with my peers and mentors I wanted to bring my “A” game. I certainly didn’t want to just re-style the classic dartboard, nor create an unusable showpiece. I knew what I needed to do was to create a n entirely new game.
Playing a game of darts can be quite a long commitment and involves a complicated scoring system. I decided to create an intuitive game anyone could learn in seconds. I chose 21 as most people know that you have to hit exactly 21 points without going over to win. Simply hit three darts in the 7 circle and you win, miss and a point is deducted and you must hit the 1 Circle to add a point. Go over and you loose. The original was auctioned off for the charity Art Start. I was very please with both the project and that a simple game was able to help such a noble cause.
Can a bike appear different in the morning and evening?
I first encountered Tokyobike when their shop opened in New York opposite The New Museum. I was struck by the deeply strong branding of the shop, the considered curation of the accessories and the quality of the bikes themselves. A few months after the shop opened, Billy Melnyk, the CEO of Soto (pg??), asked me to go to a meeting at their PR firm as Soto was going to sponsor an opening at Tokyobike and wanted me to give some direction on how the brand should present itself. I was quite delighted there to run into an old colleague whom I greatly admired, Dean Di Simone. I was even more delighted to know that it was he, along with his wife Juliana, who owned Tokyobike in America and was responsible for the shop. After this meeting, Dean and I began a friendship that resulted in OTHR as well as this project for Tokyobike.
I was asked by Dean and Julianna to create a limited edition bike for display in their window during NYCxDesign, the official design week in New York. The brief was quite open but the parameters were quite narrow. I could only use paint as custom parts would not be practical given time and fiscal restraints. It is in my nature to love a challenging brief and I love nothing more than working with people I admire, so I set to work on a concept.
I began by thinking about how one uses a bike in NYC. A bike here is less a weekend recreational vehicle and more of a mode of daily transport back and forth to work. The thought occurred to me that you watch one ride a bike in one direction in the morning and watched them ride back in the opposite direction in the evening. Wouldn’t it be interesting if those appeared to be two different bikes? Fresh in the AM and showing the wear of the day in the PM? A simple sketch was presented to them of a bike painted two colors split straight down the middle. A few weeks later, the bike arrived in the shop.
Can contemporary design preserve tradition?
Joe Doucet x Nude
When the design legend Gaye Cevekil, founder of Gaia & Gino, asked me to design a collection for the Turkish glassware brand Nude, where she had recently taken the role of Creative Director, I lept at the opportunity. I had known Gaye for many years and we had been looking for a project to work on together. The brief was quite open and there was a long list of typologies to choose from. In scanning the list, whisky decanter jumped out at me. It was a dusty category which brought to mind mustachioed gentlemen pouring drinks in a Victorian parlor. It seems the perfect item to be rethought for a modern home.
I began the project with a bit of research into the history of decanters. There was a time when it would have been considered quite gauche to serve a whisky or gin to a guest from a bottle with a label on it. Fast forward to the early 21st Century, and the opposite is true. One is almost defined by the brands they associate with, and the label on the bottle you serve to a guest says more about you that the glassware it comes in. Could we change that?
Having recently been indoctrinated in the appreciation of single malt scotch, I decided that rather than focusing on a general decanter, I would work on one specifically designed to house Scotch and pay tribute to the spiritual home of whisky, Scotland. There was born Alba, the Gaelic word for Scotland. Nude is known for its exquisite and detailed glass cutting techniques, and I chose to employ this to create a deconstructed Tartan pattern on the bottom of the decanters and glass, both reflecting tradition and giving a literal contemporary edge to the collection.
The defining feature, however, was the stopper. I wanted something that both lent an edge to the piece and made it immediately recognizable. After running through an assortment of materials, we settled on marble, both for its nobility and its unusual association as a stopper for a decanter. The material choice in itself didn’t seem strong enough to set this apart from historical decanters. It needed something more. The idea then came that if the stopper wasn’t vertical, it would truly look unique. We further tied this into the concept, by suggesting the owner always lean the stopper in the direction of Scotland no matter where they were in the world.
Joe was honored to be featured on the new advertising campaign for Theory's new Neoteric textile. More information to be found at Theory.com
Can a piece of jewelry be as interesting off the wearer as it is on?
Jewelry is a category of design which I have spent little time working on for the simple reason that there are a great number of talented people working in the field, and I am not sure what I could contribute to it. In fact, I began this project with no intention of designing a piece of jewelry at all. I was instead focused on creating a jewelry box to house the pieces one takes off when not wearing. When investigating of how best to approach this project, I began by thinking of what these adornments become when in their resting state. When one takes off a necklace or bracelet, it seems to loose some of its magic. It becomes a dormant object, lacking its original intent and laying dormant for the wearer to bring it to life again by putting it on. Most jewelry spends the vast majority of its life in this state. It seemed to me a bit sad, and my attention focused away from a jewelry box and to instead focus on creating a piece as interesting and beautiful off the wearer as on them.
I began with experimenting with a way to fold forms to create an elegant object which could reveal itself as a piece of jewelry once a person was ready to wear it. After countless tries I was ready to put the project aside as something that I couldn’t crack, somewhat hopeful that the idea would present itself at some later time. It didn’t take long. A day or so later I found myself in a toy store with my son trying to interest him in something a bit more engaging than Thomas trains I made my way over to the educational toy section. It was there I came across a puzzle which inspired Hidden. It was a plastic toy containing 16 facets, that when put together could create a diamond like shape. It was the spark I needed, I bought a Thomas train and we went home and I grabbed my sketchbook. A short while later Hidden emerged. In my opinion as interesting off as it is on. I never got around to designing that jewelry box.
Can a meeting place become a metaphor?
Dupont, who make the extremely versatile and interior designer go-to material Corian, decided that as part of their sponsorship of the inaugural Design Pavilion in the iconic Astor Place in NYC, they would like to commission an installation making use of the material. The theme of the event was “Blurring Boundaries” and was meant to celebrate the intersection of the different fields of design. They chose as their curator the legendary American designer, Harry Allen. They wanted a piece for the pavilion that would serve as the focus of the event and Harry was tasked in finding the right person and the right concept to pull it off.
When I received the call from Harry asking if I would be interested in creating a centerpiece anchoring the exhibit, I without hesitation said yes. I’ve long been interested in working with Corian as it allows for seamless forms to be realized in a way impossible for most materials and with Harry at the creative helm, I knew we would have the ability to do something very interesting.
The brief quickly coalesced into a central bar where visitors, exhibitors and journalists alike could work, discuss events of the day and ultimately unwind over a cocktail in the evening, so ultimately the design should reflect the theme of Blurring Boundaries. I chose for the overall form an intersection of two angles that would serve to welcome one in from the outside and gently suggest one stray from the inside. Each angle coming from divergent directions as a metaphor for different points of view and experiences, but that converged into something interesting, complex and beautiful in the center. The result was a twisting form where the two angles met, which seemed physically impossible, and in fact could only really be achieved using the Corian material. I felt the brief was dutifully and artistically resolved.
Can we create the first sake brand asked for by name in the west?
Soto kicked off when I was approached by Billy Melnyk, who wanted to create the first brand of Sake that one could order by name in the west. Billy and I had worked together on a few projects when he was at the Bacardi Group based in Miami. We got along very well and shared an ambition to do great work, so when he proposed introducing an exquisite sake to an American audience, I immediately agreed to come on board.
While Billy and his team were hard at work recruiting the top sake brewer in Japan, we were hard at work on the brand and packaging. After reviewing hundreds of names, we all settled on Soto, meaning “outside” in Japanese. It seemed appropriate for countless reasons, but most pointedly as we were bringing the very best of this spirit at the heart of Japanese culture to the west in a way never done before. The idea of a hole through the bottle was a direct offshoot of the name allowing one to view the “outside” world through the sake. We chose to keep a great deal of Japanese characters on the bottle to reflect the fact that this wasn’t a western sake, but a super premium sake brewed in the traditional methods in the historic Niigata region.
One hurdle we faced was that our bottling facility in Kyoto wasn’t equipped to insert corks in the sake, only the screw cap found on most sake bottles. This was an issue as most westerners see a screw cap as “cheap” when our product was one of the finest Junmai Daigingo (the highest level of sake) ever produced under $50. The solution was to cover the cap. Billy suggested Japanese denim, which was a stroke of genius. We the chose to train our sales teams to teach a ritual when taking off the cloth topper. First to use it to wipe down the inevitable condensation that would appear on the chilled bottle, and then to set the cloth on the table and present the bottle on top of it. This bit of sleight-of-hand completely distracted from the screw cap, and turned a potential liability into a powerful strength.
In addition to winning numerous awards for the packaging design, we are most proud of the fact that the sake itself has received even more accolades, including “Best in Show” at the Beverly Hills Mico Liquor Competition out of every category, and has received a rating of 92 whereas the “World’s Best Tasting Vodka” has a rating of 87.
Can a design show that 3D Printing has come of age?
When starting OTHR, I knew one of the biggest hurdles we would face would be convincing other designers that 3D Printing could produce useful, aesthetic and unique objects ready for consumers to purchase and use. Most designers are quite familiar with 3D Printing but use it only for prototyping to check form and fit prior to traditional manufacturing. Most were unfamiliar with the fact that one could print in bronze, steel and porcelain. I knew I needed some physical examples to put in front of them to instill confidence that the technology just needed good design to make it a relevant form of manufacture. I set off to design something compelling as a sales tool to get them excited.
I wanted to choose a typology that was something that most adults have in their home at some point in their life but had never really been considered by a designer before. Rummaging through my home I came across a cake set. I was certain my wife and I had received it as a wedding present, but it was certainly something that we wouldn’t have bought for ourselves. It reeked of the 19th century and was something I was certain that it was a typology that most designers wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. It seemed the perfect object for my purposes.
I wanted to function to be perfectly obvious but somehow fresh and unique. I also wanted precision to highlight what 3D Printed Bronze, which most designers at the time had not yet seen could be. I worked mostly on the relationship between the cake server and the knife and settled on an asymmetrical yet harmonious relationship between the two. I ordered a few sets from our 3D Printing manufacturer and took them around with me when recruiting the first batch of designers for OTHR.
I was delighted and surprised that this elite group of the most talented designer in the world were not only impressed with the quality of the printing, but were effusive in praising the design of the object itself. So much so that we decided to launch it for sale in the innagural collection of OTHR. It did quite well for us. The Cru Cake Set was also chosen by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum as the first 3D Printed functional object in its permanent collection.
Can a kitchen anticipate your needs?
This project for Whirlpool is demonstrative of our ability to utilize design as a tool for innovation. The brief was simple; show is something interesting. The approach was to create an innovations program based around a thesis. The first being "today, we are forced to live with our appliances. Tomorrow our appliances will be forced to live with us."
The benefit to Whirlpool is that they received a model kitchen which acts as a "concept car", to visibly prove they are an innovation based company. Additionally, several product aspects can be incorporated into their existing product lines, such as, the "cooking door" which eliminates the need to keep opening the refrigerator door when cooking.
Can an electric car be electrifying?
I believe by now it should be evident that the ubiquity of self driving cars is unavoidable. And likely for the better. Why would you trust a human with such a potentially dangerous object such as a ton of steel moving at 65 miles per hour when we are so easily distracted by notifications popping up on our devices? I also think it is self evident that it will become illegal for humans to drive on a great number of roads in the future. I have trouble with this notion, as i love to drive and always have, but I see the logic in it and assume lawmakers at some point will as well.
With that thought in mind I decided to design the last driving car. A somewhat irrational, highly impractical, lust inducing driving machine. The last of its kind. I present her to you the last car one might be permitted to actually drive. Airbags are optional.
How much can be taken away without losing the point?
Areaware x Joe Doucet
A good number of projects begin as internal experiments in the studio. Minim is one such project. Invited to a friend’s poker night, it occurred to me while looking a the cards that there was a great deal of historical baggage and useless information in a contemporary deck of playing cards such as the repetition of the number and suit on the face of the cards. For example: How many times do you count the ten spades laid out in the center of the card vs just reading the number 10 and the spade in the upper left hand corner? Why do cards have an orientation at all when all of the pertinent information is contained in a small portion of the cards visible when fanned out? Then there’s the Medieval reference to a royal hierarchy. It seemed to me that playing cards were a great vehicle for an experiment in reduction.
The placement of information was the first thing to address. When one is playing a game of cards, the only place that one really needs to look to understand what they have in their hands is in the upper left hand side. This is really all that is exposed when their cards are fanned out, so I placed my focus on putting information only there. Keeping that in mind, all other elements are merely decorative, such as an illustration of a king with a sword through his head, so I naturally eschewed that. To differentiate between suits was the next and most challenging part of the experiment. It was clear that one needed color as an aid to distinguish between, say, spades and hearts, so I saw no reason to move away from the traditional black and red. The shapes themselves took, many iterations from keeping with tradition to a completely new form. Ultimately I decided on a compromise, Clear reference to the traditional hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades but with a view to reduction. The last hurdle was to design the backs of the cards. The purpose of having a back is so that one doesn’t accidentally show his cards to an opponent. All that was necessary to do this was to place a diagonal line running from upper left to lower right, regardless of how you hold the cards, indicating that indeed you are showing the back of the cards.
The result of these thoughts is Minim. A contemporary take on an age-old playing medium. The cards were picked up and produced by the American design brand Areaware after being shown to the owner Noel Wiggins, who thought they would resonate with their audience of design-minded customers. His instincts proved correct as the cards continue to be a best seller for the brand and are found in many design shops around the world.
Can charity and technology go hand in hand?
A Tie Collection Designed Specifically for 3D-knitting by Joe Doucet for Thursday Finest.
This project first came about when I was asked to give a talk at a joint venture between the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design. I had made my way to the bar for a much needed glass of wine when I was intercepted by Michael and Veronica, the founders of Thursday Finest, a brand using 3D knitting to disrupt the traditional structure of men’s accessories. I was intrigued by their ambition and enthusiasm for a technology that could eliminate waste, as I have long thought the same. I took their card and promised a visit to their manufacturing facility in Bushwick in Brooklyn.
A few days later I found myself standing in their small shop in from of a very impressive 3D knitting machine that they had recently acquired in Japan. I determined then and there that we would do a project together, although I had no idea what it would be. We shook hands and I left to the airport for a work trip to Europe.
While in the car ride to JFK, I began thinking about something Michael had explained to me. If one were to order a 3D knitted tie, it could be completely customized to whatever that consumer wanted. They would enter in their height and the type of knot they would tie, choose their colors and pattern, and a tie would come out of the machine exactly to their fit requirements. Bespoke technology. I thought about the tie and the image of a tie bar, the accessory which holds the tie in place, came to mind. The tie bar should always be placed between the second and third button of a shirt. If a design were to be placed in the same position using their 3D Knitting machine and input parameters from the user, the design would always appear in the proper place, between the second and third buttons. A design only possible using their machines. The idea was born.
As I settled in my seat in the airplane, I called them up and explained the design concept to them. When I landed in Paris, I had a photo waiting for me of a finished prototype. Technology! A few color choices later and we had a collection ready to go in under a week. A design only possible using 3D Knitting. I chose to donate my royalties from sales to Career Gear, a charity which provides business appropriate clothing to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
Can an annoyance become inspiration?
Joe Doucet x Horm
Every Thanksgiving we host quite a large dinner at our country home upstate for an extended group of friends and family. One of the rituals involves going into the basement to bring out the extension for the table in order to accommodate the large group. Not only is this process irksome, but I have never encountered an extending table which I would personally consider designed to be quite easily extended. I put this problem on my long list of problems I would like to one day design and there it rested for a number of years.
I had the good fortune to meet Renato, the owner of the Italian design company Horm at a dinner in Milan. We spoke for some time and began talking about some problems we were both working on. He mentioned that he had been thinking of doing a well designed extending table but had yet seen a design that both worked well and would appeal to a contemporary design lover. I said for some time I had been thinking of the same problem and we decided there that we would work on it together as a collaboration. When I headed back to New York a few days later, the work began.
I decided the problem to focus on was the process of extending the table itself. To make an incredibly smooth system which on person could easily handle without the need for help. I also say an opportunity to house not only the extension piece within the table, but also to allow storage for other items such as the longer tablecloths which are only used with the table is at full extension.
Horm is know for their technical brilliance, and within a short time the engineering on the designs I submitted were complete. The table worked perfectly and was quite subtle in its elegance. There was only one problem. The design was too subtle and the innovations would be easily overlooked. We chose and interesting detail to the legs to be the answer. A slight turn which made the table feel light as if it could move on its own. As if it could dance a tango. The name stuck.
Can office furniture instantly adapt to changing needs?
Flexible Work System for Skandiform
While in Stockholm attending their annual design week, I had the pleasure of meeting Niklas Dahlman, the Product Development Manager of Skandiform, the Swedish furniture brand. We discussed the possibility of collaborating together on a project and I brought up a few sketches. One that struck a chord was an early idea on a seating system for open offices that allowed the users to quickly configure it to different purposes. We agreed that this would be the project we developed together.
We quickly drew up a list of need-states that would be useful to the modern working environment. A semi-private area, work-surfaces, lighting and power ports seemed a natural. The larger question was, how to seamlessly incorporate them into a seating system while allowing them to be reconfigured with minimal effort. After sketching out many possible solutions, everything felt like it was overly complicated. Feeling frustrated, I decided to put the project to the side for a few weeks hoping for a breakthrough to present itself when the task wasn’t in front of mind. After some time had passed and I viewed the project with fresh eyes the answer seemed obvious. We would insert tables, lighting and power supply directly into the legs, allowing one to switch positions on the fly.
Although we felt this was a novel and expedient approach, it wasn’t the true innovation in the product. The simplified construction method we employed to make the leg system accommodate the different options meant that the entire piece could be assembled in the warehouse just prior to shipping to the customer. Typically pieces of this scale are assembled in the factory, then shipped to the warehouse taking a great deal of volume and therefore greatly increasing the environmental footprint. This simple innovation led to one of the most environmentally friendly office systems to date. This is the feature of the project which gives me the most pleasure and satisfaction.
Can an artifact of a disaster become art?
Shortly after New york had been hit by a devastating hurricane, Jean Lin and Jennifer Krichels decided that they should mobilize the design world to create objects to auction off to charity. I immediately agreed to do what I could in an effort to help.
Like most people in the path of Sandy, the first thing I did was to wait on line to stock up on water at by local bodega as were were awaiting the storm to make landfall. Supplies in hand, I made it back to my flat to wait out the worst of it like every other New Yorker. What happened next was a bit unimaginable. The entire area of downtown was hit so hard that we were literally underwater for a week. Many people were evacuated and living in shelters, and the lucky were only without power for several days.
The irony that an excess of water was the cause of the destruction was not lost on me, and led to my project. Taking the empty water bottles I stocked up on, I used them as molds to cast solid acrylic forms ranging from clear to opaque black, symbolizing the deepening crisis water caused us over time.
Can not choosing between two options become a clear choice?
I was asked by Kiel Mead, a friend and the founder of the American Design Club, to contribute an original design for a candlestick to be debuted in an exhibit titled “Curse the Darkness,” alongside friends and colleges in the American design scene. I love these sort of challenges as they can be a welcome distraction from some of the more complex projects going on in the studio.
The conceptual phase was quite succinct. The first thought to occur was to determine if I should work on a taper candle or a tealight holder. Having trouble deciding, the thought presented itself that I didn’t have to choose at all. I would design a candle holder that worked with both. I wanted the concept to be obvious, so rather that just providing two-sided holes in which to insert the candles, I decided to make the holder with two sides, one for each candle type. From there the work began. How to elegantly incorporate the two different functions into one body consumed more than a few pages in my sketchbook.
The result was Janus, named in reference to the Roman god with two faces, which seemed to me a natural moniker for the work. The form was a study in simplicity and understatement where its dual usage is meant to be both clear and prominent. Janus remains one of my favorite little projects.
Solid Steel Plated and Polished in Copper, Silver and Black Nickel
Tall 2.5”ø x 5” Med 2.5”ø x 3.5” Small 2.5”ø x 2”
Photo: Kendall Mills
Can a mirror change your perspective?
Joe Doucet x Dune
Richard Shemtov, the founder of Dune, approached me about doing a collaboration for his brand. Having been a fan of both Richard, who had recently designed the seating in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his brand Dune for years, I grabbed my sketchbook and headed to his SoHo showroom for a meeting. Sitting down over an espresso, I asked him if he had anything in mind. He responded that he thought I should design a mirror. The Fathom Mirror had met with a good deal of press and I had recently been asked by a few companies to do a version of it for production. Not interested in turning what I thought was a strong statement into a watered down concept for sales, I politely declined those offers. When I asked Richard if he was suggesting doing the Fathom mirror, he had no idea what that was or that I had in fact designed another mirror. Regardless, he suggested we do something completely different.
I began by thinking that I wanted to do something as far away from Fathom as I could make it. I started thinking deeply about the function of a mirror. A mirror is there to show you how you appear from the perspective of someone looking directly at you. Following a contrary line of thought, I began to think what if a mirror didn’t show the viewer from one perspective, but showed their environment from multiple perspectives? In fact, if one were standing in front of the mirror, they wouldn’t see themselves at all, but reveal a new way of seeing the world around them.
I grabbed some reflective paper and starting cutting out shapes. After countless versions, I landed on a few forms I felt captured the concept and would make an intriguing piece when placed on a wall. I then laser-cut some small models from mirrored acrylic, taped them together and headed to meet Richard at Dune. He seemed to like it and let me know they would run some numbers, do some tests and get back to me.
About six months later, I received an invitation to the opening of the new Dune showroom featuring the launch of the Loverboy mirrors by Joe Doucet. With great anticipation and a bit of trepidation, I headed to the opening. I have seldom before been so pleasantly surprised. The mirrors were impressive in scale and exquisitely crafted, and standing in front of them, I saw the environment in a completely new perspective.
Loverboy Rectangular: 44.5"w X 5.25"d X 35.75”h
Loverboy Hex: 50"w X 5.25"d X 43.25"h
Photgraphy: Albert Vecerka
Can design keep climate change top of mind?
With each passing year, the adverse effects of climate change become ever more pronounced. Hurricanes appear to grow each season in both frequency and intensity. What could be of more importance for a designer than to use their skills to remind us of the impact our relentless progress as a species has wrought on our environment? It is in our power and it is our responsibility to address and correct our actions.This project aims to do just that.
When I was commissioned by Jean Lin and Jennifer Krichels to create a unique object to for the second auction in aid of victims of Hurricane Sandy after more than a year had past, my thoughts turned to how quickly we forget about events of such devastation. Fathom was created as a beautiful daily reminder of both how fragile our existence is as individuals and as an entire species. When you pass in front of the object, the top part of your body is reflected in a natural way, but the bottom half of the mirror creates a deep refraction and convincingly makes you appear as if you are neck-deep in water. This is achieved by a simple optical trick. The silver top half of the mirror is completely ordinary in its arrangement, however, the bottom half is a blue-tinted mirror mounted at a slight angle to the side and top, mimicking the effect of refraction one would experience from being submerged in water. A reminder of where we can be in a few years if our impact on our little blue planet is not treated like it is our only home.
Can warmth be made physical?
Joe Doucet x Nude
The success of the Alba Decanter led to a continuing relationship with the Turkish glass studio Nude. When asked to design a Whisky decanter for them, I in fact submitted two concepts. Alba and Camp. To my delight, they chose to produce
both. For the second collection, I decided I wanted to create something a bit less formal and one that would fit into a very contemporary setting. I also wanted to do pressed glass as opposed to hand blown as this would reduce the price-point by at least half, making it accessible to a larger group of people.
When concepting what this collection would look like, I began by thinking of a more casual scenario where one drinks whisky. The image of a campfire came to mind with people gathered around passing a flask back and forth to fortify them from the cold. The idea took hold and I decided that I would transport that feeling into a home environment.
For the form of the decanter itself I chose to reference the flask. A wide body, that became thinner on the sides would give a strong presence when situated at one’s home bar. The only challenge with that form it that it can easily become unstable and fall if bumped. I needed something to give some stability to the decanter so I went back to the concept for inspiration. If one were to draw a quick sketch of a campfire, it would likely look like tow logs crossed over and flames coming off of them. The two logs, in this case, became the source of the copper base, which when the glass id cut perfectly to fit, provides a very strong foundation not allowing the decanter to tip. I continued the theme to the glasses in the collection and we ended up with what became a very successful take on a modern whisky decanter.
Can memory be made manifest?
Joe Doucet x Coca Cola
When asked to contribute a design celebrating 100 years of the Coke bottle, I was delighted as my earliest relationship with this icon proved pivotal to my future successes. I grew up in what one would call a working-class environment and pocket money was challenging to come by as a child. One of my most coveted indulgences was an ice-cold bottle of Coke, which could be purchased at Luke’s Store in Fordoche, Louisiana for exactly 25¢, including a 5¢ deposit on the glass bottle. At around 7 years old, I learned that if I were to collect just 5 empty bottles and return them, Mr. Luke would hand me a quarter which I could put into the machine and retrieve a new bottle of Coke. I delighted in the fact that I would immediately be 1/5 of the way to purchasing my next bottle once I factored in the nickel the bottle was worth (after I had drained it before even leaving the store). I can vividly recall the weight of the empty bottles I collected, straining against aching arms, and the release I felt handing them over, knowing the reward waiting for my efforts.
The alchemy of turning empty glass into a delightful refreshment using only hard work as my currency was a lesson that has stuck with me and became the starting point for my celebration of the iconic Coke bottle. I chose a block of glass with an idealized version of the form that only becomes truly visible when filled with Coke. A simple, but potent reminder of the lessons of my first entrepreneurial endeavor.
Can self-assembled flat-pack furniture become an heirloom?
Chad Phillips, the then director of the Shop at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, asked me to contribute an original product for sale in the Museum Shop to coincide with the New York design week, NYCxDesign. It so happened that I had been working on a concept in the studio which I thought might work well. I have long been fascinated by the concept of self-assembled, flat-pack furniture and the idea of altering the perception of it from merely having been designed for its economy in the shipping process to make it cheaper (and therefore, disposable), to being perceived as something of lasting value and a modern heirloom. I decided I would develop this concept fully for the Shop.
I felt it was important to make certain there was minimal to no waste in the manufacturing process, so in developing early scale models using cardboard, I focused on how to achieve the maximum number of tables from a single sheet. After a fair amount of experimentation, I felt we had arrived at an optimal solution. The next challenge came in determining the optimum material for the tables. After considering myriad options, I settled on Carrera marble. It had the right properties in that it has a high perceived value to highlight the idea that flat packed doesn’t necessarily mean disposable, the proper weight to hold the construction together using only gravity and the ability to be cut from flat sheets using a powerful stream of water with minimal waste.
The final detail was how to join the table leg and top together without using glue or mechanical fasteners. The idea became clear: if I were to cut a void in the table top I could insert the legs into it. Rather that try and hide the joint, I should instead try and make it a defining design feature. The result was the “X” visible in the table top, locking together the base to the surface and also giving the name to the table, “Annex”, literally an X.
Photo: Kendall Mills
Can physics become a fetish?
Each year, Wallpaper* Magazine invites a select group of designers to create a project for their Handmade Exhibit in Milan. It always proves one of the highlights of the design world’s busiest and most important events. When the email came in inviting me to contribute a design, I was both excited and terrified. Excited to show along colleges whom are among the best designers in the world. Terrified as I had only a few weeks to come up with a concept, find a manufacturer to partner with, execute the design, photograph the results and have it delivered in Milan to be set up for the exhibit.
Typically, I like to start projects like this from a blank slate, but time was mot on my side. I rummaged through my sketchbooks to see what concepts I may have that could be made to suit the purpose of the exhibit. A few months prior, I had sketched out a concept for wine chillers, each with a shape based on the primary forms of the white wines they would help to keep cold. Research had shown that wine, like everything else, heats by three means; convection (the contact with air molecules), conduction (the contact with a surface) and radiation ( the contact with the temperature of the room). The wine chillers were designed to reduce all three. But still, the design itself was perhaps too simple. I chose to map the wind patterns of the major wine regions onto the surface of the wine chillers to make them appear more impactful. After all, I wanted them to stand out in a crowd of great work
Concept firmly in hand, I next was finding someone to produce them in such a short time frame. A few months prior, I had been introduced to Alex Rasmussen from Neal Feay, a company in Santa Barbara, California, who was pushing the boundaries in what could be produced in metals. I made a quick call to Alex, emailed some sketches and he was in. I booked a flight to the West Coast and when I arrived a few days later, prototypes were waiting for me. The last question was around what colors we should use. Being made from Aluminum, the obvious choice was to color them using a process called anodization, where chemicals and colorant are adhered to the surface of the material using an electric current. A bit of experimentation led us to beautiful hues of the grapes used in producing the different varietals of the wine. Thanks to the brilliant team there, within a few days we had something truly outstanding to send on to Milan.
Can a container serve multiple functions?
I was approached by Claesson Koivisto Rune, the preeminent Swedish design studio to contribute a design to Smaller Objects, a retail brand they established in 2015. Being huge fans of both their work and of the new model of empowering designers to have more of an ownership role in the success of the brand, I of course said yes. Their roster of designers was small, but of the very best talent in the world. I will admit I was a little intimidated, but promised to deliver something simple, functional and understated as there are defining characteristics of their brand. Creating something both simple and having a strong and unique idea is one of the most difficult challenges for a designer. It is much easier to create something that is a statement piece, but I resigned myself not to fall into the temptation of a quick “win”, but rather meet their brief head on.
We designed several versions of small containers in the studio, and although there were many that I considered beautiful, there was something lacking. Just doing an aesthetically pleasing object is not something that gives me satisfaction. I always strive for an idea first and let the aesthetic form make that idea clear. However, with this project I was afraid that no ideas that were suitable were coming and the deadline was quickly approaching and I would have to give them a “beautiful” container.
A day before the design was due, the idea struck me that a container had a top and bottom. What if they could both be used together and independently of each other? A quick sketch, some renders and an email later, we all agreed this would be the product we would launch, which a few weeks later we did.
Can a mobile game make you mobile?
The idea for Amu came to me one morning while taking the subway to an early meeting. I love the New York city subway. It is a great microcosm of human diversity as you will find people from every strata of life crowded together making their daily commute, and the perfect environment to observe human behavior. On this particular train ride I was in a train car that was only about half full, a rather unusual occurrence in the morning. When glancing around, I was struck by the fact that every single person, every one was staring down at the phone. A woman in her late sixties on my left was crushing candy and a teenage boy on my right was saving the world from zombies. All sitting stopped over, the only movement were twitching thumbs and darting eyes. Their entire world around them shrunk to a screen a few inches across.
I began to think that it would be interesting if someone created a game that not only takes place on your screen, but also takes place in the world around you. One that doesn’t force a hunched over posture, but makes you stand up and move about in order to play. I became so engaged with the idea that I missed my stop by a few stations. Getting off the train and walking to dozen or so blocks, I was lost in thinking about what such a game would look like and what the play would be. I thought it should be an entertaining test of agility, coordination and spatial awareness. A simple game of trying to catch a target that moved in a full 360º in all directions that moved faster and faster as playing progressed. Most importantly it required you to stand up in order to play. The game should be a portal between the physical and digital worlds. I was so excited by the idea that I cancelled my meeting, went strait to the studio and laid out the game in a document (pg??) and began thinking about how I would make this a reality.
I had recently worked on a project with Sirqul, a developer of mobile aps in San Francisco. I sent them the concept via email and Richard, my business partner and I called them up to see if this game were possible to make given existing technology and if they would be interested in partnering with us to work on it. They said yes to both and that their team was as excited as we were to make this a reality. We had a working prototype in a few days. The team at Sirqul had noticed that when their developers were testing play that they were so locked in concentration and freneticaly moving around that it would be fun to turn on the front facing camera during game play and record their faces. A brilliant little surprise they receive at the end of play. Another few rounds of prototyping and we launched a fully function version on the Apple App Store within weeks. Not a bad outcome from an early morning train ride.
AMU is available for download for iOS from Apple's App Store by clicking here.
Development by Sirqul
Can tradition be contemporary?
The “The World’s First” blended scotch whisky, Dewar’s, was looking for an agency to give the brand a refined and premium update that translated its distinctive heritage in a way that would appeal to modern consumers. Playing on the brand’s “original” scotch whisky status, we arrived at a strategy for a look and feel that emphasised “Authenticity”. We then researched Dewar’s archival history to create a branding icon from the founder’s signature, a bottle shape that elegantly expressed its earlier incarnations and a series of branding details across both the primary and secondary packaging that all supported its prestige heritage and authenticity claims.
Can drinking bottled water be healthy for the planet?
Packaging Design with the lowest carbon footprint in the industry, while being PET and BPA free.
Flow Water is nurtured for thousands of years in a deep, artesian aquifer where it naturally collects essential minerals, electrolytes and analkaline pH. No industrial process or additives necessary, just pure, holistic H2O straight from the earth.
Our package is as positive as our water. It's made from renewable materials that are BET and BPA free. Cartons are transportation efficient. That means 3 times as much Flow can be shipped in 1 truck compared to water packed in plastic bottles. Fewer trucks = less fuel = less green house gas emissions, reducing our carbon footprint and yours.
Can design be a teaching tool for your designers?
A friend of mine, Matthew Hemlich, asked me to coffee one day. He told me he was launch a new design brand called Hatch Hub, where young designers could submit designs and people visiting the site could vote on which ideas should be made. The concepts with the most votes he would then put into production. I told him it sounded like an interesting idea and asked how I could be of help. He said that if I were to design something and launch it on the platform, that it would lend credibility. His enthusiasm was infectious and after asking a few questions I let him know that he had my support and I would create something for him. It is always nice to work with people you like and I wanted to do what I could to help him succeed. I told him he would hear from me in a few days.
I first began by thinking of the young designers who would be submitting ideas to the platform. Could what I designed be useful to them by way of example? I reflected back on when I was starting out. I had a tendency to over complicate things. Grand ambitions to create a masterpiece rather than focusing on making simple things more interesting and engaging to the user. A trend I see over and over again in the portfolios sent to me daily from people right out of school looking for a job. I decided I would focus on the most boring and mundane item I could think of and thoughtfully design it for maximum impact and ease of manufacture. The idea of a cheese plate came to mind and I could think of nothing which sounded more pedestrian than that. Satisfied the typology was perfectly boring, I picked up my sketchbook and went to work.
I started with the cheese knife. I wanted it stamped from a sheet material and then and edge ground on one side. A very simple form of manufacture which doesn’t require complex and expensive molds to produce. For the plate, a wooded base with a beveled edge allowing one to easily pick it up from a table, again simple and inexpensive to produce. The ideas behind these choices were to show that your chance of having an item produced is greatly multiplied if you can create something a manufacturer falls in love with, but that doesn’t require a great deal of money to produce. I shared the design with Matthew and he agreed it was a perfect solution. It launched a few months later when Hatch Hub went live, along with a video explain the choices I had made.
Could objects be intuitive?
This elegant line of products and home appliances was created to reinforce the notion that taking a considered and strategic approach to product design within any brand portfolio should lead to products that are recognizable to consumers through their design ethos and not simply through the application of a logo onto the products.
The "circle" element which lights up to indicate usage on each product is prominent and distinctive while also serving a function and purpose in the products usage by the consumer. Pieces from the series were featured in the Dieter Rams retrospective at the London Design Museum (2010 - 2011) in recognition of Rams' influence with today's great designers.
Could a feminine brand become masculine?
Artistry asked us to develop their first skincare line for men sold exclusively in Asia with a minimal capital investment, as it was a yet unproven market for them. The result was the most successful product line launch in their history, a fact we are especially proud of.
Can a seat automatically adjust to the sitter?
Sling chair came about in quite an unusual way. A friend of mine, Paul, was setting up a small, maker shop in Williamsburg Brooklyn. In an effort to help him promote his capabilities, we put together a little exhibit during design week in New York, tapping some of my friends. Being a tightly knit community, we had quite a few takers and I had to come up with something myself..
I wanted to do something that had some presence, but that would not be too taxing on Paul. I thought of the idea of a chair. Not too large an object, easy to understand and typically something design journalists are interested in. The problem is, design a chair well is incredibly difficult. It seems every good idea has been done and all that is left is for designers to style theirs differently. A prospect that didn’t appeal to me, nor suit my sensibility or approach to design projects. Nonetheless, I decided a chair would be the thing needed to showcase his skills.
Thinking the aesthetics were the easiest issue to solve, I spent most of my thinking on how to make a simple chair more comfortable for a wide variety of sitters. The problem with most chairs is not in the seat but how they feel on the back when giving support. If the backrest hits too high on someone on the smaller side it can be quite uncomfortable and equally so if it hits a taller person too low, even though it might be ideal for an average person. I thought this fact was where I would spend my time. Could a chair automatically adjust to most people? The answer was quite straightforward. A flexible material which caught the sitter as they began to lean back would naturally settle in the place of most support, regardless of their stature. It needed to have just the right balance between flexibility and support, and after a few experiments, silicone tubing proved to be the ideal solution. The shape of the tube led to the form of the legs and therefore the seat being a perfect circle as well. All in all, I felt the result was well worth the effort and is to this day, my favorite chair to sit and read in.
Can being obsessive lead to obsession?
Hand woven New Zealand wool rug by Odabashian.
I was introduced to Jaime Odabashian at a design event in New York and we immediately hit it off. I was impressed that his family had been making rugs in the traditional hand knotted fashion for generations and were focused on keeping the traditional techniques alive. He explained how they worked with a small village in India that used the ancient techniques that go back millennia, and the pride that Odabashian kept not only these techniques alive, but generations of people in the village employed and prosperous. We agreed that we would work together on a design that would appeal to a contemporary audience, but using these techniques and traditional materials.
I began by trying to understand how exactly the process worked. Jaime share some videos he took of the works doing the hand knots. Essentially he explained that the basic layout is a very small 5mm grid whereby a color of yarn is applied by hand to each cell in the grid, tried and then hand cut. A grid, I thought– a grid which lays on the floor. This is an interesting place to start.
Grids bring our in me my obsessive design to align things to them. If I find myself eating on a table with a checked tablecloth, my fork must be placed in this line and my wine glass in another. Moving them slightly causes no mild irritation. A large rug on the floor would likely have a similar effect. If I were to place an object, or myself on it I would have to obsessively align to it. I decided I would design a grid with multiple angles, to make aligning objects to it less rigid and a bit more playful. Strong contrasting lines on a neutral background seemed to bring the design to life. Happy with the result, the design went off to India and 10,000 hand knots later, we received the first rug. The effect was exactly what we were after. I have one in my home, and I am constantly moving the table which sits on it a few millimeters so that it perfectly aligns.
Can an iconic brand create an icon?
The brand team at Artistry tasked the studio with overhauling their entire color cosmetic and skincare packaging lines to inject new life into the brand, elevate its positioning in the minds of consumers and allow it to compete with the premium cosmetic and skincare brands found in high-end department stores and pharmacies.
Can storage be a place to reflect on what is stored?
This project came about in an atypical way. We were asked by a non profit We Are Famillia to do a collaboration with the venerated design house Frtiz Hansen to create an object to house artwork that would be auctioned off for charity. There were really no parameters except for the fact that the project must somehow contain the artwork and we were free to use any Fritz Hansen product as part of the design. A rather strange brief but I felt that something interesting always comes when you take on projects that are out of the ordinary so I agreed to participate.
The project began by rummaging through a pile of objects from Fritz Hansen. I have long admired the PK8 designed by Poul Kjaerholm and when I came across one sitting in a corner of their showroom, I knew I had to incorporate it somehow in the design. I tucked the chair under my arm and set off for the studio to begin thinking about what I would like to do with the brief. I thought that in a worse-case scenario, I at least had the chair.
I started thinking of the known variables. I knew the artwork that would go inside the piece was small and could and should be held in the hand to peruse on and admire. The idea came that a place to sit and reflect on the art would be a nice addition, afterall I had the chair already. The thought occurred to me that adding in a light would be a welcomed addition to a seat and allow the user a greater ability to appreciate the art. With the components of storage, seat and light in hand, the piece came together clearly in my mind. A few sketches later I was convinced of the solution. I ran off to a cabinet maker I have used for a few prototypes and a week later the piece was ready. I hope that the person who the auction still takes a moment now and then to sit and reflection both the artwork and their charitable contribution.
Can a new textile for infants give more than warmth?
Learning that one in five babies in the USA is born into poverty, Joe Doucet x Partners teamed with American textile giant 1888 Mills to create bundl, a beautiful infant necessities kit that has giving at the heart of its business model. We not only designed the branding, the multifunctional kit and all its contents, but we also consulted on the exclusive bundl™Tencel® fabric, developed the business model, brought in the Project Night Night charity and managed all the partnerships necessary to launch the brand. As business partners, we continue to be involved in all aspects of the business, the brand and its future development.
Can an enclosure define a space?
Robert DeNiro's Greenwich Hotel Group, working with the city of Shanghai, briefed us to create a spectacular installation that was to surround an entire, redeveloped block of building's in the city's historic Bund district. They wanted something special; something very disruptive and modern to distinguish this block from the other elegant, historic blocks that make up this special area of Shanghai.
We believe truly special should always be revealed slowly, teasing and building anticipation. Our concept was to wrap the entire block, allowing for entrances and traffic, in panels of Smartglass, which go from transparency to opacity panels when a low current of electricity goes through them.
The electric current was controlled by a computer program that created random patterns, colors, gradients of transparency and movement around the entire block, ensuring constantly changing glimpses of the buildings inside. Relatively low cost, the Smartglass "hoarding" brought a sense of modernity while allowing for seasonal or celebratory displays throughout the year.
Can a name redefine an identity?
One Madison Park is an iconic building with a bit of a troubled past. We were asked to create an identity both appealing and transformative. We chose the silhouette of the building for its resemblance to the address. The visuals ask you to imaging yourself reflected in the window looking out at you commanding view of Manhattan.
Can constraints give the answer?
Lexon x Joe Doucet
I met Rene, the owner of the French company Lexon at an event in Paris during the annual design week which coincides with Maison Object, the largest design event of the year there. I had admired the brand that he had built, the quality of the objects and him personally. I promised to write him to discuss some project we could work on together when I got back to New York. In our correspondence, he revealed that he had tried internally to design a series of clocks, radios and speakers in a cube format but wasn’t satisfied with the result. He asked if I would I be interested in having a go at it. I thought it sounded quite difficult to do a series of cubed shaped clocks and speakers that was different from what already existed and that I liked the challenge. I was in.
Working under such tight constraints can be frustrating. One has the tendency to make a bold statement and add complexity to avoid the end result from appearing pedestrian. Wary of this, I decided I would first focus on function. A cube is an incredibly efficient form. It takes up the minimal space in shipping and fits into just about any décor. The one drawback to the shape as it relates to a clock, is that the clock face is never at eye-level when viewing it. I thought there was something quite interesting in this, and after a few sketches, I determined that a simple “cut” in the bottom of the cube would allow it to slant up in a direction which would present the clock face in a more natural angle to the user. In addition, it would make for much better sound projection from a desktop speaker, as many of the soundwaves emanating from it would directly bounce off of the surface it was sitting on. I decided I would add some dimension to the objects in the form of an optical illusion to the speaker grills. Rather than cutting in a perfectly aligned grid to let the sound through, I would change the grid to appear as if it were protruding in a convex fashion. A subtle element but an impactful one. I then focused on the graphic interface of the clock, carefully presenting all of the necessary information as clearly as possible and making the time read at a great distance. The result was the Prism Series – an elegant family of functional objects doing the most with the least.
Can a table reflect the conservation of craft and the conservation of resources?
Like many New Yorkers, I spend many Sundays rambling through one of the many superb museums the city has on offer with my kids in tow. It is one of those activities that I find both stimulating as I find myself explaining everything they take the mildest interest in (even the things I don’t much understand) and distracting enough for them to not repeatedly ask for seom mobile device. One of my favorite stops is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the MET as anyone living here more than a few days refers to it. I love the diversity of its collection. In an hour we can cover mummies, Picassos and early timepieces with enough time left over for chocolate cake (them) and a glass of wine (me).
In our meanderings one afternoon, we stumbled on a lesser traveled exhibit with a complete 16th Century Villa rescued in the 19th Century from succumbing to the rising waters of Venice. The walls are completely covered in exquisite marquetry, birds, flowers, tables, columns and even the depiction of other rooms made from finely cut and joined veneers of different woods.
For centuries, master furniture makers prided themselves on the technique and artistic flourish allowed through marquetry using precious wood veneers. Somewhere along the way, veneer became regarded as the cheap alternative to solid wood and synonymous with superficial. There was nothing fake about the beauty of this room and the testament to countless years of practice which these master craftsmen had applied their trade.
I was awestruck in that moment chose to do a project which showcased the beauty of wood veneer . Hence was born Venerate. A small side table with joinery that would be virtually impossible to craft without wasting the better part of a solid block of wood – in this case maple – while highlighting the importance of conservation.
Can poetry and precision define an identity?
Crystal is a fascinating medium. To begin with, it really only exists because of light and has a miraculous effect when the true nature of light is revealed through the prismatic effects of crystal. In addition to creating the Visual Identity for Swarovski, we developed many different print materials for them, incorporating various printing techniques that subtly reflect and respond to light as they are viewed.
Could self assembly become a design feature?
From an environmental standpoint, the benefits of shipping an object with as small a footprint as possible are numerous. Unfortunately, when the product arrives it requires several pages of instructions for the eventual self assembly that is required in order to make it a serviceable item in one’s home. Don’t get me wrong, I have assembled many a Flüg and Fløg and find their engineering mesmerizing, but I recognize I am in the minority here. I decided that I would design a piece of furniture that would proudly displaying its construction as a design feature. A simple yet elegant dining table that takes the idea of self assembly and elevates it to a fetish.
I chose to make the connections of the legs to the table top from custom make solid brass “screws” which easily fasted into the legs with a few turns. In wanting to make the process self evident as well as self assembled, I recessed these massive fasteners into the top of the table, with the desired result of turning the table into a statement piece. To top it off, I wanted a piano-like finish to the table, further highlighting the concept that self assembly does not mean disposable. These choices led to quite an expensive table so I only had five made, which later sold in a gallery in Paris.
Can a nesting table be as interesting expanded as stacked?
My wife and I decided long ago that we would have few of my designs in our home. This might sound a little strange, like a cobbler refusing to wear shoes that he made, but neither of us want to reside in a living Doucet exhibit. So when my wife thought we needed a nesting side table, given the spatial constraints of New York City living, I said I would do some investigating and come back with some options we could choose from. After viewing both modern and contemporary options, I had one conclusion. Either they looked good when they were nested or they were attractive when separated. I could find nothing suitable in both instances. Sensing at least an intellectual exercise in this vacuum, I said I needed a bit more time. Instead of looking more, I got to work.
I decided that I wanted the tables to look interesting at any angle when apart, and even more so when stacked together. To me, the solution resided in allowing the “layers” of the tables to peek through in some way. I began by folding paper into cubes of increasing dimensions and the cutting away until what was underneath was revealed. When I thought the appropriate balance was reached, I separated them to find the most interesting optical effect had been achieved. With a few subtle refinements, for example, a bevel on the edges to keep the corners appearing too sharp on the larger and more skewed table, I felt the pieces were finally a suitable solution to the problem I had assigned them. Incidentally, the tables indeed reside in our living room.
Can stimulation be art?
As a child I would often pace back and forth, head down, lost in thought. Naturally, this would drive my mother crazy. When she asked me why I paced incessantly, the inevitable answer was that I was bored. Being a loving Mother she would try and alleviate my boredom by trying to stimulate me. She would give me drawing assignments, bring books well above my comprehensive level and always bring me any puzzle I she could find. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t like puzzles very much. Like many visual creatives, pattern recognition came quite easily to me and I would make quick work of a 25 piece Spiderman montage. When I would show here the finished puzzle, she would say great, you can take it apart and put it back together. This did nothing to alleviate my boredom.
That is until one day I discovered that if you turned all of the pieces upside down and tried to assemble a puzzle, it was orders of magnitude more difficult. There was no reference image to guide you, just very subtle details of how two shapes might correspond to each other that scratched that itch of complete immersion I needed. What took a few minutes now took hours, and the puzzles kept coming.
It was reflecting on this that I set out to create an incredibly challenging puzzle. One not for children, but for discerning adults. I decided to create a puzzle that one would be proud to display in their home and feel some sense of accomplishment every time they passed by it. I decided that I would create one with straight sides with no two angles equal to another except its corresponding piece and chose marble with a subtle grain, as I wanted any hints to be a bit opaque, as without any reference I found this particular puzzle to be nearly impossible to complete, as each piece has two sides with no hint which is which. Side note: When displaying Puzzled for the first time in an exhibit, the pieces fell to the floor an hour before the opening. I was 15 minutes late to the cocktail hour putting together this puzzle I had put together many times before. I called that a success.
Can “richness” be heard?
Wallpaper* magazine commissioned us to create a project promoting their client Chivas Regal 18. The brief was to take the qualities of a rich, luxurious drink which one must take time to enjoy, and translate that into physicality.
The answer was Stereotype, a speaker system whose decadently rich sound is derived from both the material, carved from a solid block of sustainably sourced American walnut, and the primary and secondary sound from the dual-faced speakers.
The design allows for the speakers to be suspended or set upon a flat surface.
Can the passing of time be made physical?
Sync bagan as a thought experiment I was conducting in the studio around the idea of time in a broader sense. Both how we perceive it and how we pass it. I find these divergent studies quite useful in the sense that they free oneself from the typical constraints of a commission as they really have no aim in mind other than the joy of indulging in questions in the hopes of being surprised by an answer. Sync was one such surprise.
I thinking about how we perceive the passage of time, one thought led me down to the fact that when you are waiting for time to pass in a somewhat impatient mindset, you can almost hear the ticking of a clock, even if a mechanical clock isn’t in your audible range of perception. I began to wonder what would happen if you recorded that sound and gradually played it at slower and slower rates. Curious, I grabbed a clock and a microphone, recorded the sound on my computer and started playing with the tempo controls until I was able to slow the tick down to where a tick lasted so long that the soundwaves were well below the audible range. Just when I thought I had reached the limit of how far you could slow down the sound and still hear it, I realized that my desktop speakers didn’t have enough bass to play such low frequencies. I needed a subwoofer. And a large one.
One of the fortunate things about living in New York, is that you can find anything within a few blocks. I ran a few blocks to an audio reseller and told them I needed something to play very low frequencies. I left with a 20” subwoofer and a 1000 watt amplifier. After a little wiring I hooked the contraption up to my computer and pressed play. Something amazing happened. I couldn’t hear the slowed down sound of the clock ticking, but I could feel in reverberating through my body. I then noticed the coffee in the cup on my desk was dancing every time the sound looped. Literally making the passage of time visible. I constructed a housing and showcased Sync at my next exhibit. It was a huge hit with the children in attendance which I always consider the greatest compliment.
Can a magazine become a property?
When an entrepreneur asked us to redesign Hecho a Mano, a Russian language cigar magazine, we took the brand to a new level, allowing the owner to take his business into new territories.
In addition to creating the first men's luxury lifestyle magazine which celebrates Mother Russia herself, we changed the focus away from cigars to encompass the broad world of bespoke and custom products, referencing "hecho a mano", or "made by hand".
Where does inspiration come from?
One of the questions I least like from journalists is “Where does your inspiration come from?” Apart from being what I and most people with creative output consider a lazy question, one that requires no research or effort on their part, the answer is unsatisfying to the reader. My answer is typically that I never have inspiration. I simply think about a problem and work through various solutions until I am satisfied that I have an interesting solution in hand. The Hadron Light, however, is an exception.
I was at a New Year’s Eve party and I noticed someone had glasses which had a very thin band of light wrapped around their frame. I made a mental note to look into how they were illuminated and when I returned to the studio after the holiday break did a little research. It turns out they were lit up with a material called Electroluminescent Wire, or EL Wire, which was just an Amazon Prime click away. The smallest amount I could order was 10 meters so I added to cart, pressed checkout and waited for it to arrive. When I took it out of the box, unrolled it and turned on the power, what I saw was exquisite. I had loosely piled the EL wire in a head and it produced the most random and beautiful effect. Instant inspiration.
The next step was in how to capture the beauty of the randomness within something transportable. I settled on a simple glass shape that would allow the wire to pile up randomly when fed in through a hole, but not let it move further. It was incredibly interesting when lit but was not much to look at when not. I then had another version of the glass housing made, but this time in a smoked and slightly opaque version. When the light was not illuminated, one could hardly see the wire, but when turned on the effect was fully achieved. Hadron remains one of my favorite objects and the exception to my inspiration answer.
Can a chair solve a business problem?
I’ve long admired Jerry Helling, the president of Bernhardt, for taking a furniture brand selling directly to the office trade and making it into an ico of American design with the infusion of some of the World’s best talent under his guidance. I had known him socially for a few years and hope one day I would receive a call for a commission. Eventually the call did come, to design a small body conference chair. I was excited by the prospect as I had never worked on any piece of furniture with such rigorous constraints before, but before I could say yes, he told me for the first time, Bernhardt would be doing this project as a competition. I’ve never been a fan of competitions and rarely participate in them, but I understood the large capital investment they would have to make and that they needed a chair that would sell very well to recoup that expenditure. This was something that they couldn’t leave to chance. I agreed to submit a design in a few weeks time.
I suppose it was the nature of the competition, but I set aside no time to work on the project. Things which I knew were actually happening were taking up so much time that I gave little thought to it. I received a call from Jerry asking how it was going. Fine, I said, I’ll have something ready in time for the presentation. Great, he said. Let’s meet on Sunday, that is when it was due. It was Saturday. Feeling a bit panicked, I did what I never do, I started sketching chairs. A few hours later I skimmed back on the pages I filled and had nothing I would be proud of. I got up from the table, paced around a bit, poured myself a glass of wine and decided I would take a different approach.
I put my sketchbook away and started asking myself, why would someone buy a conference chair. The obvious answers flooded out any insight until I reframed the question. Why would anyone buy a particular conference chair? It occurred to me that conference chairs are specified by Architects and Interior Designers who labored over the details of every room, even a conference room. It seemed very likely that rather than a conference chair which “defined” the room, they would want a chair that wouldn’t fuck up their design. I decided a simple chair with a single detail that would create a clean line (which became the armrest detail wrapping along the back of the chair) would be just the right amount of freshness without overpowering any room. The next day I arrived with a single 2” by 2” thumbnail drawing in my sketchbook, explained the concept and after a few questions the meeting was over. A week later I had a call from Jerry telling me the concept had won. I worked closely with Jerry and his aimable and talented creative director Todd for the next year and we unveiled Duet later that Spring. I am pleased to say it is one of their best selling items, and has yet to screw up a conference room.
Can an ashtray help you quit smoking?
I used to be a smoker. And I loved it dearly, but like every smoker I knew I need to quit. Each time I did (and it was a dozen or so times) it was like breaking up with someone you loved passionately but knew they were nothing but trouble. That last cigarette you smoke as nonchalantly as possible, saying “I won’t miss you at all”, and knowing it was a lie you were telling yourself. After my last failed attempt, I decided that next time I would try and treat it like a bad breakup. And what is needed to get over any past lover is – closure.
I thought that rather than just quietly smoking that last cigarette and flicking it to the curb, what was needed was a ritual. And what rituals need are altars. A place to focus your energy and to make the occasion solemn, and binding. What the final moment of smoking needed, I thought, was a very special ashtray. But what form should it take?
I settled quite early on that it should provide rest for only one cigarette. Room for more would confuse the point. A pair of scissors, some paper and a few moments later I had a shape I thought would do quite handsomely. Then it was time to decide what type of material to use. I thought it should be quite precious, to show how serious you were and of a quality that you would want to keep around to reflect on what you had accomplished by giving up the vice. It seemed to me that only gold would suit these purposes. The result is Fetish, a tool of commitment and pride, which would surely pay for itself in a few months no longer having to buy cigarettes.
May 17-21 2013
One of the best achievements that good design can bring to mankind is joy: a very simple concept that requires a sense of playfulness. For his yearly foray into the experimental and unexpected, Joe Doucet tackles the relationship between design and "play" through a series of concepts that re-imagine our interaction with the digital world, re-invent our perspectives on furniture and space, revamp some old-school modes of play and realize the potential of playing with some friends.
Can convenience store technology encapsulate a relationship?
I had a friend growing up who lived with his grandmother, Maxine. I was often over his house and gre very attached to her, perhaps because my own Grandmother lived in another state, but mt more likely because she was kind and indulgent of me. Her husband had passed quite recently, and one day she brought out an old box of letter and photos from the war. She took me through them in chronological order, from the letter he wrote when shipped off, to the moments before the Battle of the Bulge, to when he was about to board the ship which brought him home. It was incredibly moving and sticks with me to this day.
It was in thinking of this that my thoughts were drawn to parallels in my own life. I have deep and lasting relationships, but few physical artifacts such as letter to go along with them. The closest I could come to reconstruct a relationship in chronological order would be a series of text messages. The idea caused a slight panic, as I understood that if my phone was lost (this was pre ubiquitous cloud) the exchanges of love, laughs and sorrows would be lost with them. I decided I needed to have a physical record.
The answer came unexpectedly one morning after buying a coffee on my way to work. The cashier rang me up and handed me two copies, one white and one yellow to get my signature. These printer were everywhere and quite low tech to operate. I got back, fired up eBay and purchased one. A little work and help from some friends and voila – Blackbox. Plug in your phone and print out SMS exchanges running meters and meter and years and years. Artifacts of a relationship in duplicate to share.
Can switching on a lamp enlighten you?
The electric companies hit on a powerful (no pun intended here) idea a few years back. Included in the monthly bill is a graph telling you how much energy you used in relation to your neighbors. The understanding is that people are somewhat competitive by nature and that they would at least want to be in the mean, therefore reducing their overall power consumption. It has proven quite effective, but I began to wonder if one had more immediate feedback, would they more easily modify their behavior.
I thought an answer might be to remind one at the moment of energy consumption that they are, in fact, consuming and that perhaps they should consider to do with a bit less energy. Technology does a wonderful job of making consumption less noticeable. When “turning on a light” meant taking out a match, striking it and lighting a candle each time you desired a bit of illumination, it may have been a bit more top of mind that you were burning though your supply of candles. Flipping a lightswitch, or the even more distancing “Siri/Alexa/Google, turn on the light” make the association between power usage and environmental consequences far more remote.
I wanted to create a light which acted as a beacon to signal the user to be a bit more aware of the fact that they were not just “turning on a light” but using precious resources with impact on our planet. The idea of a giant light switch came to mind. Something impossible to ignore. The challenge was how to make not such an eyesore that one would rather have a standard lamp without the added benefits of awareness. The solution was to incorporate the switch in a way that it became a design feature. By integrating the switch into the lamp connects consumption directly to the light in the user's mind, while making late-night entrances less of a fumble in the dark.
Can quirkiness become iconic?
We developed a new Brand Identity System for the No1 vodka in Australia and New Zealand to help them further penetrate the U.S. market.
In addition to all on and off premise items, created a new brand icon, the upside down Kiwi, to create a memorable mnemonic for the brand that reflects its origin while illustrating its intrinsic personality - something that was missing from its previous brand identity.
What makes a seat?
What makes a seat? It sounds like a very simple question, and one asked countless times by designers tasked on creating a chair. The answer is typically a surface to sit upon, preferably comfortable, elevated from the group where the kees naturally bend (from 14-18” off the ground and supported in some fashion. Creating something new here proves more and more difficult as there are thousands of new designs for chairs launched each year, each one aimed at bringing something a bit novel to the idea of a chair. In fact, there are more chiras that there are people on the planet, it may be the most often “designed” object in the world. A challenging object to bring novelty to.
Halo, was my first attempt at designing a seat, and a rare design from the period when I was just getting started that I still find engaging. To begin the process of designing a chair, I decided to focus entirely on the seat itself and would figure out the legs at a later time. I felt that if i could make a comfortable seat using as little as possible, I could sort the rest out so I began a research project into what makes a set easy to sit upon.
The answer to that question was easy to understand, as countless research exists on the topic. It turns out, it is all about angles. A flat surface is incredibly uncomfortable. Regardless of your body type, your body is made of a series of curves, particularly in the areas where you sit. A seat wishing to accommodate these curves needs to itself be curves, sloping from the outside to inside and lowering towards the front of the chair. A series of tests and I felt I found an appropriate parabola, which when evolved around would create quite a nice seat. Problem solved, I moved onto the legs. How could I make this seat stand at the perfect distance from the ground?
The answer again proved quite simple. If I were to continue the parabola shape down to the ground, I would have a very strong structure for the legs. And the bottom? Simply mirror the seat and you are left with a very stable base. The last step was to make a full scale prototype. My drawings were precise but of little help here. It was with this project that I knew I needed to learn 3D Modeling to realize it. I spent a few months teaching myself Ashlar Vellum and ordered one of the largest 3D Prints my vendor had ever seen. In fact, I believe since the chair dates from 2000, it may very well be the world’s first fully functional 3D printed chair.
Can a kite play with you?
We love kites. Equal parts folly and miracle of engineering, with a hit of harnessing nature to boot, our printed Tyvek and carbon fiber XYZ kite resulted from a study on wind resistance and its effect on flight stability.
XYZ's uniqueness stems from the idea that its stability comes from its instability, so it's perfectly capable of being flown but not controlled, so it does its own tricks, constantly surprising the kite's flyer.
Joe Doucet / OnTime
May 18-21 2012
We spend time, make time and indeed view time essentially as experiences, but can we translate these experiential notions of time into objects of beauty?
On Time by Joe Doucet is a series of concepts and experiments that seek to push our perceptions of time and its physical manifestations.
Can technology save us from technology?
One sense is a device which had its origins as a reaction to daily life. Like most people, I feel a constant distraction from the ubiquitous devices that seems to make working in the modern world possible. We are living in an age where technology allows for a constant bombardment on our senses, where tablet computers and smartphones mean we are reachable 24/7, and where the constant “ping” of another email that must be answered or another social relationship that must be serviced. It is increasingly difficult to unplug in one’s own home. I began thinking deeply about this and wondered whether technology itself could provide a much needed reprieve.
I began with the thought that if we had the ability to narrow our senses, perhaps down to just one, we might find a way to achieve small periods of peace and tranquility, and deep focus might be achievable. In looking at the five major senses– vision, touch, taste, smell and sound, I felt that narrowing down to sound as much as possible held the most promise. Isolating taste, for example might prove possible, but wouldn’t necessarily result in creating a sense of calm. Likewise vision fires up neural activity more than the other senses combined, so it seems a natural candidate for exclusion rather than a choice of focus. Eliminating every sense with the exception of sound was where I would put my efforts.
The technological aspect of focusing on sound actually proved quite easy. Noise cancelling headphones had been on the market for over a decade and did a phenomenal job of eliminating outside noise by essentially cancelling outside audio stimuli by generating inverse soundwaves which render them inaudible. This allows one to deeply concentrate on a piece of music, white noise or an audio book. Knowing that in the instance of desired moments of concentration, taste and touch were mostly irrelevant I focused on eliminating the largest user of cognitive resources, vision. Simply shielding one’s eyes is the oldest and still most effective method. easy.
The last issue to solve was that if one had shut down most sensed to the outside world while wearing this device, how could you communicate that you had a wish to not be disturbed. I chose for this purpose the color red and a display of spikes, drawn from nature's symbols for warning and defence, to alert others not to intrude. The result was a simple yet highly effective tool for creating moments of deep concentration and letting the world know that was your intention.
THE MUNNY EXHIBIT
May 17-21 2010
New York is a city that loves a challenge, and when Joe Doucet and Chad Phillips engaged the most famous and innovative designers working in this great city to create one-of-a-kind interpretations of Kidrobot's iconic Munny character, they jumped at the opportunity. The result is a never before seen group event featuring every generation of important figures in the world of design in one location transforming one form. Profero has created the most innovative online event and auction to document this moment in history, and to extend the experience to those not fortunate enough to be selected to attend the event.
Do consumables need a new business model?
Of all of the things I am asked to design, perhaps the category I find most challenging are consumables. Consumables are basically anything you use, discard the container they come in and buy another. Think shampoo and conditioner. You buy a bottle of shampoo, wash your hair a dozen or so times and discard the empty bottle before opening a new one. It is not the container you wish to use, but it is the number one impact on the environmental consequences of your purchase. This has always seemed somewhat insane to me. I decided that there must be a better way. Rather than preaching to the companies who produce these consumable good, I decided I would offer up a new business model. The result was iii.
iii is a membership service which enables subscribers to receive refills of selected personal products via post on a regular basis. It gives convenience a conscience, allowing consumers to save time, minimize waste and reduce their carbon footprint. The elevated aesthetic of iii imbues otherwise disposable items with a sense of permanence, as does iii's method of purchasing. The subscription service creates a sense of belonging while giving customers the reassurance of knowing they'll never run out of a favorite item.
I’ve offered up the model of iii as free and clear in the public domain. Available for any company or individual to pursue. Perhaps an ambitions executive at P&G or an entrepreneur looking for their next venture might find that doing good in the world and doing well in business can go hand in hand. Have at it and good luck to you.
Can limitations lead to an elegant solution?
When Hugo Boss asked us to reinvent their body wear packaging system, we knew the challenge ahead. The category is a "sea of sameness," restricted by the cost implications of showing a model's face across the volume inherent in body wear.
The solution was to conceive the packaging as a three-dimensional space showing the model in three overlapping poses covering all surfaces. This approach also allowed potential buyers to see the product from all angles, minimizing confusion and returns for a product that cannot be tried on before purchase.
Can the feeling of a brand be conveyed in a few pages?
The following is project commissioned for BMW to develop a printed documentation of their beliefs as a brand, or a Brand Book as it is referred to in the industry. The solution; a highly emotional and visceral journey, where you feel the road, sense every curve and your heart races in anticipation of being behind the wheel. Bound in white perforated leather to capture the luxury of speed and precision, the oversized volume expands into an extreme landscape format to ensure the feeling of an open road.
Can drinking glasses modify behavior?
The Bacchic Glasses were created for the opening reception of an exhibit of the work in the studio called “Play”. I have long been of the opinion that most of the people attending the openings of exhibits, particularly in the design world are only there for a few drinks and to mingle with friends, meet people of influence and renew old acquaintances. I see nothing wrong with this, but after a few glasses of sub-par red people tend to put their glasses down anywhere they can find. Often on the podiums constructed to house the work. I decided to have a little fun with this behavior. After all, the exhibit was called “Play”.
The idea was to create a set of barware that the user absolutely could not put down anywhere. The second one would set one of these glasses down on the only available surface, the podiums containing the work, they would roll about and crash to the floow, making the temporary owner the center of unwanted attention. Perhaps a bit puerile, but we all have to entertain ourselves at design events. Even if it is your own.
Can fluorescent lights become elegant?
Most of us sit under them, and usually bemoan them, every working day. The humble fluorescent tube has been at the forefront of efficient office lighting for decades, but reconfigured and re-imagined as a modern, immodest chandelier, it finally finds a rightful place in the home with WL02 "Flourish."
Configurable in multiples of 2 to 12 units
Can visualization lead to innovation?
One of the services performed for P&G's premium hair care division in Geneva is helping them to concept the future development of their product lines.
The following is a sample of projects not currently being pursued, and therefore, we are able to show as examples of work, but it gives a good understanding of how we bring our thoughts to bear on the immense challenges they face as a brand.
Can observation be an act of creation?
This project bagan like many in the MET Museum in New York. In one of my Saturday strolls, trying desperately to get my kids interested in something other that mummies, I took them through the hall containing the Grecian urns. I’ve developed a technique to distract children in places they would rather not be I will share with you here that you might find useful one day. It is a little game called Spot the Differences. For some reason, children like this more than Spot the Similarities, but I digress. Here is how it is played. Pick an object, vases for example, and have the tell you all of the differences between all of the ones they see. It works best in a place like the MET where you can travel across cultures and timescales in just a few paces.
It was in play such a game with all of the vessels we could find that I began to notice something quite interesting. Weather Mayan, Egyptian, Chinese or Native American, most of the vessels had a very similar pattern in terms of their structure. It seemed to me that there was some underlying rhythm to the choices the potters had made. Commonalities which couldn’t be just coincidence or cross-fertilization of cultural ideals of beauty. I decided I would investigate this further.
Over the next few weeks I set aside some time in the studio for some research. I began sketching over photographs of every vase and vessels I could find from as many sources as possible. I condensed the all to the same scale and began mapping points. Clear patterns started to emerge and I decided to simplify the common points into a series of typologies common to all cultures. I decided I had to make these into actual objects to get a full appreciation of them. I produced a series of drawings and went to a fantastic ceramicist I knew. I asked here to make a set for me for an upcoming exhibit I had scheduled with one change. I didn’t want openings as I wanted people to appreciate the forms and not see them as vessels. The result was the Archetype Collection. Although this was a project more about process than the product itself, it remains quite satisfying every time I look at them displayed
Could a seat support a dying art?
According to Greek mythology, Zeus became so enthralled with io that his wife, Hera, turned her into a cow to hide her from him. We thought she might make a nice chair. From unparalleled craftsmanship. Individual pieces of leather are cut and moulded from a single hide and sewn using a precise saddle stitch technique which has all but vanished. Made from polished solid stainless steel base with Padova leather.
Can a lack of distraction make us notice the obvious?
I have a problem with Ramen. My problem with Ramen is that I love it dearly. Obsessively, in fact. When landing in Japan I often don’t make it out of the airport before I stop at the first ramen shop I find. I don’t like over-complicated noodle houses, but always prefer the out of the way work-a-day shops crowded with Salarymen bent over their bowls slurping away to their heart’s content. After placing my order of Shoyu (the only true Ramen in my humble and uneducated opinion) I pass the time by removing my chopsticks from the paper wrapper and creating for myself a little chopstick holder from folding it. I have a rule, never fold it in the same way twice. I find the creative diversion just enough of a challenge to take my mind away from anticipation as the task must be complete by the time my noodles are served.
In the rare instance I find myself in an establishment with “proper” chopsticks and a ceramic chopstick rest, my annoyance is palpable. Not only do I have to find a new way to pass the time, I am struck by how the rest and the utensils have little relation to each other. It was in such a place that I conceived Chowbella. I thought an ideal rest should present the chopsticks in a way that it was clear that they had yet been used. It should then provide a surface upon which to set them during the mean in a less than pristine state. While pondering this the from of the rest became very clear to me, and as I reached into my pocket for my sketchbook the final form quickly took shape.
I then realized that the chopstick itself could use a little improvement. Square chopsticks are great for grasping food but quite uncomfortable in the hand where they rest between the forfinger and thumb. I felt a little added girth there would provide the perfect balance of comfort and dexterity. A few minutes of sketching and the shape of the sticks were exactly what I was after. I then looked up to a bowl full of cold noodles and woefully ate them down. Cold Ramen is better than no Ramen.
THIS IS BOND EXHIBIT
May 17-21 2009
As part of the philosophy of Bond. the design think tank formed and operated by Joe Doucet, a yearly exhibit took place during Design Week in New York. The exhibits were created to become a dialogue with the public around design as a catalyst for change.
This is Bond. was the inaugural exhibit announcing the arrival of Bond. via an exhibit of 10 projects which were designed to question the way we perceive the artifacts which permeate our daily existence.
Can refusing a single label lead to a new category of furniture?
Like many projects from the studio, Scape began with a question. Does a seating system have to be clearly defined in its use by the designer? This may seem like an obvious question, but the answer may not seem as obvious. Seating systems are in fact defined by their use. A chair is an object for an individual to sit upon. A chaise for one to lie down upon. A sofa to sit comfortably and perhaps recline upon. On down the list. The act of naming the object defines how one uses it. I find this not only interesting, but a challenge of conventions to be met with an answer.
I chose as an answer individual seating pads in five different heights slide into and out of the gridded base easily by the sitter. If one chooses to sit upright, move a few of the taller units and they will give you support. If you wish to lie down, move as many of the lower units as you wish and a comfortable surface will present itself. If you wish privacy, a wall between you and your surroundings can be easily assembled. By allowing countless arrangements to be made, Scape transforms the passive notion of sitting into a dynamic and involving activity.
Can a mirror reflect time?
One of the most contentious issues surrounding time is its effects on physical properties over the long term. What is perceived as character to one is viewed as crime to another. The unfinished solid walnut cone will age and gain patina over the years, changing a little each day, just like ourselves. Similarly, the mirror at its base lets the user see how they change with time as well.
photo: Kendall Mills
Could a vase delight without a flower?
Inspired by a wine bottle bobbing in the ocean, Float captures a moment of complete stillness. Resting on the surface that it is placed upon, the porcelain vase gives the impression that there is more below.
Can coffee grow a community?
Grace Hightower & Coffees of Rwanda is a new brand of coffee launched by Grace and Robert DeNiro and sources its coffee beans directly from independent growers in Rwanda, supporting them and their local economies.
Joe Doucet Studio developed the logo and packaging for the new brand, helping them with their presentations to also secure premium distribution through the Whole Foods gourmet supermarket chain in the USA.
Can witnessing the passing of time give you a great appreciation of it?
The British Museum is a fantastic way to spend a rainy afternoon in London. It is easy to find yourself comfortably lost in the myriad of rooms housing relics of this once vast empire. One such afternoon I found myself wander the hallways and stumbled upon a gallery containing quite early mechanical timepieces. Being a designer I was fascinate by the complexities for their movements. The sheer mechanical interplay of cogs, springs and pendulums must have seemed like magic at the time and the epitome of what mankind could achieve.
The digital age ushered in with it not only incomprehensible accuracy in timekeeping, but a divorce from witnessing the passing of time. It is 4:45 until it is 4:46 and the only indication of that passing is the changing of an LED light on your microwave or bedside clock. I felt the desire to create an object where it sole purpose was it witnessing the passing of time in a way that we have lost.
Timeframed is an object created from solid brass arms which operate around a central dial. As the dial rotates, the arms are drawn inwards or pushed outwards in a mesmerizing dance that is fully completed every sixty seconds. Although it serves no function purpose, I’ve witness people standing around it for a solid five minutes, taking great enjoyment from the fact that they have discovered it counts off the minutes. Rarely does a digital clock, as accurate as it may be, provide this sense of discovery.
photo: Kendall Mills
Can poetry and precision define an identity?
The glamorous Austrian crystal brand Swarovski has provided us with numerous projects and challenges over the years, including the following examples.
Frames 1-4 show an exhibition we created for them at the entrance of the Toronto Film Festival and featuring their products as they have been used in various films.
The following pages give an example of how we assisted them in developing their retail window concepts across various seasons.
Can an annoyance become and icon?
I am quite a forgetful person. Not the kind of forgetful where divorce looms over my head for constantly missing my wife’s birthday, but the kind of forgetful where I can leave the house without my key, billfold and phone. Only to find out when I am buying coffee or trying to unlock the doors of the studio in the morning. I have developed a system over the years to avoid these types of situations. When I come home, I empty my pockets of my keys, billfold, coins etc and place them in a tray, where they remain until I leave the next morning. This routine ensures I never leave without my essentials to make it thought life in the 21st century.
One challenge are coins. Unlike other countries, in America our coins will buy you little. It would take 20 quarters to buy a cup of coffee, and our pockets aren’t big enough for that. The coins from the previous day do not end up back in my pocket, but tend to collect each day into ever growing piles that over time, crowd out everything else in my neat little system. At some point when they become such a nussiance, they are gathered together to deposit into a coin bank in my childrens’ room, never to be seen again.
I thought it would be nice to have something that was a hybrid between a coin bowl and a bank. Something where you could put your change each day, not become annoyed by the sight of them, and easily collect them again after they become too much. I designed Cache to meet these requirements. It fits nicely on the counter and does its job admirably.
Can temporary shelters be made for less than $5?
The increasing frequency and strength of natural disasters around the world has created the need to temporarily house large numbers of victims with little notice and minimal expense.
PopShelter is an ultralightweight, easily assembled shelter construction that can be flat-packed and air-dropped in large quantities. Not only does the structure offer protection against the elements, but also considers the mental well-being of the victims with interior colors that are recognized for their ability to lift the human spirit. Made from waxed corrugated cardboard, the structure is waterproof and easily recyclable.
Can anachronistic elements create seduction?
The established fashion house of Yves Saint Laurent asked us to concept a day and night fragrance conveying elegance with a touch of trespasse.
YvesParis is an elegantly simple solution to the brief turning a classic aspirator into a fetishistic object, featuring a studded leather pump and an exaggerated long tube.
Can modularity be luxurious?
When a developer approached us to create a new hospitality experience to be located in the exuberant emirate of Dubai, clandestinely code named Hotel Dubai, we were intrigued.
Having spent time in Dubai, one realized that to make an impression you have to be either the biggest, most opulent, or the most extravagant architectural statement of the last 50 years.
The fact that a poised and elegant person attracts more attention in a room full of fashion statements. A simple, almost egalitarian stance was out approach. A hotel with three sizes of rooms, each a cubic addition, divert from a singular column. Maximizing the views of the city and ocean, and elegantly standing out in a cacophony of overstatement.
Less and More - The Design Ethos of
18 November 2009 - 7 March 2010
Design Museum Shad Thames London
In the first UK retrospective of Dieter Rams' career in over 12 years, the Design Museum showcased his landmark designs for Braun and Vitsoe, alongside works inspired by his ethos from contemporaries Jonathan Ive, Jasper Morrison, Sam Hecht, Naoto Fukasawa and Joe Doucet.
Can a single element define a brand?
In addition to developing a Visual Identity program for Moet & Chandon, we completed a "Brand World" project to demonstrate how the principles set forth in the Visual Identity could come to life across all consumer touch-points, from in-storeto in-bar.
One of the main components to the new branding program was the leveraging of the foil pattern around the neck of the bottle. An asset of the brand for centuries, but until our work, one which had never been utilized. Note the use of the pattern across many different media. The following is a brief visual synopsis of the work.
Can the finite be imagined as infinite?
Every so often I create an internal exercise where I chose a theme and explore it in as many different ways as I can, within a brief time span. In many cases, nothing comes from these exercises other than keeping things fresh in my mind and making certain I don’t stagnate creatively, but occasionally projects take on a life of their own. I like to choose broad topics such as “Play”, “New” and “Time”. It was in the latter theme that a few projects, Sync, Timeframed and Oroborus came into being.
In thinking generally about “Time,” I eventually wandered down the path of time-keeping devices, both ancient and contemporary. The hourglass is such an icon of both waiting (the icon that pops up when certain software is loading) and of a definitive timeframe running out (literally, time running out is a metaphor for the sand depleting from the top of an hourglass to the receptacle) that I thought it worthy of exploration.
I had been thinking about the fact that an hourglass runs out of sand after a given time and has to be turned in the opposite direction to be put back in service. It is in essence two distinct objects joined together in the middle where they narrow to slow the passing of sand between them. What if they weren’t two distinct objects, but one where sand could circulate in a continuous loop? A quick sketch and the circular form was born. Its shape reminded me of the Oroborus, the snake eating its own tail, a symbol of infinity. It seemed a fitting name for this little experiment.
Can aesthetics make clean energy more acceptable?
On one of my walks through the city I came across a small vacant lot, grown over with native grasses and likely destined to become a stacked parking lot, or an overpriced high rise completely unaffordable to the vast majority of New Yorkers. I began to amuse myself by trying to think of the best use this lot could serve the community around it. Naturally greenspace came to mind, a place for people to congregate and for children to play, but how does one compete with developers dollars in trying to set aside land for the people? It occurred to me that if the space created something of value in surplus, it just might be an attractive enough proposition for the city to turn it into a park. The plot was too small for farming so my thoughts turned to energy creation. But what kind?
Solar energy would never work in the city at ground levels, too much shade from the surrounding buildings and it would block the sun. Wind seemed like to best option as anyone walking the streets of NYC can tell you, we have an abundance of it. I went into research mode and found out a few troubling things. Megawatt wind turbines have to be set against a prevail wind meaning the operate at peak efficency only 30% of the time. Additionally they are such an eyesore that we go thought great expense and engineering challenges to push them far into the ocean, away from sight. What if we could solve these two problems with one stroke? From this thinking was born Airate.
A vertical turbine masquerading as a sculpture. The verticality means it can take wind from any direction, negating the drawback of facing a prevailing wind. Additionally this means the generator components can be place in the ground meaning that it can be serviced from a crew in a truck, rather than employing massive cranes as they are currently. Another innovation is in the use of magnetic levitation instead of traditional bearings, allowing the turbine to turn in lower winds and be powerfully braked when the winds are too strong and could cause damage. And hopefully the design is attractive enough to not only avoid protests from concerned citizens, but that scaled down version could make it into every backyard.
Can function be a visual asset?
Artistry, the second largest beauty distributor in Japan, enlisted our help to redesign the packaging across their entire skincare and cosmetics offering.
Our first project was their Pure White skin lightening system. The seven different bottles share a common theme in form and the graphics are applied using a special foil which plays with the light to move from dark to light, reinforcing the efficacy of the product.
Could storage elevate an environment?
Level is a stackable storage system whose individual units can be placed together in any configuration. The simplicity of the system allows for one to easily add or divide units as their needs change.
Could a theme become thematic?
Eve's album, "Here I Am" marked a departure for the artist. There was a sophisticated maturity that required album artwork to reflect this shift in tone.
Not only has this been a huge success in helping to open her up to new artists, the logo we created for the cover has been adopted by the artist for use beyond this album, including a tattoo she proudly sports.
Can reflections enhance our mood?
Mirrors serve to provide us with a snapshot of ourselves at a specific moment in time. But we all have days when standard silver mirrors are a little too truthful for our liking - do we really need brutal honesty the morning after the night before?
Memoir's golden hue and geometric configuration creates an art form that offers a wonderfully gilded reflection of ourselves.
Can simplicity elevate our morning rituals?
Perk is a coffee service set which elevates the creamer, sugar bowl and spoon into a sleek and playful centerpiece.