The second annual Be Original Americas Student Design Fellowship has kicked off! This year’s Fellows, Tom Groom and Irene Lee, touched down in New York City last Monday to begin their 7-week immersive journey.
So, what did the Fellows get up to in their first week? Check it out:
First, Tom and Irene toured the Midtown Manhattan showrooms of Be Original Americas members Carl Hansen & Son, Chilewich, Herman Miller and Moooi.
The next day, the Fellows visited the Soho showrooms of Be Original Americas members Alessi, Artemide, FLOS, Gandia Blasco and Kartell.
On Friday, the Fellows traveled to Design Within Reach’s offices in Stamford, CT to meet with the marketing and creative departments.
Each week, Tom and Irene will be answering a few questions to recap their experience and provide an insider’s look at what they’re learning.
After visiting showrooms across New York City, what was one thing you learned about showing original design
Tom: It’s really difficult. Demonstrating the originality of design isn’t as easy as having beautiful objects displayed in a concept-led living situation like Herman Miller, or creating a specifically designed environment where the emphasis is placed on the individuality of the objects like Kartell. What was really important about having the time to speak to people representing these huge brands in the industry, was finding out what makes them and their products original. Hearing from them what their companies focus on and then being able to place that in the context of the showroom really helped me understand the companies from a totally different perspective. Everything is about narrative, education and engagement.
Irene: I learned that all original design has a story to tell. The storytelling aspect of the products really came to life for me when I was able to touch and feel the furniture and lighting, embrace the details, and learn about the intention of the designers. The depth and breadth of manufacturing processes and craftsmanship utilized for creating an Alessi fruit bowl or a Wishbone Chair also emphasized companies’ dedication towards providing the highest quality for its users. The story was further communicated in the showroom, where the products were put it context or environments that made them feel personal. Showroom hopping across New York City was a fun and extremely valuable experience for me where I was able to get out of the classroom and ask industry professionals questions and try out the products!
Share something you were surprised to learn or see during the first week.
Tom: Obviously the nature of work and its relationship with workers through technology is really changing our world. To have the opportunity to speak with certain companies like Herman Miller and Artemide, who are responding to this really important and current issue in how they message their products was fantastic. Herman Miller presents itself as a serviceable to help produce the “Living Office,” a space somewhere between home and work, where the comfort of people and their happiness inevitably leads to a more productive and efficient workforce. Artemide spoke similarly about lighting conditions, ensuring that “Human Light” was present, which enabled people to live healthy lives. I think in school we tend to narrow the scope of our perspective on the world, and so this insight into framing the problems that people face around a larger societal shift was a huge eye-opener.
Irene: I never realized how much human touch is dedicated to developing and refining a product. During our visit to the Design Within Reach headquarters, I saw a board filled with all the pages of the upcoming catalog to be refined through several rounds of edits by the members. At Chilewich, we learned that Sandy Chilewich personally approves every design after iterations and meeting with designers and the manufacturer. The list goes on with every company that we visited and I learned that the collaboration of people in interdisciplinary fields makes the production of beautiful furniture, lighting, and tableware possible.
Stay tuned for more from Tom and Irene, the 2017 Be Original Americas Student Design Fellows, as they recap their experiences each week here on the blog and on our social channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.