Abbott Miller’s “Merge” pattern wallcovering for Knoll Textiles is one of the featured designs in Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010, the first major exhibition devoted to Knoll’s fabrics division. The show opens at the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture (BGC) next Wednesday, May 18, in time for New York Design Week, and remains on view through July 31.
Established as the company’s third division, following its furniture group and Planning Unit (which focused on corporate interiors), Knoll Textiles was directed by Florence Knoll with a vision for new materials and methods of production, many of them experimental. The exhibition gathers 175 examples of textiles, vintage furniture, photographs and other artifacts, and represents a new consideration of an under-recognized area of modern design.
Designer collaborations are an important part of Knoll’s history. Merge was created for the Grammar Collection, Miller’s first series of wallcoverings for Knoll, introduced in 2006. (Earlier this year Knoll launched the Ink Collection, Miller’s second series.) The Grammar Collection was inspired by overlapping typography, and Merge suggests a texture of tightly woven letterforms. The pattern has become popular for hospitality and institutional interiors, and is also available for use in residences.
Merge’s alphabetic tangle should be welcome at the BGC: Pentagram designed an identity of interlocking typography for the institution in 2009.
In 1996, Pentagram began working on a series of design projects with United Airlines that eventually touched nearly every aspect of the way the company is experienced by their customers. This year, United will consummate a merger with Continental Airlines, and with this change the new combined carrier begins a new chapter. Here’s a look back at the fifteen years that the Pentagram team, led from beginning to end by London partner Daniel Weil and New York partner Michael Bierut, spent working with this amazing company.
When Pentagram’s Abbott Miller was commissioned to design a new collection of wallcoverings for KnollTextiles—his second for the manufacturer—he looked to material close at hand: drawings and patterns of ink he found himself working with on paper.
“I was looking at the way ink moves across paper, and imagined it running down the walls,” says Miller.
Launching this week, the new collection, called Ink, uses liquid movement as a point of departure for a series of highly graphic patterns. The idea behind the design came from experimentation; starting with a single drop of ink, Miller created hundreds of studies that yielded drops, branch-like forms, and loosely formed letters. This was the genesis of the collection’s three patterns, aptly named Drip, Drop and Run.
The new collection follows the highly successful Grammar wallcovering series Miller created for Knoll in 2006. Grammar was inspired by typography and consisted of geometric patterns based on a series of overlapping, intermingling letters. The Ink collection is more loose, organic and handmade, but also has a digital element—the collection was created by digitally composing the studies into patterns.
Miller says, “As a medium, ink has a quality that is free and organic, but a graphic pattern is tight and controlled. The new collection plays with this dichotomy.”
Like many designers, Pentagram’s Daniel Weil uses sketching to visualize, generate and refine his ideas. Weil has, by his estimation, more than 375 sketchbooks, going all the way back to 1978. In a new short film directed by Nicolas Heller, Weil shares some of his recent notebooks and talks about how drawing helps him link ideas from subjects as wide-ranging as Kandinsky and vacuum cleaners, inspiring new forms and objects like his recent Clock for an Architect. Seen in the film are sketches for Weil’s work for Mothercare, Benetton, the Israel Museum, United Airlines and the Savoy Hotel.
“In a way the books become both a diary and record for my thoughts: the things I see, the things I think about, and the designs I’m designing,” says Weil. “Drawing is a designer’s most fundamental tool; it is design thinking made visible.”
Privately commissioned to create a gift for an architect, Daniel Weil created a one-of-a-kind clock that is both simple and complex. Reducing objects to their component parts has long fascinated Weil. The Radio in a Bag he created for his degree show at the Royal College of Art three decades ago is an icon of 20th century industrial design. This clock is the latest demonstration of his interest in investigating not just how objects look, but how they work.
William Russell and Daniel Weil have collaborated to create the physical environment and experience for the first augmented reality theatre in the world. The Attenborough Studio is a high-tech audio-visual venue on the ground floor of the Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum. The space hosts events shows and films about all aspects of life on Earth and scientific discovery.
The project is the product of a partnership between the Natural History Museum and BBC Research & Development, and is the first time augmented reality—the blending of computer graphics into real life—is being used in a high profile public space in this way.
For the 2009 edition of the Classic Typographic Calendar, Kit Hinrichs asked Pentagram’s twelve graphic design partners to each nominate a favorite typeface, one for each month. Their reasons are practical, opinionated and sometime passionate. Here’s a sneak preview:
Harry Pearce on his choice for the month of March, Enigma:
“I have only used Enigma once and at a very small size. I tend to be very faithful to a relatively limited number of fonts — Akzidenz Grotesk, Gothic 13 and Franklin Gothic. Occasionally I’ll stray, but it has to be something special that draws me away. Enigma hovers between sans and serif. Described that way, it sounds impossibly ugly, yet visually, Enigma is beautiful.”
Michael Bierut on Avenir for September:
“I’ve looked all my life for the perfect sans serif and at one point I thought I found it in Avenir. Plain and forthright, sober yet vaguely cheerful, it strikes the perfect balance between neutrality and distinctiveness. As often happens, infatuation led to overindulgence, and I swore off it for years. Now, in the sober light of day, it’s looking good to me again.”
The calendar is available in two sizes, a supersize 33-by-23 inch version suitable for wall hanging and a smaller 18-by-12 inch version appropriate for desk use. Both versions are available at museum shops across the US and at Ken Knight. The price of the supersize calendar is $38 and the smaller desk/wall calendar is $24. Please note that prices do not include shipping and currently Ken Knight will only ship to the lower 48 states. (Sarah Palin, you’re out of luck.)