August 4, 2009

Michael Graves Interview

Architechnophilia recently interviewed renowned architect and designer Michael Graves who has partnered with [yellow tail]wines. We spoke about architecture, Post Modernism, sustainability and wine.

Firstly, when did you make that initial step into product design?
For me, it started back in college. I designed every piece of furniture in my apartment. At that time, it probably wasn’t anything more than orange crates but I was proud of that work. That passion continued for me and never stopped.

Do you think architects approach product design differently than those formally trained in industrial design?
I’ve always considered myself a general practitioner. We are entering an era of specialization and I’ve always thought it was best to be well-versed in a number of areas. In the past architects designed not only the buildings but most everything in them.

Where did you find the inspiration for product design, and importantly for the wine glasses?
The inspiration usually starts when a client brings us the project. We find that most clients have a passion and excitement for their work and we feed off that. And the process goes from there.

For this new set of limited-edition [yellow tail] glasses that celebrate their wine[tails] recipe collection, we looked for inspiration to what the brand represented: fun, unpretentious – they aim to make wine accessible to all.

When the [yellow tail] people and our team sat down together, it was apparent that they had really turned the wine industry on its head. So, we had some fun with that.

The design of the glasses is based on a traditional cocktail glass but flipped on its head to showcase the fun and ‘unpretentiousness’ of a wine[tails] cocktail. Each glass is designed to provide the illusion of an inverted bottle within an individual glass shape.

Do you think as a culture we have moved into a new mode of ornamentation?

Functionality should never be lost in design. Ornamentation is important, but it should never be the sole purpose. It should fit within the functionality of sound design.

What are your thoughts on attempting to unite form & ornament in product design?
They complement each other well. We are in a minimalist society, where it’s often said that “less is more.” Well, sometimes “more is more.” So, ornament does play an important role, as long it complements the function.

Your products although ergonomic typically have a playful twist to it, can we expect the same with your proposals for Yellow Tail?
The [yellow tail] brand demands it. The brand is so playful and fun, that you can’t deliver a good design if it doesn’t capture those qualities.

The actual project assignment was to create glasses for a program they have called wine[tails] – which pretty much break the rules of wine by telling people it’s okay to mix wine with other ingredients to create flavorful cocktail drinks. It flips wine on its head, so to speak.

What is the role of sustainability in design - be it architecture or housewares?
While it has become a buzzword, sustainability for us is a "big picture" proposition. We are the stewards of our planet and we owe it to ourselves and future generations to preserve and enhance (not just sustain!) our natural resources. Our architectural practice belongs to the U.S. Green Building Council and we incorporate sustainable and energy-efficient features in our buildings as a matter of course. For example, in a planning or architecture project, we look at how to balance built and open space, what materials are used, how the air quality affects the wellness of the inhabitants, how water is recycled, and so on.

Why did post-modernism sound so good but unable to survive critical perception?
Post-modernism initially was a reaction to the abstract nature of commercial modernism that was prevalent in the middle of the 20th century, which many found alienating. I coined the phrase "figurative architecture" (and by extension "figurative design") to refer to a way of working that allowed the use of both the traditional and familiar language of forms (and color) and the lessons of modern composition to be part of our work. It was around that time that I was referred to as a post-modernist. I still think that is a valid way of thinking. However, because people associated post-modernism with particular forms and colors, it was regarded as a style rather than a way of working. Like Art Deco, I suppose. Once those forms and colors were imitated throughout commercial architecture, like the abstract commercial modernism that preceded it, it became hackneyed. Even though I've been associated with the origins of post-modernism, I don't refer to myself as a post-modernist in the stylistic sense.

Last question, red or white? Cabernet or Chardonnay? What's your preference?

How about both? I don’t know; I really do enjoy them all.

Michael Graves is designing for a limited set wine glasses to accompany [yellow tail]’s new wine-based cocktail recipes that will be auctioned in November this year.


namhenderson said...

woot woot,
On the big score!!

themenacedassassin said...

great interview, david! vado

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