Category Archives: Furnishing the Web

Advanced Business and Marketing Strategies for Furniture, Fashion and Product Designers

The other day, I went into a hospital near my Seoul, Korea office (I generally work in Santa Monica). The nurses sent me up to a little room where a little old man sat. He put a huge lead vest on me, asked where the shard of glass was, lifted my hand up to the x-ray lens, walked out of the room and walked back with wet film. I’m pretty sure he is the last living analog x-ray film technician.

The hospital had digital everything except an x-ray because upgrading that would mean a friend would lose his job.

Disruptive technology is sprouting up everywhere. Between the time you enroll in college and graduate, your degree is irrelevant. That is, unless your work is something that’s creative and not technical. Techology is replacing technicians but It can’t replace creatives. Even surgeons are being replaced by robots. Aren’t you glad you didn’t follow your parent’s advice?

So there’s only one problem left. How do you grow your business as a designer? How do you lock down your market share?

Ironically, while most designers create in the future, they plan in the past. They are still submitting designs to major corporations hoping to get a job. In the past, working for Herman Miller, Boeing, Mattel, and any other major product producer was the only way to get your work out into the public because it was only these companies that had public facing outlets. Now, that’s just not the case.

There are dozens of blogs, communities within Social Media like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest where people with a habit of buying products similar to yours feed.

This is level one. If you’ve evolved your business growth planning and thinking beyond just getting a job, then you’ve already tried self publishing. It doesn’t work any more.

If you were the first furniture designer on Pinterest 3 years ago, you’d have a thriving business now. Now, if you jump in, it’s just too crowded. So what do you do?

This rule applies to everything: Be the first mover and roll with all the punches. If you missed that window, build an alliance and deal with the politics. There’s a dictator and then there’s a democracy with parties. This rule applies to everything including getting your product design to the top of the pyramid in your niche.

Once you have a team, a coalition, an alliance behind you, now you can start to take big steps. Essentially the work you do to promote yourself doesn’t change. What does change is the scale of the thud sound you make every time you do make a move with your dozens of allied marketing partners. Hell, your design marketing partners can even be direct competitors. At the 1991 Cannes film festival,  Jean Claude Van Damme picked a fight with Dolph Lundgren. People loved it. They both took that all the way to the bank.

Now that your Voltron is assembled, what do you?

The 7 Critical Steps In Marketing Your Design

1. Clearly publish what you do everywhere.

I’m amazed at how many websites I go to where I can’t tell what they do in 3 seconds or less. I’m being generous. Most people have a 1.5 second bounce rate. Do you resell, do you design, do you contract design, do you retail, do you manufacture, do you contract manufacture? Be clear. This is a business. You can be artsy and shrouded in mystery at your opening party where only people who know you attend.

2. Clearly state your goal everywhere.

This is the only way people know if they can couple with you. Don’t tell Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ who you want support from. Tell everyone WHAT support you need. All sorts of people in weird demographics will crop up from the weeds and offer to support you. Let them figure out what’s in it for them. Just publicize what you need to grow.

Some will contact you because they see someway you will benefit their business. Others will contact you because your mission fulfills them. Regardless, many fold more people will connect with you when you don’t prefilter people by who they are.

3. Collect hooks.

Let’s say you only design cabinets. How often are cabinets in the news? That’s how likely a famous thriving furniture blogger is to give you a feature on his blog. So what IS in the news? A new boutique hotel chain opening? A design competition? 3d Printing? Figure out how to relate your products to what IS in the news now. For example, while you can’t print out an entire cabinet using a 3d printer cost effectively, what about just printing out the handles? The facade? A new rail to replace a worn one?

4. Spin.  

Collect hooks and learn how to spin your stuff to fit what IS in the news.

One of our clients makes a wall mount media shelf. You had me bored at “wall.” But when a new X-Box gets released, that’s an opportunity to publish his work. When Apple iTV or Google finally releases their set-top box, that’s another opportunity. Heck, this blog post was an opportunity. Now, Google “wall mount media self.” Is my client on page one of Google?

5. Build your alliance by joining It’s a Designer’s Social Network.

Get everyone you meet to reblog, retweet, repin, reshare, and repeat your social media postings. Do the same for them.

6. Collect email addresses.

Don’t you wish sometimes you had been born as the grandson or daughter of a founder of a 3d generation company like Mattel or Herman Miller? You know what the only difference is between you and them is? Well, besides the money? Connections. Only, connections. And most of the contacts they collected over their long reign in their industries are dead. So build your connections now. With just 10,000 email addresses of people who love your style, you’ll do just fine.

7. Automate for Auto Pilot

Why are you still doing all the technician’s work of moving that mouse around? Typing and moving the mouse requires zero creativity. Just stay focused on the high level work and let your old desktop computer do all the technician’s work of Liking, ReTweeting, Commenting, RePinning, etc. How? Do what Fortune 500 companies are already doing. They use marketing automation software.

by Robert Wan, contributor to Forbes, Fast Company, and Time (hopefully). You can reach me at my social media marketing strategy page.

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New furniture is fantastic… but what do you do with the old?

If you are French sculptor Marc Sparfel, you repurpose them into animal sculptures!

15 years ago, Sparfel moved from France to Barcelona.  While walking through the city, he became inspired by old furniture left out on the street.

I was immediately intrigued by the amount of furniture abandoned in the streets.  Initially, I found the furnishings by chance during my walks, but later realized that in every neighborhood there is a set day to leave large items in the street. So I started walking around the old town according to the ‘furniture days’ of each neighborhood to recover the material bit by bit.

Sparfel deconstructs, reshapes, and mixes fragments of furniture together to create sculptures, mostly in animal form.  As long as his creativity endures, Sparfel seems to have an endless supply of materials.

The neighbors [have] begun to leave me chairs in front of my workshop.  This is my forest, my world where I walk with pleasure, always excited by the surprises the new harvest brings, where I hand-pick the best pieces, and choose the woods as if they were fruit on a tree.

We love this artistic spin on repurposing!  Take a look at some of the pieces below.

wood 21 wood 20 wood 19 wood 18 wood 17 wood 16 wood 15 wood 14 wood 13 wood 12 wood 11 wood 10 wood 9 wood 8 wood 7 wood 6 wood 5 wood 4 wood 2 wood 1

Origami – For Your Home!


Origami isn’t just for art projects anymore.

Take a look at this origami inspired coffee table, from Toronto-based designer Martin Pitonak.

Pitonak works with clients to meet their own size, material, and price specifications.

Take a look at the finished product below.  Also, follow this link to see the entire construction process!

Origami-Coffee-Table-by-Martin-Pitonak-3 Origami-Coffee-Table-by-Martin-Pitonak-5 Origami-Coffee-Table-by-Martin-Pitonak-4 Origami-Coffee-Table-by-Martin-Pitonak-6 Origami-Coffee-Table-by-Martin-Pitonak-7 origami table

Are you loving it?

mc d 11

McDonald’s is getting a makeover!  McDonald’s France, that is.

Design Patrick Norguet has been commissioned by McDonald’s France to vamp up outdoor patio furniture in restaurants across the country.

“The collection needed to be low-cost, robust, ‘sensual,’ and quick to develop,” says Norguet. “Very quickly, I had this intuition that the use of metal and pressed steel would be the most intelligent materials for this project.”

The end result is a collection of 28 pieces made of steel, concrete, and Corian.  Visually, the pieces look cool, modern, and comfortable.  Does anyone else see their favorite office chair in the seats?

McDonald’s France will be rolling this furniture out across the country, and it is expected to make it’s way across other locations in Europe.  We’re hoping these make their way stateside too!

McD 1

McD 2mc d 12

McD 6



McD 5

mcD 7mc d coffeeAnd to be as inclusive as possible, Norguet even released a collection of reusable coffee cups!

How are you Affected?


Today, we wanted to post a great article from the New York Times about the concept of “affect” and how it relates to design.  In this instance, affect describes the way people are impacted, changed, and react to design.

What moves you the most when considering design elements?  Take the above photo.  Are you impacted by the colors, lines, function, size?  Let us know!

Defining the Emotional Cause of “Affect”


Published: December 2, 2012

VENICE — If asked to describe what you think of a chair or a phone, you might begin by explaining what it looks like, what it does, and if it has any special qualities. But one of the most important factors in determining how you feel will be your instinctive response when you encounter the object, an experience that is similar to what philosophers call an “affect.”

That word is becoming rather popular in design circles. Not that it is new. On the contrary, the concept dates back to Aristotle’s writing in ancient Greece. Nor is it new for designers and design theorists to discuss how design impacts the senses. But doing so can be complicated, not least because the language to describe it is often imprecise, sometimes confusingly so. Some people refer to the fuzzy bundle of sensations that design can provoke as a change of mood or atmosphere, and others talk about a new tone or spirit.

Affect could prove to be a more accurate term, which would be helpful. After all, the clearer we are in identifying the different ways that design influences us, the better equipped we will be to understand it, and to ensure that its power is used intelligently.

The concept of affect may be rooted in ancient Greece, but the word hails from ancient Rome and the Latin noun affectus. It was introduced to the English language in the 1300s to describe the rush of emotions experienced when someone falls in love or is overcome by joy or sorrow. In the 17th century, the philosophers René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza distinguished affect from emotion by emphasizing its transformative nature. It was redefined again in the 20th century by philosophers like Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze, who applied it to aesthetics, literature and technology.

Affect is now being used in architecture, notably by the Iranian-born, London-based architect Farshid Moussavi, who devoted her contribution to this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, which ended here Nov. 25, to “Architecture and Affects.” By projecting giant images of different architectural styles and structures, she illustrated how architects can define the way we relate to buildings by creating different affects through their choice of scale, materials, shapes, decorative elements and methods of construction.

Similar principles apply to the design of other things, whether they are objects, like chairs and phones, or images. I know that my response to them is as likely to be determined by the seemingly random assortment of memories and associations they provoke as it is by fact.

An obvious example is a typeface, like the one you are reading now. Simply by looking at the shapes of the letters you will know instinctively how its designer wanted you to interpret it. You don’t need to be a typographic historian to realize that the simplicity of a font with no decorative details, like Helvetica, used in the logos of American Airlines and American Apparel, is intended to evoke efficiency, speed and clarity. And you should be able to guess that the more elaborately shaped and ornately decorated the letters are, the likelier they will be to appear on the cover of a trashy novel or in the opening titles of a sappy movie. We know intuitively that, unlike ascetic Helvetica, a typeface with those affects is not intended to be taken entirely seriously.

Or consider a familiar object: the Thonet Model No. 14, a wooden dining chair designed by the German industrialist Michael Thonet during the mid-1800s. It was introduced in 1859 as the first mass-manufactured chair to be sold at an affordable price and has since seated more people than any other chair.

Anyone who is familiar with its history will know how radical the No. 14 would have seemed in the 1800s, when it was one of the first pieces of furniture, which was as likely to be bought by a teacher as a prince. They will also know that Thonet devoted years of research and testing to its development, and rejected numerous early versions until he found one that satisfied him. He then continued to refine the chair’s design and by 1867 had worked out how to make it from just six pieces of wood, ten screws and two nuts.

But even without that knowledge, you can still sense what sort of chair Thonet wanted to make, whether or not you realize that you are doing so, by instinctively decoding the affects of his design. What do they tell us about the No. 14? That it will be useful, robust and, somehow, both bold and reassuring.

We can see that Thonet planned to produce a practical chair from its structure. Why else would he have designed it from so few components: each of which is compact, simple in shape, and clearly designated to fulfill a specific function? The fact that nothing is surplus to requirements suggests that the No. 14 was designed, not only with a certain bravura and a refusal to compromise, but with considerable care, which is bound to feel reassuring.

The same qualities are embedded in its stylistic elements. There is nothing fussy about the chair, signaling that it was intended to be useful and durable. But there is a tension between its gleaming wood and gentle curves, which remind us of the rustic coziness of traditional hand-crafted furniture, and the precision of those curves: clues that they must have been made by machine, not by hand.

Back in 1859, the first No. 14s promised to combine the reliability of industrial production with the emotional warmth of wood. Over 150 years later, we still find that combination reassuring, while sensing that there is something unexpected about it, bold even. Each of us will interpret the affects of Thonet’s chair slightly differently, but the impression they produce is very powerful, which is why understanding that sensation is not just important to designers but to us too.

thonet no 14

The Thonet No. 14 Chair

Indy Island

Take a look at this exciting opportunity to spend six-weeks on Indy Island!  Fair warning, this is not your typical camping trip…
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is issuing a call for proposals for a six-week summer 2013 residency on Andrea Zittel’s Indy Island within the IMA’s 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Graduate and undergraduate students and professionals in the fields of art, design, architecture and performing arts are encouraged to apply to customize and reside on Indy Island.

Anchored in the 35-acre lake within 100 Acres, Indy Island is a habitable, “off-the-grid” structure accessible by rowboat. At about 20 feet in diameter, the island serves as an experimental living structure that examines our daily needs. Residents collaborate with Zittel by adapting and modifying the island’s structure according to their individual needs.

Despite Indy Island‘s inherent limitations, the structure and residency are relatively open-ended. The aims of past projects were diverse, including:
• In 2010, Herron School of Art and Design (Indianapolis) students Jessica Dunn and Michael Runge activated the installation through a series of visitor interactions based on a system of exchange with their project titled Give and Take.
• The 2011 island resident was Katherine Ball, a student of Portland State University’s Art + Social Practice MFA program (Portland, Oregon). Over the course of her residency, titled No Swimming, Ball initiated a series of ecologically remedial interventions in the Park’s lake and engaged a local audience through a series of public programs centered on the topic of water.
• For his 2012 residency titled INDIGENOUS: Into the Wild with A. Bitterman, Kansas City-based artist A. Bitterman created a series of sculptural interventions throughout the Park that prompted visitors to question their relationship with “the wild.” To further this inquiry, Bitterman acted as an element of nature himself, and relied on visitors for food and refrained from verbal communication.

It’s important that the 2013 residency addresses concerns not previously explored. There must be a strong rationalization for why the proposed project should take place on Indy Island. Proposals that don’t specifically relate to the island or 100 Acres will not be considered.

To apply:
Apply for the residency at There, applicants can find photos and renderings of Indy Island, as well as further details about the selection process.

Proposals are due Friday, January 11, 2013, and should include a brief written statement and renderings of the proposed project. The residency must last six weeks or longer and be conducted between May and September 2013.

When life gives you magazines… MAKE FURNITURE!

Belgian designer Jens Praet has finally solved the age old question:  What do you do with all of your old Elle Decor Magazines?

Showcasing at next months Design Miami, Praet’s Shredded collection was designed in collaboration with Elle Decor and speaks as an ode to the immense amount of paper waste produced every day.  Each piece is made from  5 to 26 kg of shredded magazine.  To construct these pieces, the paper was combined with resin, formed, and left to dry.  The resulting product similar to wood.

In the words of Praet:  “Paper waste returns to our living or working area as functional furniture, bringing to mind just what little thought we give to general use of paper.”

If the shoe doesn’t fit… customize!

This is a great story that shows the value of customized furniture.

H2O Architects had the challenge of designing a 550 square foot apartment in Les Menuires, a sky resort in the French Alps.  To avoid clutter and to make the space as open as possible, H2O choose to build the necessary furniture into the layout of the space.

The result is a beautiful, comfortable, modern-day cabin!

The space includes four beds – with curtains for privacy -, two bathrooms, a reading nook, storage space for ski equipement, kitchen, and even a bit of open living space!

The result is a great lesson in the importance of working with the space that you have.  A beautiful piece of furniture will never look right if it doesn’t fit correctly in the space.  Especially when working with small or unique spaces, customization can be the best way to get the most functional results.

News on Newson

Take a look at this inspiring vido by Crane TV, featuring world renowned Australian designer Marc Newson.

We especially love his comments about design as the universal language and an international industry.

He goes on to say that looking back, this period of history will be regarded as a second industrial revolution.  There certainly has been astounding technological advancements in the past ten years alone – and with developments in technology come developments in design.  In a moment of cynicism, Newson laments that despite all of the progress in society, he feels sorry that his daughter will never know a world without an iPod.  Is this a sentiment that every generation feels?  Or do you think that our world is getting too technical too fast?

Ponder these thoughts, watch the video, and then take a peek at some of Marc Newson’s famed pieces below!


Bunky Bunk Bed


Wood Chair


Random Pak Sofa


Plastic Orgone Chair


Nimrod Chair


Micarta Chair


Orgone Lounge


Lockheed Lounge


Gello Table


Felt Chair – Felt


Extruded Table 3


Coast Chair

Brad Pitt: Furniture Designer

It’s in the news, so we gotta talk about.

In case you haven’t heard, Brad Pitt’s latest role is that of furniture designer.  Pitt has long been an architecture enthusiast, and tells Architecture Digest that he has been “doodling ideas for buildings and furniture since the early 1990s, when I first discovered [Charles Rennie] Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright.”  Collaborating with custom designer Frank Pollaro, the collection is set to unveil in a private exhitbition in New York from November 13 through November 15.  The limited series includes club chairs, dining tables, glass-top side tables, a bathtub for two in Statuario Venato marble, and a king-sized bed with a cantilevered bench, exposed nickel trusses, integrated shagreen footpads.  The pieces will be available in a variety of finishes, but a limited number will be manufactured.  As for the price, AD states the following:

Though Pollaro declines to discuss specific figures, he notes that his prices are “typically at the highest end of the custom-furnishings scale, and these will be up there, even north of that.” But, he adds, eventually certain pieces may be adapted for larger-scale production, in different materials—a chair in molded plastic, say. “The same chair we charge $45,000 for might sell for a fraction of that,” he says.

Take a sneak peek at a few of the pieces below.  Has Pitt found his second calling?

King size bed.  Only nine are set to be manufactured.

Marble tub for two.

White patent leather chair.

Side table.

Side table finished in 24-karat gold.

Dining table.

Dining table with metal finishes.

The bases are composed of one continuous line, which holds different meanings for Pitt.  “It started with my introduction to Mackintosh’s Glasgow rose, which is drawn with one continuous line,” he says. “But for me there is something more grand at play, as if you could tell the story of one’s life with a single line.”


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