Tag Archives: Good Design

Here’s the nonprofit bringing good design to Columbus’ disadvantaged neighborhoods

Neighborhood Design Center is partnering with the city in revitalization efforts for Linden and the Hilltop.

As Columbus considers how to elevate its neighborhoods thoughtfully, it has a secret weapon you may not know about—the Neighborhood Design Center. The center’s job is to revitalize urban settings through creative planning and it has been quietly doing so since 1982.

In the beginning, the nonprofit center offered small business owners solutions for their storefronts and other store design aspects. Now, it has recently extended its scope to focus on entire communities and what they may need—everything from physical improvements to stabilizing housing, connecting residents with employment and efforts to support the success of neighborhood students.

Partnering with organizations has allowed the center to operate on a larger scale. Even though the areas the center touches have widened, there always has been a commitment to hearing what residents want and need, and translating them. For example, from March 17 to April 18, the center, in partnership with the city of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods, the United Way and Ohio State University, met with Linden residents more than 200 times to listen, assess needs and come up with an extensive revitalization plan called One Linden. The plan has a reach of 2.6 square miles and 18,000 residents. “We truly want to make the community feel that they have a voice to tell their stories and what they want,” says Isabela Gould, the center’s executive director. The One Linden plan offers “10 Big Ideas” that the director of the Department of Neighborhoods, Carla Williams-Scott, says the city plans to implement.

The work has grown the Neighborhood Design Center’s operations. “We went from two full-time people and four student interns to five full-time people and six interns,” says Gould. “That has allowed us to operate with greater capacity and at a greater scale overall. And I think, more importantly, in moving forward, it allows us to connect even more and increase our potential for partnerships and for truly making a stronger impact in the neighborhoods in the long term.”

The team includes architects, city planners, landscape architects and interior designers. Interns make up nearly half of the staff at any given time, and more than 30 students have had the opportunity to intern with the organization. “We’re also in the process of expanding our relationship with other colleges,” says Gould, such as OSU’s College of Social Work and Fisher College of Business.

As the city and the partners decide how to implement the One Linden plan, they are working on a new plan for the Hilltop. Each neighborhood is different, says Williams-Scott, so each plan needs to be tailored to the specific needs of that community. The Hilltop plan is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

“At first I was concerned because I had never worked with [the center]. If I haven’t worked with you and I don’t know what I’m going into, you kind of walk in almost like tiptoeing,” says Williams-Scott. “But they’ve really helped us in terms of creativity and how we do our outreach in the communities and their knowledge of the planning process.”

In addition to neighborhood plans, the center’s Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization program, funded by city grant money, offers aesthetic improvements to ground-level commercial storefronts and commercial interiors of eligible businesses in certain corridors on Cleveland Avenue, East Main Street, Parsons Avenue, in Franklinton, the Hilltop and the King-Lincoln District. It has also transformed vacant land through its Parcels to Places program and revitalizes public spaces through art installations. “We want to really see projects come to reality, not stay just in a paper format,” says Gould. “We make it possible for them to be able to dream big.”

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Continue reading Here’s the nonprofit bringing good design to Columbus’ disadvantaged neighborhoods

10 Questions With… MoMA Curator Juliet Kinchin

Juliet Kinchin, curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA. Photography by Robert Gerhardt, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Juliet Kinchin, dressed in black accented by pops of color from her necklace (a find at the MoMA Design Store) and ruby-red square bracelet, walked through The Value of Good Design exhibition at theMuseum of Modern Art in New York, pausing at an armchair designed by Hans Wegner in the 1940s as if seeing it for the first time. But this was hardly Kinchin’s introduction to the object in front of her—she curated the exhibition.  

As Curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA since 2008, Kinchin has organized design retrospectives ranging fromCounter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen (2010-11) to Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900-2000 (2012) and held faculty positions at The Glasgow School of Art and at The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in Design in New York. Positioning objects in ways that create new dialogue is her forte.  

The Value of Good Design runs through June 15, 2019 and features household objects, furniture, and appliances from the late 1930s through the 1950s when the U.S. emerged as what Kinchin calls a “design superpower.” It also spotlights MoMA’s Good Design Initiatives, which served as an incubator for innovation at the time. After the walk-through, Kinchin shared some insights into her curatorial process with Interior Design, including her earliest design influences, addressing inclusivity in exhibitions, and the joy of re-purposing vintage curtains.

The Anywhere Lamp by Greta Von Nessen (1951), made of aluminum and enameled steel. Photography courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Interior Design: What does ‘good design’ mean today?

Juliet Kinchin: The words ‘good design’ are always going to conjure up different things for different people. And something that was considered good design in the 1950s doesn’t necessarily hold up nowadays. Good design should reflect technological advances and the social conditions or aspirations of each generation. It goes without saying that most people don’t want to live in the past or dress like our parents and grandparents. Having said that, some objects and core values do seem to have stood the test of time—generally those which combine eye appeal, functionality, and affordability. This was a combination of values that MoMA curators, like Edgar Kaufmann Jr., were trying to seek out at mid-century. What’s perhaps different is the way we are now thinking more about sustainability and the ethical dimension of the way things are made and sold.

ID: Why choose to explore the value of good design through mid-century pieces?  

JK: The second world war and its aftermath brought design into focus as a tool for engineering change, whether social, technological, or economic. It was a time of tremendous experimentation, innovation, and idealism in the design of everyday objects and, from 1945 at least, a time of optimism about creating a different, more egalitarian future. I think we are all hungry for that kind of optimism and innovation right now. ‘Good Design’ at mid-century was an international phenomenon and in our exhibition at MoMA we wanted to show the commonality of approaches and thinking in different parts of the world, and the networks through which so many designers and manufacturers moved freely.

Read more: 10 Questions With… Lisa White

Prototype for Chaise Lounge (La Chaise) by Charles Eames and Ray Eames (1948), made of hard rubber foam, plastic, wood, and metal. Photography by Jonathan Muzikar, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

ID: What’s the greatest challenge when curating an exhibition like this? 

JK: The exhibition includes objects of such different scales and media, which is also half the fun, from a Tupperware popsicle to printed textiles, a Fiat Cinquecento, and a film made by Charles and Ray Eames for the 1959 American National Exhibition held in Moscow. It’s about trying to arrange them in meaningful and visually coherent groups, bringing designed objects into friendly dialogue, or argument, with each other. It is also a challenge to put developments in the U.S. in a broad international context. We have included stunning and familiar design from Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, and the U.K. but also wanted to move beyond them to countries like Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Japan. It was interesting to see how good design was coopted into a framework of Cold War politics. One only has to think of the face-off in 1959 between Nixon and Kruschev in front of a fitted American kitchen on view in Moscow. It is a timely reminder about the power of design as an ideological weapon.

ID: How do you address inclusivity, especially when revisiting work from the 1930s through 1950s?

JK: There is no doubt that in those decades the design professions were far from inclusive in terms of gender and ethnicity, and that often credit was not always publicly given where it was due. We don’t want to whitewash the past, but through research into the collections and staging exhibitions that pose sometimes difficult questions about whose values we represent, we can often throw light upon objects and individuals from the past that reflect current concerns with inclusivity. To give a couple of examples, in the Organic Design competition of 1940 organized by MoMA, prize-winning designs by Ray Eames, Noémi Raymond and Clara Porset were all credited to their respective husbands. We have little representation of African American designers working at mid-century, but we now know a little more about Joel Robinson whose textiles were featured in magazines like Ebony and were highly lauded at the 1951 Good Design exhibitions held in MoMA and the Chicago Merchandise Mart. It is also true to say that the Good Design program was a lifeline for many women at mid-century who were perhaps working in relative isolation and found it difficult to make headway in larger corporate firms of the period.

Butterfly Stools by Sori Yanagi (1956) made of molded plywood and metal. Photography courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

ID: You’ve lived and worked in Europe and the U.S.—what most distinguishes the design appetite in these areas? 

JK: Each city, region, country has its own design culture and material feel, even if many of the actual products are actually the same in different parts of the world, and our high streets are increasingly homogenized by global corporations. New York has a different pace and energy from anywhere else I’ve lived, but I don’t feel design is given as much priority in government-led initiatives and agendas as in many other parts of Europe.

ID: What is your earliest memory of being impacted by design?

JK: As a young child, I remember being mesmerized by the version of Ray Eames’s Hang-It-All coatrack finished with colored plastic balls, and the colorful abstract patterns of curtains my mother had bought in the 1950s—I have patched and relined these over the years and still use them in my own home.

Mitsubishi Sewing Machine Silkscreen by Hiroshi Ohchi (c. 1950s). Image courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

ID: Back in 2012, you organized ‘Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900-2000’ at MoMA; did any of your favorite childhood toys make it into the exhibition?  

JK: Like many children (and adults) the world over I played for hours with a Slinky. As we speak, I can remember the transfer of its weight from hand-to-hand, and the clinking whirring sound of the spring as it unfurled and sprang back. And the smell of the metal in tiny hot hands! I was delighted to feature this mainstay of MoMA’s Good Design exhibitions in both ‘Century of the Child’ and the current show.

ID: What’s your process when it comes to curating spaces, either for exhibitions or in your home? Where do you start?

JK: I love stuff—not only the way it looks and feels, but sounds, smells, perhaps even tastes … I find the things that ‘call out’ to me often reflect the issues or things I am thinking about in the present. Whether we are looking at design from the past, or future-oriented design, we are always filtering perceptions through the present. Curation is about exploring relationships between artworks. I like to think of it in terms of creating a new social life for things, introducing them to new friends, making up with one-time enemies, having a civilized conversation with strangers. And it’s about trying to pace the experience, creating contemplative as well as abrasive moments, and about mixing familiar favorites with less well-known pieces. Exhibiting everyday objects like an axe, a shrimp deveiner, a cookie cutter in the context of an art museum forces people to look twice at such things and to see them in a different light.

The 500f city car by Dante Giacosa (designed 1957; example pictured from 1968) made of steel with fabric top. Photography by Jonathan Muzikar, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

ID: What most surprises you about the way people interact with exhibitions through social media?

JK: I think people are often using their phones as a means of looking in detail at design rather than recording and saving images for posterity. Taking and posting photos on social media has become an incredibly important way of consuming design without having to actually purchase it or possess it physically.

ID: What’s your ‘go to’ source of inspiration?

JK: Flea markets, old magazines, libraries and archives, artists’ studios, podcasts, street signs and sounds, factories … design is everywhere you care to look.

Low Chair by Charlotte Perriand (designed 1940), made of bamboo. Photography by Jonathan Muzikar, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Read more: 10 Questions With… Caroline Till

Continue reading 10 Questions With… MoMA Curator Juliet Kinchin


Primo Orpilla, FIIDA, Principal and Co-founder of Studio O+A

I’m often asked for my definition of “good design.” Like design itself, the answer to that question changes constantly. When I first started in this industry 30 years ago, good design was all about efficiency—getting function out of a space by arranging its occupants in tidy, reproducible patterns. When tech came along with its “question everything” culture, good design became more focused on meeting individual needs—the need for comfort, for self-expression, for really good coffee somewhere nearby.


Today, I think good design has evolved into a broader concept of community, an environment that functions as a healthy and meaningful ecosystem. Through all these definitions one thing has remained constant: good design is authentic. If that sounds like Dieter Rams’ 11th principle, it’s probably because it grows from the same roots that sprouted Dieter’s other 10—humility and integrity. Everyone recognizes and responds to quality. You don’t have to have a maker’s temperament to feel the value in something that was lovingly crafted and put together with pride.

As a designer of workplaces and, more recently, of workplace furniture, I have come to understand the impact subtle interactions with texture have on the way we feel about our day—the sound a knuckle rapped on solid wood makes, the depth of color in a true ceramic tile, the subtle message of reassurance we get from settling onto real leather. These are pleasures available only in the original.

More Community Design: Advocacy in Design


For that reason, I always encourage clients to use authentic Herman Miller or Knoll products. These iconic designs are timeless because the tradition of quality they represent never expires. That quality should not be undermined with fakes. I am also on the lookout for new artisans and authentic manufacturers—the Charles and Ray Eames of the future. The design industry has created a highly receptive market for companies and individuals dedicated to creating and distributing original work.

O+A is always happy when we can specify products from MASH Studios or Dsegnare. Even happier when we can work with those fine craftsmen and women to make custom items for our custom interiors. When I was partnering with Kimball Office on the design for my multi-functional workstation, Canopy, I realized a truly successful product encompassed all of the definitions of good design—it was efficient, it met the user’s individual needs, it contributed to the healthy ecosystem of the workplace. To touch all those bases, to make something that will evolve alongside the changing values of accelerating times, it is necessary to slow down and do the careful, attentive work that only comes from original effort.

You can’t knock off quality. Knock your knuckles on a table to hear why.


Primo Orpilla is the co‐founder of Studio O+A, a multi-disciplinary San Francisco design firm that has changed the way we think about work and workplace. Recently named Global Chair for Student Experience at the International Interior Design Association, Primo’s new focus is empowering the next generation of designers. In 2016, O+A won the Cooper Hewitt Design Award for Interior Design. In 2017, FRAME Publishers released a comprehensive retrospective of the firm’s work: “Studio O+A: Twelve True Tales of Workplace Design.”

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Why good design alone won’t attract millennials to your company

Many Australian companies are embracing funky new design features that maximise relaxation and homely chill zones in an effort to lure highly skilled professionals. While these features certainly hold appeal, most workers are looking for more than just neat design when they choose their ideal workplace.

Consulting firm Accenture recently made the news after installing a “Zen room” in its Melbourne offices to attract millennials to its workforce. Designed so that employees can take time out to relax, meditate or think through problems, the space is fitted out with hanging pod chairs, couches and a fireplace. Technology is banned.

And Accenture is not alone. Google has sleep pods and fish tank relaxation rooms with massage chairs in its Sydney office. Hammocks, indoor gardens, mini-golf, pool tables and even in-house bowling alleys are increasingly common fixtures.

Research shows that these types of spaces can accelerate recovery from cognitive fatigue as well as reducing stress. While not new, quiet spaces or relaxation rooms are intended to enhance well-being, increase engagement and improve performance.

Workplace engagement is a significant issue for employers, with levels of engagement continuing to fall. Studies have shown that only 28% of millennials are engaged at work.

At the same time, work-related stress continues to rise. Up to 49% of Australian employees are estimated to be stressed and distracted at work, costing employers more than A$10 billion per year.

Google’s offices in Sydney. Image: AAP


The consequences of work stress are of significant public interest because of their association with ill health, including cardiovascular disease and mental illness. Employers continue to experiment with workplace design, as it plays a powerful role in influencing stress. Alterations to design, materials and layout can have both positive and negative outcomes.

Open-plan offices have been a prevalent feature of workplaces for decades. Now more and more companies plan to implement hot-desking environments, where employees have no fixed desk. Research on open-plan environments has conclusively shown that employees struggle to perform effectively due to issues with noise, interruptions, distraction and loss of privacy. If you are interrupted, it can take up to 23 minutes to regain focus on the task.

One employee I spoke with during a workplace study commented that they had counted being interrupted 80 times in one morning. The interruptions had included an impromptu birthday morning tea in the workstations a few feet away, two colleagues having a stand-up argument, and another employee conducting a loud conference call on speakerphone in the open work area.

While it might seem like a folly, the design of relaxation or “zen rooms” has arisen in response to these and other challenges of modern workplace design and work. The photos of the relaxation spaces shown here have both an aesthetically pleasing and a domestic feel, designed to make employees feel relaxed and at home.

The Sydney office of Dropbox is designed to have the feel of an Australian living room. Image: Supplied 


Creating workplaces that don’t feel like offices is gaining popularity. Dropbox’s new Sydney’s office is intentionally designed to appear like an “Australian living room”. But is there any science behind the ideas, and is it likely to make any difference to recruits?

New research has shown that workplaces specifically designed to be aesthetically pleasing and beautiful led to increased levels of trust among new employees who perceived the employer to be more trustworthy as a result. Additionally, the higher levels of trust went on to predict coworker ratings of learning behaviour.

The use of natural materials such as wood and stone, rather than concrete and laminates, has been shown to increase creativity. Additionally, the same study showed that the use of cool colours and attractive details was helpful to creativity.

The benefits of the inclusion of indoor plants and/or views of greenery are supported by evidence showing that exposure to nature resulted in decreased heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol, a stress hormone. Another study showed that workplace greenery improved perceptions of air quality, concentration, satisfaction and productivity.

Another view of the ‘living-room-like’ Sydney office of Dropbox. Image: Supplied 

Relaxation spaces, often closed off from the wider office and fitted with relaxing furniture and good acoustics, address the key complaint of modern workplaces – noise.

Both single-talker and multi-talker distractions in open-plan offices result in higher levels of distraction and lower cognitive performance, according to research, as well as increased levels of annoyance and mental workload.

A key advantage of relaxation spaces are that employees are able to control noise and distraction. The ability of employees to exercise personal control over elements of the environment appears to mediate some of the negative effects.

Lighting levels, access to attractive views such as art, feature installations such as fireplaces, and proximity to windows have been shown to have direct positive physical effects.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) offices in Melbourne. Image: Supplied 


While these examples show that the workplace itself is important, there are broader drivers of interest to job-seekers and millennials in particular.

A recent study by Gallup highlighted that opportunities to learn and grow, quality of the individual manager and management overall, interest in the work, and opportunities for advancement were ranked in the top 5 by millennials, gen X and baby boomers.

Empirical research has supported these findings, showing that interesting and flexible work along with good relationships with supervisors and colleagues were rated most important for millennials.

Though millennials seek work-life balance, time flexibility is only one aspect of a flexible environment. Millennials also seek flexibility in terms of employment with different types of contracts, role flexibility and flexibility with location.

The ConversationOrganisations seeking to increase loyalty need to ensure they are balancing attractive workplaces and flexibility with effective management and growth opportunities.

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