Archive for the ‘Industrial Design’ Category

My interview on the Birmingham Shines Podcast











Media Strategist and Digital Content Creator Sheree Martin interviewed me earlier this week for her Birmingham Shines Podcast.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.

We discussed the value of both inspiration and research in the design process, ethnographic research, design thinking, college chemistry classes, how I decided to pursue a design career, as well as my favorite design book, The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman.

I also had the opportunity to plug Design Week Birmingham 2015 which takes place all next week.

Design Week Birmingham Website

Design Week Birmingham Facebook Page

My wife and I appear on Flip My Food with Chef Jeff

My lovely wife Jessie and I were asked this summer to appear on the television show Flip My Food with Chef Jeff.  Chef Jeff worked his way up from prison dishwasher to eventually become the executive chef at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Since then he has had a show on the Food Network and written a New York Times bestselling memoir. For the past few months he has been traveling around the south with his food truck teaching both professional and amateur cooks great ways to make the food that they cook healthier.


It’s showtime!

They found us through my wife’s food blog about the hidden gems of Birmingham’s food scene  (I am her assistant which mostly means constantly trying amazing new places around town and occasionally taking a few pictures.)

From the audition process through filming, the entire process was laid back and fun. I had not been on the stage, so to speak, since playing James in James and the Giant Peach in middle school so I was not sure what to expect. I got there quite a bit early so I could watch the first guest cook with Chef Jeff. The crew introduced themselves and explained a little bit about how things worked. I found out we were making fish tacos which are one of my absolute favorites, but was also something that I had never cooked at home.

Fresco-Box-Grater-Chef-Jeff-216 x 349

We used the box grater I designed for the southern slaw

Before I knew it I was in makeup and ready to hop onto the food truck. Chef Jeff took a moment to introduce himself and in short order we were filming. We used the box grater that I designed to grate the cabbage for the slaw, as well as my peppermill. (Chef Jeff even liked my box grater enough to take one on the road with him which was super flattering.) My favorite technique that I learned was how to fry the farm raised ‘bama catfish on the stove. Though I have developed a taste for fried okra, pickles and catfish since moving down here I had not yet learned to fry anything at home. The result was a very light fish taco with a southern twist due to the use of lightly fried local catfish and vinegar slaw. The fried catfish was incredibly fresh tasting and the cabbage slaw had a bright vinegar taste and a great crunch to it. The spiciness of his sauce was not overpowering and so the crispy catfish, vinegary crunch, and the heat of the sauce were in perfect balance. It made for an amazing fish taco.


My wife Jessie and I shortly before they begin filming her segment.
(Why, yes, I am wearing makeup.)

My wife was up for filming next. I got to hang out with her for a few minutes before she headed onto the food truck for filming. Jessie and Chef Jeff made soba noodles with lobster which is making me hungry just thinking about it. My wife is extremely positive and upbeat and was great on camera. Sitting in a directors chair in the shade, watching Jessie and Chef Jeff play off of each other while they cooked together, I was able to think a bit about what an amazing experience this day had been.

Our Episode of Flip My Food with Chef Jeff airs on Fox 6 on October 31st here in Birmingham at 11:30am Central Time.


Montage in which my sideburns go grey aka New (Old) Michael Graves Products at JC Penney

Well this is pretty cool. As many of you may know Michael Graves products moved from Target Stores to JC Penney back in 2013. This was part of then CEO Ron Johnson’s efforts to bring in younger / more affluent consumers. The articles I have read note that many of these design mini stores have been out performing the more traditional areas of the store. I was excited to see what my buddies at Graves could do with the slightly higher price point of a department store to work with and they did not disappoint. In addition to a lot of cool new items, they ended up launching a few products that I designed about 10 years ago when I was a staff designer there at Michael Graves Design Group in New Jersey. This is stuff that I never thought would see the light of day but also had always been really proud of, so seeing it at the store for the first time was super fun.


Michael Graves JC Penny Salad Servers

Michael Graves “Celery” Salad Servers circa 2013

Besides designing some of the newly launched items, I actually came up with the design language that appears in a number of other items as well. Take a look at the salad servers shown here. If it’s not obvious from the image, our internal nickname for the handle shape was “celery” as it has a U shaped cross section. We were asked to combine Graves with Scandinavian and this was my take on that directive. These salad servers first appeared in the Dansk collection back in the day in a maple finish and here we can see them in a darker finish. These came out pretty much exactly like my original sketch, which was pretty exciting to a young designer me just out of school. We did a million versions of everything and the work was very collaborative so if your design language had enough “stickiness” to make it through development and onto shelves it was a pretty good feeling. In this very delayed case it feels a lot like running into an old friend at a reunion and finding that life is treating you both pretty well.


Michael Graves JC Penny Kitchen Tools

Michael Graves “Celery” Kitchen Tools circa 2013

So management, and of course Michael, liked the “celery” design language enough that we were asked to create a whole line of kitchen tools in this vein. My manager at the time, the extremely talented Yuka Midorikawa headed up the project and along with my buddy Andrew March, we designed and developed the “celery” line of kitchen tools. Montage: A lot of sushi was consumed at late hours, Flaming Lips and Outkast was played, very precise line drawings were created along with beautiful CAD models and renderings, the client loves it, sadly it does not make it to the stores because the samples were not up to par,  I move to Philadelphia to live closer to my future wife, we move to NYC, we move to Birmingham, I see Kevin Nealon on the street while traveling but I don’t say anything because I think celebrities deserve their privacy, I notice one morning that my sideburns are starting to go grey, and then finally the “celery” kitchen tools launch at JC Penney in 2013, fade to black. Other teams at the time adopted the “celery” design language too. There was Graves silverware (Curv.E flatware), mixing bowls and for the 2013 / 2014 collection for JC Penney they came up with a few more designs using “celery” including an ice bucket and bottle opener.


Michael Graves JC Penny Mill

Michael Graves “Cruciform” pepper mill circa 2013

Another old favorite of mine was the “cruciform” Peppermill. Originally designed to be made in ebonized maple as shown in the 2004 Book Michael Graves Designs: The Art of the Everyday Object, the JC Penney version circa 2014 has a teak like finish that I think works really well. I was looking at teak mills of the 60s from Dansk and Scandinavian companies and this was really an homage to mills of that period with more contemporary proportions.

Esse Purse Museum in Little Rock Arkansas

My wife and I spent a day in Little Rock recently as part of a long weekend. In search of some light food to eat we Googled “farm to table Little Rock” and found The Root Cafe. This place was fantastic and in a very cool part of town. I had the Banh Mi eggs which were wonderful. Nearby we explored the farmers market which was still going on, a cool design store called Moxy Mercantile, and also we took time to check out the Esse Museum which happened to be right next door to the restaurant.


Esse Purse Museum 01

I feel like I’m in a Swiss Design Magazine













Most of the museum moves in sequence through the decades, though there are a few cases grouped by other criteria such as exotic leather and fur. My wife commented that it would be nice if they provided more specific commentary on each of the individual bags, but the text associated with each case did do a good job of setting the bags within a historical context.

My wife and I had a great conversation with furniture / jewelry designer Morgan Hill who is the store’s creative director. She gave us a bit of background about how the museum came to be and the surrounding neighborhood. Her faceted wooden jewelry was for sale in the store and can be seen in my last image below. My iphone through the glass did not capture how cool these pieces are, her website linked above is worth a look!


Esse Purse Museum 16

Each floor case contains purses from one decade

Esse Purse Museum 15

My favorite purse from the 90s is made of stamped steel

Esse Purse Museum 06

This looks like a great project for my 3D printer!

Esse Purse Museum 10

If you look closely, you can see that there is a pin on each side holding all of the plastic strips together.

Esse Purse Museum 13 Esse Purse Museum 14 Esse Purse Museum 02 Esse Purse Museum 03 Esse Purse Museum 04 Esse Purse Museum 05 Esse Purse Museum 07 Esse Purse Museum 08 Esse Purse Museum 09 Esse Purse Museum 11


Esse Purse Museum 17

Jewelry from the very talented Morgan Hill is available in the gift shop


Design for all: My visit to the Dream Cars exhibit in Atlanta

There is something for everyone at the current “Dream Cars” exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta. I cannot imagine a more accessible exhibit. For one thing it has a rocket car on display. The exhibit consists of concept cars from the 20s through the 00s. Even the most adamant functionalist cannot help but be charmed by the beautiful forms, prophetic features, and incredible craftsmanship found in the cars on display.

“The Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas” exhibit runs at the HighMuseum in Atlanta, Georgia until September 7th, 2014.


high museum dream car 2

General Motors Firebird XP-21, 1953. This is a rocket car. No you cannot touch it. Don’t ask because they will just act annoyed and then watch you very closely from that point on. Even if you leave and come back wearing a sweater. They still know it’s you and they will be even more suspicious. I’m pretty sure they have all touched the rocket car after the museum closes. I know this because I asked the guard and he laughed like only a man that’s touched a rocket car could.

high museum dream car 1 reduced

Tasco, 1948. The “fender / wheels” apparently did not work out that well, but boy are they cool looking.

high museum dream car 3

Bugatti Type 57S. This one is a reproduction as the original concept car no longer exists. The rivets along the fenders were structural but are a nice design detail as well. The original body was made of magnesium alloy if you can believe it?

high museum dream car 4

Pininfarina (Ferrari) Modulo, 1970 at left and Lancia (Bertone) Stratos HF Zero, 1970 at right. Two Italian concept cars from 1970 that look very “Buck Rogers” to me.

high museum dream car 5

Chrysler (Ghia) Streamline X “Gilda,” 1955. This collaboration of American and Italian design is jaw dropping in person.

high museum dream car 6

Buick Centurion XP-301, 1956. This bad boy included one of those prophetic features I was talking about. It has a rear view camera with a screen mounted on the dash. Can you believe this was conceived in the 50s and we are just starting to see it widely used in production cars today?

high museum dream car 7

Back view of the stunning Buick Centurion XP-301, 1956.

high museum dream car 8

Grille closeup of General Motors Le Sabre XP-8, 1951.



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Awards and press recognition include designs being featured on the cover of Kitchenware News...

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