What’s new what’s next: In world leadership and design

New York ruminated on technology in September, appreciating it in the New York Design Center's annual market day as well as during the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.  As AD writes “We've passed the point of forgiveness for designers who are un-savvy about technology.” A few days later, all member states of the UN were encouraged to be savvy as well.

The UN High-Level Event on Innovation and Technology gathered Heads of State, CEOs and technology thought-leaders. The President of Estonia, H.E. Kersti Kaljulaid related why her small country already has 5G LTE - the government kept out of the way.  (She also noted that the washing machine changed more lives than putting a man on the moon.)  The event  was convened by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General's Global Pulse and the SDG Action Campaign and we were pleased to participate. SDG stands for the Sustainable Development Goals, the “to-do list for humanity,” a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The 17 Goals include Sustainable Cities and Communities and Responsible Consumption and Production - two goals designers and architects can embrace.  Kristin Gutekunst, an Executive Producer for the UN SDG Action Campaign, moderated a panel on “The future we want in virtual reality.” On the panel was Monique Marian, architect, BIM Coordinator and VR Specialist  at Grimshaw Architects, who spoke about VR use in her field.  

H.E. Miroslav Lajčák, the President of the United Nations General Assembly urged, “Let us unleash innovation to unlock the potential of every person everywhere, especially young people.”  Likewise Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Chair of LinkedIn, stressed the importance of Artificial Intelligence in shaping societies, saying how all people will be needed to solve the problems ahead.

Marc Benioff, the CEO and Founder of Salesforce, reminded us that the UN was born in San Francisco, and we all need to allow innovation to happen. He explored AI as a basic human right as it touches on education, farming, commerce, health.  

At the NY Design Center’s What's New What's Next, designers Jon Call, Philip Gorrivan, Katie Lydon and Philip Gorrivan talked with Viyet CEO Lix Brown about issues Panafold helps designers with, such as having a digital presence (important at any point of your career), and using tech-enabled Moodboards to create design boards (stay tuned.) Dering Hall Executive Editor Dennis Sarlo led a discussion on tools the panel knew about and used. On the panel were Kati Curtis, Joe Human, Paloma Contreras, Patrick Dragonette. The group sourced ideas from attending a lot of markets and often stored them in Dropbox folders.  They were cautious with sharing Pinterest boards with clients,  finding it can lead to misinformation (an interesting user experience design problem).  Instagram was good for connecting with people so long as designers kept a good ratio of personal and work content.  Online design services hurt more than helped their work. More helpful services were Matterport, which will document and model a space, and Trello-like applications such as Dapulse and Asana.

In the foreground an example of design innovation: The Aplat + Chef Melissa King Shibori Tote makes its debut at the UN. On the monitors, President Kersti Kaljulaid (Estonia).  

In the foreground an example of design innovation: The Aplat + Chef Melissa King Shibori Tote makes its debut at the UN. On the monitors, President Kersti Kaljulaid (Estonia).  

Along with the SDG goals that directly relate to design and architecture, we at Panafold want to underscore the spirit of Goals 4 (quality education), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and 10 (reduced inequality). Just because many in the design industry work in small companies it doesn’t mean that we can’t have impact. The Global Day of Action is September 25th.

On Wayne Thiebaud and Gary Hutton: Art, History, Place

Fall Fields, 2017 © Wayne Thiebaud / DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2017

Fall Fields, 2017 © Wayne Thiebaud / DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2017

Not many know the art lineage of two western artists and designers, Wayne Thiebaud and Gary Hutton, or the role of the land in their work.  In 1920, Mesa Arizona had a population of 3,000, among them Wayne Thiebaud.  Mesa has hundreds of miles of thousand-year old canals that texture the Sonoran desert. There and in his boyhood home of Long Beach, California, the sun was bright and cast well-defined shadows.

Wayne Thiebaud called himself a painter of illusionistic form. Others credit him for helping to invent pop art. Thiebaud is well known for his paintings of pies and other diner and cafe objects. It took a British critic describing Thiebaud’s recent show at White Cube (2017) to see beyond pop to portraiture and landscape. Laura Cumming writes, “Thiebaud’s joy in America extends out through the landscape, no matter how industrial. Gold and pink striped fields somehow keep their terrestrial reality, despite the celestial colours, because he puts so much exactitude into the drawing that underpins every work.”  Among his pupils was Gary Hutton, an art student who would become a California designer, furniture maker and interior designer.

Hutton told Designwire, “I was born and raised on my grandmother’s apple orchard.  My dad was an engineer, driving trains for the railroad; my mother a homemaker.”  He left for U.C. Davis “during the Golden Age of its Art Department,”  which included Wayne Thiebaud.

Designer Gary Hutton

Designer Gary Hutton

Thiebaud had been inspired by New York artists whose work was experimental, modern, sometimes clean and spare, sometimes textured.  Willem de Kooning’s paint textured the canvass, and Thiebaud’s cakes are textured with paint as thick as frosting. Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns  captured objects in the life of post-war America.  Elaine de Kooning expanded possibilities of portraiture. She studied each person hard to uncover the essential pose that would define them.

Did Thiebaud’s inspirations influence Gary Hutton’s work? “My design aesthetic originates from my art background and training. Touch and feel are very important. It’s like textiles —how does this fabric feel?  What’s it going to look like?  How is it going to perform?  I’d describe my style as clean, modern, and experimental.”  Equally, he said to us, the relationship between the client and the designer is key to the success of the job. He studies his clients hard.

We met with Hutton on a mild summer day in San Francisco.  He told us about an enjoyable project on a house designed by architect A. Quincy Jones and postwar developer Joseph Eichler.  “Postwar clean, modern, and experimental” are terms that come to mind.  They peeled back layers of misguided design and reintroduced mid-century designers.  He also introduced artworks from the period.  Gary spoke fondly of the clients - they developed “a professional partnership, but also a friendly one.”  

Gary Hutton's Lagoon House: A revitalization of one of the last remaining Eichler houses. Photo: Matthew Millman

Gary Hutton's Lagoon House: A revitalization of one of the last remaining Eichler houses. Photo: Matthew Millman

The house sits on the water. It is not large, but its open plan, glass walls and interior garden capture a sense of place and give it a light feel that honors the modernity and historicity of one of few remaining Eichler houses.  Gary humbly says that “working for ghd is a continuing education.” For the rest of us, his work educates and continues the work of his teachers.