DesignPOP for the 2014 DesignPhiladelphia Festival

September 22, 2014 | DesignPhiladelphia, 2014 Festival



Design Your Own Schedule at DESIGNPHILADELPHIA.ORG
Click HERE to add this event to your 2014 Festival Schedule

Join Lisa S. Roberts, author of Antiques of the Future, as she presents a brief introduction to her new book DesignPOP, a cleverly photographed and beautifully created book that highlights game-changing product designs since the year 2000. Stay for a screening of an episode of her 2011 TV docu-drama “My Design Life,” featuring DesignPOP. Afterwards, join Lisa Roberts for a book signing in The Museum Store.

We sat down and talked with Lisa S. Roberts about DesignPOP, working as a designer, and her efforts to encapsulate design for the future. Read more below.

Makerchair Polygon by Joris Laarman

Tell us about the DesignPOP Book Launch:

The book launch takes place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Wednesday October 15th, 6:00 pm in the Van Pelt Auditorium. It’s “Pay What You Wish” night so it is easy to attend for anyone interested in the subject. There will be a brief presentation about why I wrote the book; followed by a screening of an episode from the recent TV series “My Design Life” which chronicled the adventures of my design team as we discovered the products to write about in the book. Immediately afterwards, there will be a book signing in the museum shop.

Lumio Book Light by Max Gunawan

Can you talk more about your work in DesignPOP?

DesignPOP is an unusual book among its genre. Housed in a neon pink-padded vinyl cover, it entertains with pithy product descriptions and engages the eye with original and humorously narrative photography. Using approachable text, it appeals to a broad audience, not just the ‘in-the-know’ design crowd. The book presents eighty-two contemporary game-changing products that have pushed the boundaries of current design.  Whether they pioneer the use of a new material or production process, take sustainability to the next level of design, or innovate in technology and functionality—each product is important in its own right.

Felt Chair by Marc Newson

Were you always a writer, or did you have another life in design?

I started my career as an architect but only practiced for a short time. There was an ongoing recession, so I changed careers and became a designer in the gift and home furnishing markets. I worked for more than 35 manufacturers over the next two decades. During this time, I witnessed an explosion in the field of product design. The boundaries between architects, industrial designers, furniture makers and crafts people were breaking down and a whole slew of new products entered the market. But the biggest impact was technology. Starting with the design process to prototyping, manufacturing, and the creation of new materials, technology was and continues to revolutionize the industry.

As a witness to this incredible wealth of great design, I started to collect some of the best pieces - those winning awards, exhibited in museums, garnering the most attention. And they were not necessarily the expensive ones. Anything from a teakettle to a trash can or toothbrush I found attractive if it changed our ideas, expectations and improved the quality of our lives. I titled my collection “Antiques of the Future”, and after it grew to 400 objects, I started writing about it. (Antiques of the Future was published by Stewart, Tabori & Change in 2006) DesignPOP is my second book focusing on highlights of product design of the 21st century.

Hot Bertaa Tea Kettle by Philippe Starck

What are some recent acquisitions to your Antiques of the Future collection?

I recently purchased a chair by the Dutch designer Joris Laarman, who is doing some of the most amazing designs today combining technology and hand assembly. Each of the 153 triangular pieces of the chair was CNC milled with intricate articulation and then hand glued together. The overall form resembles Verner Panton’s classic cantilevered S-chair but was totally re-imagined with the latest technologies.

Another addition is the Lumio, a portable light that opens up like a book. The cover is made of laser-cut wood that opens in a 360-degree arc. As it opens, it activates a series of high-performing LEDs. The pages are made of waterproof Tyvek and there is no plug, just a rechargeable lithium ion battery.

Title page in book; photographed by Kelly Turso

Have any of your Antiques of the Future actually become sought-after antiques?

I started collecting in the mid-1980’s so the oldest pieces are at most 30 years old. But some of the pieces are no longer in production or were created in limited quantities, so they have significantly increased in value. One is the colorful Felt Chair by Marc Newson. A limited edition on a variation of the chair he designed in 1989, this version was produced in 2005 for $5000. Only 99 pieces were made with this particular design. It sold at auction in 2008 for $21,000.

Another product is the Hot Bertaa teakettle designed by Philippe Starck and produced by Alessi in 1990. After a few years in production, it garnered wide acclaim for its outrageous, if not-so-functional design. It was acquired by museums and collectors but was not commercially successful so went out of production in a few years. Originally, it sold for $150 and now can be found on as a vintage teakettle for $895.

Dyson Fan; photographed by Kelly Turso 

What else are you up to in Philadelphia?

I have been a member of Collab for 22 years. Collab is a group of design-related professionals who support the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s modern and contemporary design collections. When I first joined the board, I started our Student Design Competition. Over these past 22 years, thousands of area college students have participated, and many of them report back how valuable this experience was as part of their education.

I am also an Honorary Board member of the Charter High School for Architecture & Design (CHAD). The school was founded by the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1999 as its Legacy 2000 project. I am very dedicated to the school for its mission which states, “…given the very low percentage of licensed African American architects in the United States, [we want] to prepare African American students, especially, for collegiate study and training in the fields of architecture and design.

Balloona Stool; photographed by Kelly Turso 

And on top of that, you've been involved with DesginPhilly for quite some time!

I have been involved as a supporter of DP almost from the beginning a decade ago. I have been impressed with how the program has become increasingly stronger each year. DP gives professionals the opportunity to show off their work, their environments and their ideas. And the large number of attendees, and particularly young people, demonstrates that there is a flourishing creative community in Philadelphia.


All photos compliments of Lisa S. Roberts

Share With Your Friends