Marimekko for sale (via Etsy).
After Jane Thompson and I recorded our podcast with Debbie Millman
, we exited the booth for a Q&A with Millman's students in SVA's MPS in Branding
program. About the third question was the one everyone really wants to ask: where, today, can you shop like Design Research
(the store, 1953-78)?
The short answer is, you can't. I've complained about how design appreciation these days seems entirely focused on shopping
, and I realize my position may seem inconsistent. It's not that I think we should not buy. But we should buy things armed with knowledge. I've also described a few places where shopping is still sociable
, where shopping is anything but linear. The mix of price, information and scale that happened at D/R doesn't happen in the little curated shops along Smith Street in Brooklyn or in the glacial chains of modernism
. And besides, haven't all the real merchants moved online?
One student asked about Etsy
, and for this I had a ready answer: Yes, I think Etsy preserves a little of the sense of discovery of D/R in its heydey, along with the color that seems drained from much mass-market apparel and housewares. (Just compare the windows at D/R to the windows at Anthropologie in the original Design Research HQ
, and I think of Anthro as a colorful store.) I think the site is trying to create sociability in an online and offline environment. That they need their own Ben Thompsons to subdivide the plenty is clear: that's the point of the Treasury
(I made one, featuring yellow, here
) and the new Taste Test
. Let's get the modernists away from the knitting as soon as possible... or that's what my run-through suggested.My favorite, Tapio Wirkkala's Ultima Thule for Iittala.
I also had a ready answer for another reason: I just shopped D/R at Etsy
. Acting as Guest Curator, I searched Etsy's capacious Vintage halls for the wares D/R founder Ben Thompson chose 50 years ago: Marimekko, Finel, Chemex, Iittala, Arabia, Chemex, Dansk. And I found them. So if you can't get the book (back in print in January), or looking at the book makes you wish it were still a catalog, you could do much worse than Etsy's sellers. They seem to know their goods, like the merchants Thompson admired.Dansk Jens Quistgaard Tiny Taper Holder, Arabia of Finland Marmalade Jar.