The I.D. Forty: Who Deserves More Attention?

Posted inID Mag
Thumbnail for Regional Design Awards: 2018 Winner Galleries

Jerome Caruso + Peter Marino + Errol Morris + James Hicks + Santiago Piedrafita + Martin Perrin + Marlon Blackwell + Ronen Kadushin + Chantal Hamaid + Jens Martin Skibsted + Leslie Buck + CatalogTree + Graham Rawle + Marti Guixe + Giorgio Baravalle + Robin Kinross + R. Craig Miller + FTL Design and Engineering + Tse & Tse + Patrik Schumacher + Gerard Minakawa + Gill Hicks + Cathy Leff + Most Beautiful Swiss Books + Swingline + Brian Tolle + Lyndon Neri + Jerszy Seymour + Lorraine Justice + Jan Van Mol + Mark Newgarden + Max Yoshimoto + Rafael Horzon + Strange Attractors + Puerto Rico Schwinn Club + Dick van Hoff + No Picnic + Design is Kinky + Susan Yelavich + Ze Frank

Martin Perrin "Anal Is the Word I’m Looking For."

Graphic designer Age: 40 Base: New York Should be more famous because: He has an eagle eye (and ear) for brilliant design. Isn’t more famous because: "I’m a bit of a curmudgeon." Google mentions: 254

Steve Martin said it: "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." But creating graphic design about architecture? For that, one must turn to Martin Perrin.

"It’s as much my clients’ attraction to me as mine to them," Perrin says, when asked why Blueprint, Architecture, and the bi-weekly Architect’s Newspaper—which he art directs—all crowd his resume. "My aesthetic runs quite a tight line. I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist; more of a reductivist." He grins. "Anal is the word I’m looking for. They appreciate that. I use as little as possible on the page because we’re living in such a cluttered-up world."

A small one, too, considering that this Essex, England–born designer who landed in Brooklyn 12 years ago already knows it well enough to create (with his pal Liz Farrelly) a book about it. Brooklyn: New Style, published in 2004 by Booth-Clibborn and organized by Zip code, blooms with the borough’s brightest designers, artists, and musicians.

"In New York, you meet waiters who are actors; in Brooklyn, it’s fashion designers who are filmmakers," says Perrin, who lives near the borough’s infamously smelly Gowanus Canal. "Many Brooklynites’ whole career is about doing creative things. I knew a lot of them. So I homed in on that."

All of Perrin’s work is similarly print-based, but his clients range from Andrea Rosen Gallery and the AIGA to Banana Republic, Kunsthalle Zurich, Abrams book publishers, and Ogilvy & Mather. One customer, New Art Trust, has just published Perrin’s Anthony McCall: The Solid Light Films and Related Works, about one of his early heroes.

Yet Perrin’s career, which started as an illustrator, has been anything but straight and narrow. "My design education began in England in 1974 watching the World Cup on TV," he recalls. "England was the crappiest team, but when the Dutch came out in bright orange Adidas kit, I remember thinking: ‘This is amazing!’" Three decades later, in architecture and elsewhere, the ex-pat visual enthusiast is making similar— but understated—impressions of his own. Colin Berry

Marlon Blackwell At Work in the Ozark Outback

Architect Age: 49 Home: Fayetteville, Arkansas Should be more famous because: He counts among his clients a transsexual with two bobcats and a helicopter. Isn’t more famous because: "Most of what we build you couldn’t build in a place like Cambridge."

You might call Marlon Blackwell an outsider architect because he practices far from the celebrity coasts, building an intriguing body of work around his base in Fayetteville, Arkansas, uninterested in architecture’s globalist carpetbagging. But don’t be fooled: Blackwell knows from globalism. He was born in Germany and raised for a time in the Philippines. He studied in Mexico and Italy and married his design partner, Meryati Johari, in Malaysia.

Since joining the faculty of the University of Arkansas in the early ’90s, however, Blackwell’s been memorizing the ground around his feet. He spends his time deciphering the grammar of the region’s rivers and hills, chicken coops and tract homes, shopping centers and filling stations, if only to decide how to bend it. In what he calls the "Ozark outback," Blackwell is a consummate insider.

"I like just taking things as they are," he says, "and reveling in this kind of absurdity." To Blackwell, the tension that comes from plunking down industrial-strength structures in these bucolic settings is relative. He shocked locals in 2000 with the Keenan TowerHouse, an 80-foot structure whose campanile form floats above treetops with white steel panels and oak timber fins. But for Blackwell, the house—likely the only sixth-floor walkup for miles—was as exotic as the feed silos hiding everywhere around him in plain sight.

And perhaps only he and a few others could look at the facade of his Arkansas House (2004) and see an old barn in its rational lines and raw steel hide. More recently, his golf clubhouse in the town of Johnson was conceived as a covered bridge, with a copper skin and a base of dry-stacked local stone—a deliberate and decidedly firm foundation. "So much about architecture today is about moving through it, and very little about dwelling in it," Blackwell observes. "They’re flying here and there," he says of his globe-trotting colleagues. "But this is the architecture of the slow." Bradford McKee

Leslie Buck Happy to Serve You

Former marketing director for Sherri Cup Company Age: "Octogenarian" Home: Delray Beach, Florida Should be more famous because: He designed an icon. Isn’t more famous because: His icon is so common it’s almost invisible. Google mentions: 57

"We Are Happy to Serve You." Though it’s the rare New Yorker who actually utters those words, they can be found every day on a Greco-themed coffee cup that is one of the city’s most beloved designs. The Anthora, as the cup is called—an accidental misspelling of amphora, Greek for vessels that were used to transport wine or oil—has been spotted in the hands of executives and beggars, clutched by fictional law-enforcers from Andy Sipowicz to Lennie Briscoe, and granted forms as varied as a ceramic mug, a lamp, a T-shirt, and a clock. With illustrations of decorative urns and lettering that evokes something chiseled on the Parthenon, the cup is as familiar to New Yorkers as the Guggenheim’s spiral. And yet, unlike Milton Glaser’s I love NY logo, which has been repeatedly name-checked since its post-9/11 revival, it remains widely uncredited.

Leslie Buck, an octogenarian retiree, is behind it. The reason you may not know that is because he was never one for self-promotion, even as the work was relentlessly copied. In the 1960s, Buck was director of marketing for the Connecticut-based manufacturer Sherri Cup. When his employers asked for a design that would appeal
to New York vendors, inspiration struck in the form of an article about archeological digs around the Mediterranean. One of the unearthed vessels was an amphora, and, at the time, most New York coffee shop owners were of Greek descent. With only minimal drafting experience, Buck produced the design using pen and paper.

Buck has since designed other cups as well as containers for Haagen-Dazs, but his Anthora, which remains unchanged since its first introduction more than 40 years ago, is his most enduring work. When asked if he expected the cup would be used for so many years, he had no doubt. Yes. "It was a great design and a new color for the times," he said. Alice Twemlow

Tse & Tse Flies of Fancy

Product designers Age: "We decided to stop answering that question." City: Paris Should be more famous because: They make precious, recherche objects, even when they’re designing for a mass market. Isn’t more famous because: They prefer to let each new fan discover them rather than seeking out publicity.

The website for French design duo Tse & Tse is a glorious mess. A pair of animated tsetse flies flit around as the Flash loads, a click on the pendulous goldfish leads to a secret slideshow of everything from penguin wristbands to vintage gasoline cans, and in place of a traditional navigation bar, visitors must poke through a cluttered, defiantly workaday studio.

This is Tse & Tse HQ, where since 1991, Catherine Levy and Sigolene Prebois—friends since Parisian design school—have been following their aesthetic preoccupations to create a collection that’s both luxurious and imperfect. Take their Hungry dinnerware, with its porcelain cast in asymmetrical rounds and dipped in gold or platinum. The matching salad tongs, with silvered tips, resemble nothing so much as the talons of an unknown bird. The duo made the set when they found themselves without dishes, tried it out on their friends, and put it into production. "We use our objects ourselves every day, and if we don’t enjoy living with them, we consider them failures," they explained by email.

Their process is equally whimsical—a quick trip abroad or a switch to a different cafe offers a new perspective. "We try not to think too much of the next step, how it will be manufactured, where and for how much money," they say. "You need to kick these thoughts out of your mind to be able to design something interesting and joyful."

And while their website can be maddeningly opaque, the pair are clear-eyed about their future. Their dream project is a hotel; in the meantime, they’ve decorated three rooms in New Delhi’s Hotel Broadway. It’s exhilarating but almost impossible to envision what a building that sprang from these two minds would look like, however: In a world of signature styles, Tse & Tse’s objects bear a scant family resemblance. "They are not speaking too loud," Levy and Prebois say demurely of their creations. "They don’t catch your attention unless you want to look at them." But believe us—you want to. Alexandra Lange