Mad(men) About Design

"Look at their products. They love design" said Don Draper to Roger Sterling on last Sunday's airing of Mad Men. In this scene, the creative executive, Draper, was grilling the founding partner of SterlingCooperDraperPrice for his racist behavior toward their potential new client, Honda.

And this sums up why I cannot miss a single episode of this great TV show. A show whose base is a creative industry got me hooked in the first season. Don Draper, the all-American anti-hero is the show's anchor. Not withstanding his dark side, he represents what many designers aspire to be: a creative genius with a passion for his craft. There's that one memorable scene in Season 1 when he chastises a more conservative client for being a non-believer in the more risky and challenging work that the firm could produce for them. How many times have we wanted to say that during our less-successful client-designer relationships? And yes, I must admit, that Mr. Draper's pitching performances are mythical boardroom heroics that we dream of executing oneday.

Draper's creative muscle and references to industrial design aside, you've got to love their set design. How could any design professional not watch a show that has Castiglioni's Arco floor lamp as a prop? In fact, the whole SCDP office could be a template for cool interior design.

I imagine many people watch Mad Men out of nostalgia for the 1960s. And I guess I too must be counted among them. The 60s was a fantastic era for car design. But more importantly, it was a time when off-shoring of manufacturing didn't occur. The Kodak Carousel which appeared in a famous episode during Season 1 was actually made a few hours drive from SterlingCooper's Madison Avenue office.

While some argue that Mad Men is indeed a reflection of the fact that in some areas, we've still haven't progressed that much beyond the 1960s, it must be said we industrial designers rejoice when we too can boast "Look at their products. They love design." Because sadly in 2010, there are still companies out there that don't get it.


Tandem newspaper helps design

This week I have the honour of appearing on the cover of Tandem newspaper. It's not the first time the Toronto publication has featured my design work and this isn't the reason for writing this entry.

The fact they have published my work a few times is not important because it's my work. It's important because they feature design week after week and have been doing so since the 1990s. While other newspapers feature design periodically, Tandem has a steady design column. This dedication to the field shows a true commitment to design culture and this level of exposure does wonders for bringing its message to a larger audience.

The first line of the article is a quote from me: “I’ve always said everybody loves design – they just don’t know it."

Why do people not know it? Because they never get to see it. Society needs more newpapers like Tandem who can provide interesting commentary on design and on how design fits into everyday life.

Mark Curtis has written all but one of the articles featuring my work over the years. I always look forward to meeting up with Mark at the various Toronto design events throughout the year. His passion for design and his skills at communicating the different aspects of our work are a real asset to Tandem. It was a great pleasure to answer Mark's insightful questions over an iced latte at Dark Horse for the article. He always links design to people and this is so critical in bringing the benefits of design to society.

Thank you Mark and Tandem for the priviledge of appearing in your excellent publication and thank you even more for your continuing support and exposure of design.