VMSD - September 2011 - (Page 80)

CO CHECKING OUT Interview by Whitney Harrod Rob Forbes Known for launching Design Within Reach and his latest venture, PUBLIC bikes, Rob Forbes explains how retailers can become sensitive to their own public spaces. Plus, take a peek at what he’ll be sharing at IRDC. You say, “The first job of design is to serve a social purpose.” Going from ceramics designer to founder of Design Within Reach and now PUBLIC bikes, how have you put that philosophy to work in your career? Design is more than visual decoration or appearance. If design does not add real value, solve a problem or make something better, it probably isn’t design. DWR is about making well-designed modern furniture accessible to a broad market and improving the quality of our personal spaces. PUBLIC is about making well-designed bikes accessible to the broad market and improving the quality of our communities and public spaces by helping to reduce our dependency on cars. As a self-described “street walker,” you travel the globe taking more than 5000 pictures a year. How do you translate these images into inspiration for your work? I believe “we are what we see.” By focusing on the visual details like color, pattern, line and shape that exist around us in the everyday world, you keep the eye sharp and stimulated. We also use the photos for our website and other visual materials. At IRDC, you’re delivering the closing keynote on visual immersion and the retail mindset. How can retailers and designers use this practice to create better retail spaces? Being especially sensitive to the local environment, culture and visual language seems like one place to start. I like to see product merchandised in a bold and dramatic manner, and to see more clever design thinking. I’m not a big fan of most signage. Name a retailer that gets this. Whole Foods. Its produce section – vertical and visual – is an obvious example. They also source a lot of local products. You’re an active blogger, manning discussions on Studio Forbes, Design Notes and the PUBLIC blogs, while regularly sending out newsletters and hosting events. Why is it important for a retail brand to use social media to stay connected with its audience? Retail is an active and ongoing conversation with customers. We “sell” a pointof-view as much as we do products. The direct connection with customers is what makes us relevant and authentic. On your Studio Forbes blog you cite “(Re) Urbanization” as one of the macro trends of the 21st Century. What is the greatest opportunity for retail to play a part in that movement? Cities are increasingly destinations for culture, entertainment and diversity as opposed to being centers for manufacturing. Creating a memorable and authentic experience helps to make our urban centers more stimulating and desirable to locals and tourists alike. Cities need foot traffic as much as retailers do. x Forbes’ Favorites Piece of furniture: A 14-foot slab of solid maple that’s my dining table. Mode of transportation: It’s a toss-up between my feet, my bike and my scooter. Place to shop: An antiques/vintage market in Parma, Italy, that attracts small suppliers from all over Italy. And you eat well in that part of the world. City to visit: Manhattan because of the energy, diversity and “good friends I never see often enough” factor. And it’s such a walking (and biking) city. Despite its density, it all works. It’s public, optimistic, sexy and historic. 80 SEPTEMBER 2011 | vmsd.com COURTESY OF JEN SISKA , SAN FRANCISCO http://www.vmsd.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of VMSD - September 2011

VMSD - September 2011
Contents
From the Editor
VMSD Editorial Advisory Board
The Goods
Kids Play
Fresh Starts
Two Halves Make a Whole
History Lesson
The New Convenience
Showroom
Showroom
Ad Index
Checking Out

VMSD - September 2011

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