Michael Graves Designs Are About to Get a Whole Lot More Accessible

A look at some pieces by Michael Graves Design including the postmodernist's iconic tea kettle.

Designer capsule collections made available to the masses are generally associated with the early- to mid-aughts. That’s when Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney’s H&M clothing and accessories flew off shelves, and Target brought Missoni’s colorful chevron prints to wide swaths of the United States. But a beat before the onset of such high-low pairings, renowned architect and designer Michael Graves got ahead of the curve.

In 1999, Michael Graves Design released Art of the Everyday Object, a then-revolutionary Target collaboration. The products sold out just as quickly as their democratic ethos spread. And while the partnership, which aimed to create “design for all”—according to both companies—was enduring, it’s been discontinued for quite some time. Earlier this week, news broke that Target would be reissuing 20 of its most popular designer collaborations—Graves’s collection very much included. But today, on the heels of that announcement, the design firm that continues to operate in the architect’s name shared far-reaching plans of its own to further diffuse the signature vision of its postmodernist founder.

Specifically, Michael Graves Design has appointed Earthbound to expand its licensing program. Earthbound will be the firm’s exclusive licensing partner going forward, as well as its sole brand extension agency. Considering that Michael Graves Design has sold over $1 billion in retail, it seems likely that more such success is on the firm’s horizon.

The Alessi 9093 Kettle designed by Michael Graves in 1985.
The Alessi 9093 Kettle was designed by Michael Graves in 1985. This specific kettle is in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Photo: Getty Images / Indianapolis Museum of Art

It’s an exciting move, too, for an organization with such an illustrious design history. First founded in 1964, Michael Graves Design is one arm of a firm best known for its architectural pursuits. Graves, the pioneering refractor of ornament who created the Disney offices in Burbank, California, among other works, is arguably most associated in the product design world with his iconic Alessi 9093 Kettle. And while the man himself passed away in 2015, it seems that his namesake company is still going full steam ahead.

“Michael Graves redirected the architectural conversation toward a more humanistic approach that among other things, reintroduced color and art back into the experience of architecture,” Ben Wintner, managing principal at Michael Graves Design, told AD PRO. “The firm also expanded the role of the architecture in society with a philosophy of gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art, whereby we designed furniture, fixtures, textiles and household objects. . . . We’re thrilled to continue Michael’s legacy by working with Earthbound to find new ways to delight people with design details that take products to higher levels.”

The enthusiasm was clearly mutual. “We are looking forward to beginning this journey with the Michael Graves team,” Jeffrey Cohen, Earthbound founder and co-chairman, told AD PRO. “MGD was instrumental in not only reinventing everyday products with an architectural perspective, but also transforming the merchandising strategy at Target in the late ’90s. With the current retail climate, this is the perfect time to leverage Michael Graves’s innovative design for licensing programs that energize the shopping experience once again.”

[“source=architecturaldigest”]