New Work: Formica Anniversary Collection
Found on millions of surfaces in homes, businesses, schools, restaurants, hotels and virtually every other kind of interior, Formica® Laminate is one of the most ubiquitous materials in the world. (Chances are you are sitting at a desk, table or counter topped with it right now.) This year Formica celebrates its 100th anniversary with a special campaign designed by Pentagram’s Michael Bierut, Abbott Miller and Daniel Weil that pays homage to the making of this remarkable brand and its century of innovation, design and cultural impact.
The campaign kicks off with the launch of the Anniversary Collection, a series of new Formica laminates designed by Abbott Miller. The collection features patterns that explore the material’s seamless quality, long history and limitless potential. The collection was introduced this week at the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. Miller has also designed Formica Forever, a commemorative book that chronicles the company’s 100 years, to be published later this year.
Invented in Cincinnati in 1913, Formica Laminate was originally intended to be a substitute for the mineral mica (“for mica”), used for electrical insulation. The material was initially composed of fabric bound with resin; later it was made with sheets of kraft paper laminated with melamine. Strong, durable and easy to clean, the laminate is perfect for surfaces and a variety of uses. The paper can be printed with colors and patterns, and over the years designers have realized the material’s possibilities in endless variations of stripes, dots and other graphic effects.
This versatility has helped Formica Laminate become universal. Retro and modern, specialized and all-purpose, it blurs the past, present and future, and crosses all social and economic categories. It is man-made, but has a distinctive tactility, warmth and domesticity that makes it seem natural.
Miller’s design of the Anniversary Collection plays with this idea of a seamless surface and the company’s long history, and underscores the material’s limitless potential. Miller worked closely with the design team at Formica to explore the translucency of ink and the interaction of pattern and color. The collection includes four patterns—Dotscreen, Halftone, Endless and Ellipse—each available in three colors, presenting a range of options for residential or commercial uses.
“The patterns and colors of the collection acknowledge Formica’s past—especially with designers such as Brooks Stevens and Raymond Loewy—but without delving into nostalgia,” Miller says. “While the collection aligns with the brand’s heritage, it offers surfacing design that is unique in the market. It was also satisfying to know that we were pushing the technical boundaries of print.”
The Dotscreen and Halftone patterns celebrate Formica’s history of exuberant color and printing technology. Both feature solid patterns of bright and saturated colors made more complex by detailed patterning. Fine dot motifs provide a second level of interest within the optimistic hues.
Dotscreen pairs vivid colors with extremely fine micro-dots in continuous ribbons. The pattern is available in an aqua blue, a verdant green, or a soft orange.
Halftone features near-bright colors patterned with various sizes of toned dots, reminiscent of halftone printing screens. The pattern is available in a medium-toned blue, a lemon yellow, and a soft orange.
The Ellipse and Endless patterns play off the anniversary theme by using innovative printing techniques that allow independent layers of pattern to randomly interact during the course of printing. The method creates seemingly infinite patterns that appear consistent due to the fluidity of the overlapping elements. Unlike most patterns that repeat every 50 inches or so, the pattern repeat of Ellipse and Endless only occurs every 500 to 700 sheets, the equivalent to more than a mile in length.
Endless creates a digital grain from bars that alternately layer and punch through a colored base. The result is a continuous architectural pattern that looks visually detailed up close and from a distance appears as geometric texture. The pattern is available in gray-on-gray, a darker “smoke” that recalls carbon and mica, and a deep inky blue.
Ellipse uses the “hidden oval” in the Formica brand logo to create a series of layered strands that ripple across the surface. It is available in three colors: white, a classic gray, and a strong red, the signature color of Formica Group.
Project Team for the Anniversary Collection: Abbott Miller, partner-in-charge and designer.
Eames tables courtesy Herman Miller.