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Pentagram Celebrates ‘Making Britain Modern’

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Pentagram’s London office held an event this week to celebrate Kenneth Grange’s Making Britain Modern exhibition at the Design Museum.

Guests were treated to a guided tour of the exhibition by Grange, one of Pentagram’s founding partners, that was full of anecdotes about the mid-century design scene, the early days of Pentagram, and insights into his iconic product designs. This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion with the well-known design commentator Peter York.

Kenneth Grange Retrospective Opens at the Design Museum

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Pentagram is extremely proud to have as one of its co-founders Kenneth Grange. One of Britain’s leading product designers—an “unsung hero of everyday design”—Grange created many iconic products that became part of daily life in the UK over the past 50 years. “Making Britain Modern,” the first major retrospective of Grange’s career, opens today at the Design Museum in London and remains on view through October 30.

After establishing his own company, Kenneth Grange Design, in 1958, Grange joined architect Theo Crosby and graphic designers Alan Fletcher, Colin Forbes and Mervyn Kurlansky to form the multi-disciplinary Pentagram in 1972. While at Pentagram, Grange created many of his most ubiquitous designs, including Kenwood kitchen appliances, Kodak cameras, Parker pens, Wilkinson razors, street furniture for Adshel, the high speed InterCity 125 train for British Rail and London’s black cabs. Grange was a partner in Pentagram’s London office until 1998, when he formed his studio where he continues to design for clients including Anglepoise, izé, Hitch Mylius and Margaret Howell. The Design Museum exhibition includes over 150 products, prototypes and drawings, and has been designed by fellow product designers James Irvine and Jasper Morrison.

Congratulations to Kenneth on this landmark exhibition and a half-century of incredible design.

Additional coverage: The Guardian, The Independent, Financial Times, Fast Company.

Abbott Miller’s Ink Collection Wins at NeoCon

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Abbott Miller’s Ink Collection of wallcoverings for KnollTextiles has been honored with a Best of NeoCon® award, presented at this year’s NeoCon® at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. The collection won a silver in the wall treatments category of the competition. NeoCon® is North America’s largest design exposition and conference for commercial interiors.

The Ink Collection uses liquid movement as a point of departure for three highly graphic wall covering patterns, Drip, Drop and Run. The series was inspired by Miller’s experimentation with a single drop of ink that yielded drops, branch-like forms, and loosely formed letters. Ink is designed for commercial and institutional applications, like hotels and schools, but may also be used in crossover applications like private residences.

The Ink Collection is one of 72 contract furnishing products to be honored in The Best of NeoCon®, selected from a field of 325 entries submitted in 40 categories of the competition. The awards are sponsored by Contract magazine, Merchandise Mart Properties, the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) and McMorrowReport.com. The Best of NeoCon® jury is composed of 45 corporate, government and institutional facilities management executives, interior designers and architects.

Introduced earlier this year, Ink is Miller’s second collection for KnollTextiles, following the highly successful Grammar wallcovering series he designed in 2006.

Merge Wallcovering Hangs in Knoll Textiles Exhibition at BGC

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Abbott Miller’s “Merge” pattern wallcovering for Knoll Textiles is one of the featured designs in Knoll Textiles, 1945-2010, the first major exhibition devoted to Knoll’s fabrics division. The show opens at the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture (BGC) next Wednesday, May 18, in time for New York Design Week, and remains on view through July 31.

Established as the company’s third division, following its furniture group and Planning Unit (which focused on corporate interiors), Knoll Textiles was directed by Florence Knoll with a vision for new materials and methods of production, many of them experimental. The exhibition gathers 175 examples of textiles, vintage furniture, photographs and other artifacts, and represents a new consideration of an under-recognized area of modern design.

Designer collaborations are an important part of Knoll’s history. Merge was created for the Grammar Collection, Miller’s first series of wallcoverings for Knoll, introduced in 2006. (Earlier this year Knoll launched the Ink Collection, Miller’s second series.) The Grammar Collection was inspired by overlapping typography, and Merge suggests a texture of tightly woven letterforms. The pattern has become popular for hospitality and institutional interiors, and is also available for use in residences.

Merge’s alphabetic tangle should be welcome at the BGC: Pentagram designed an identity of interlocking typography for the institution in 2009.

Fifteen Years of Flying United

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In 1996, Pentagram began working on a series of design projects with United Airlines that eventually touched nearly every aspect of the way the company is experienced by their customers. This year, United will consummate a merger with Continental Airlines, and with this change the new combined carrier begins a new chapter. Here’s a look back at the fifteen years that the Pentagram team, led from beginning to end by London partner Daniel Weil and New York partner Michael Bierut, spent working with this amazing company.

New Work: Ink Collection for KnollTextiles

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When Pentagram’s Abbott Miller was commissioned to design a new collection of wallcoverings for KnollTextiles—his second for the manufacturer—he looked to material close at hand: drawings and patterns of ink he found himself working with on paper.

“I was looking at the way ink moves across paper, and imagined it running down the walls,” says Miller.

Launching this week, the new collection, called Ink, uses liquid movement as a point of departure for a series of highly graphic patterns. The idea behind the design came from experimentation; starting with a single drop of ink, Miller created hundreds of studies that yielded drops, branch-like forms, and loosely formed letters. This was the genesis of the collection’s three patterns, aptly named Drip, Drop and Run.

The new collection follows the highly successful Grammar wallcovering series Miller created for Knoll in 2006. Grammar was inspired by typography and consisted of geometric patterns based on a series of overlapping, intermingling letters. The Ink collection is more loose, organic and handmade, but also has a digital element—the collection was created by digitally composing the studies into patterns.

Miller says, “As a medium, ink has a quality that is free and organic, but a graphic pattern is tight and controlled. The new collection plays with this dichotomy.”

Daniel Weil: Drawing the Process

Like many designers, Pentagram’s Daniel Weil uses sketching to visualize, generate and refine his ideas. Weil has, by his estimation, more than 375 sketchbooks, going all the way back to 1978. In a new short film directed by Nicolas Heller, Weil shares some of his recent notebooks and talks about how drawing helps him link ideas from subjects as wide-ranging as Kandinsky and vacuum cleaners, inspiring new forms and objects like his recent Clock for an Architect. Seen in the film are sketches for Weil’s work for Mothercare, Benetton, the Israel Museum, United Airlines and the Savoy Hotel.

“In a way the books become both a diary and record for my thoughts: the things I see, the things I think about, and the designs I’m designing,” says Weil. “Drawing is a designer’s most fundamental tool; it is design thinking made visible.”