Since 2012, whatnot has served as a commercial brand that annually brings to market a diverse collection of objects that are rich in materiality and meaning. The whatnot studio is a place for bringing design experiments to life as real products and is also a progressive educational platform focused on creative inquiry and iteration. The year-long external partnership course enables students to hone their voice as individual designers while working as a team to execute a thematic collection of highly refined and relevant work.
In the first semester students generate initial ideas in response to an annually-set theme, then develop these into viable design concepts through months of intense research and iterative prototyping. In the second semester students produce final products, packaging and exhibition furniture utilizing the school's diverse workshops (from digital looms to a full metal foundry), and in collaboration with local manufacturers. As emerging designers and young entrepreneurs it’s vital to experience all aspects of producing salable and innovative work, from researching materials and processes, to negotiating with external vendors, organizing the shipping manifest, and engaging with customers at an international exhibition. The comprehensive learning-by-doing approach of this class offers students a realistic understanding of what is required to bring a design to market all the while emphasizing the importance of professional presentation.
The 2018-2019 year long whatnot studio: NYC is being conducted by Professors Pete Oyler and Jonah Takagi. This year's theme: Obselete Objects. The objects that surround us provide unique insight into the world in which we live. An object's relevance can be linked to the social, cultural, and economic context in which it was imagined, produced, and used. The 17th century monteith bowl which was used to chill drinking glasses and the nearly extinct public pay phone are just two examples of objects that have become irrelevant through complex advances in technologies and shifts in politics, economics, and cultural values writ large. Objects including printer cartridges, smart phones, and plastic seals on products like electric toothbrushes and razors represent strategic and planned examples of designed obsolescence ubiquitous in our contemporary context.
Over the next two semesters, students in the Whatnot Studio will research, critically engage, and design objects that address obsolescence. An original collection of designed objects will be exhibited during NYCxDesign 2019 (May 16th to 22nd, 2019).
Pete Oyler is a product and furniture designer and educator at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He joined SAIC’s Designed Objects program in 2016 has taught studio classes that explore the contemporary landscape of design and exhibition. As an educator Oyler is particularly interested in design semiotics and in the potential of three-dimensional objects to incite imaginative curiosity. Oyler co-founded the award-winning furniture studio Assembly Design with Interior Designer Nora Mattingly in 2012 and produces work for larger volume production eponymously. His work explores the intersections of design, craft, contemporary culture, and history and his studio practice emphasizes both traditional and experimental approaches to a wide range of materials and methods of production. Oyler’s work has been exhibited and recognized (inter)nationally. Recent publications include The New York Times, Elle Décor, Dwell, Ideat, Modern Painters, and Wallpaper.
Jonah Takagi received a BFA in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2002. After several years of life on the road as a touring musician, Jonah launched his studio in 2010. He has exhibited work throughout Europe and America and counts among his clients such brands as Kvadrat (Denmark), Roll and Hill (United States), Le Klint (Denmark), Umbra Shift (Canada), Matter (United States), La Chance (France), and Hem (Sweden).
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