Follow Function by Jeff Benzenberg

Jeff Benzenberg from Follow Function wanted to contribute to decor8 so after zero arm twisting, I readily replied, Yes! Yes! Yes! Allow me to introduce Follow Function.

"I graduated with a BS in Industrial Design from The Ohio State University in 2004. I spent the spring of 2005 designing cell phone cases for a consulting firm in Columbus, but that summer I sliced open my right hand pretty good. Unfortunately, I needed surgery to repair an important nerve and that sidelined my sketching abilities for a few months. While recovering, I called up my old college chum, Steven Schranz. Since graduating he had built a successful ecommerce business called Lighters Direct. I sent him a link to a beautifully designed light fixture that shipped flat and blossomed into a chandelier when the user folded the petals up and down. He seemed to dig it, so we put together an extensive spreadsheet of all the products and designers that we admired. We eventually narrowed the list down to the most attractive and clever designs. Thus, Follow Function was born. As a student, and later a professional, I found that when I told people I was an industrial designer, they had no clue what that meant. Was I an architect? An engineer? Did I design industries? I am not really sure how one could go about designing, say, the shoe industry, but that?s not really here nor there. With Follow Function, we want to educate our customers on the definition of good design. We feel the way to accomplish this goal is by giving people the story behind the design. If you know the story, our products immediately become conversation pieces in your home, or as we like to call them: extremely functional works of art."

Bendant Lamp from Mio Culture:

A few weeks ago, we got the chance to meet Mio?s designer, Jaime Salm, at his studio in Philadelphia and learn even more about this amazing design. Mio Culture is about as green as a company can be. They call their philosophy ?Responsible Desire, but its really just common sense.?

The Bendant Lamp was born from the desire to create a product that wasted as absolutely little material as possible. Jaime took a thin, square sheet of steel and began slicing, folding, and sculpting until he made an incredible chandelier.

But the real genius of the product was not in the final aesthetic, because that, Jaime decided, would be left up to the consumer. He wanted to ship his product flat and include a fixture with a cord and a switch.

It is up to the users to sculpt their own beautiful artwork. Bend all the petals down and project the light to a certain spot. Buy a bulb with a metal lining on the bottom, fold the petals up, and admire the shadows dancing on your ceiling. Or come to a compromise in between, but be sure to tell your friends that you designed it.

?Hug? Salt and Pepper Shaker from Mint:

Mint is a collective of three well-established and unbelievably talented product designers. ?Hug? was their very first product under the Mint banner. Although Mint wanted the royalties that came with designing a successful product, they did not want the risks that came with manufacturing a product themselves.

Instead, they took their design to major manufacturers of modern design (like Umbra) hoping that they would make it, sell it, and give the royalties to Mint. Unfortunately no one was buying. They all said that the ?Hug? design was too cute, and did not fit with their ultra-modern, too-hip, product lines.

But Mint was undeterred and decided that they believed in their designs enough to take the risk, and manufacture their product line themselves. Eventually they impressed the right people at the Museum of Modern Art gift store, a leading retailer of contemporary design. The folks at MoMA liked most of the line, but were not too sure about ?Hug?. Mint told them that if they wanted the rest of the line, then they would have to take the Salt and Pepper Shaker as well.

As it turns out, MoMA was quite lucky that Mint was so insistent, because ?Hug? quickly became their number one selling item.

What some decision makers failed to understand was the level of sophistication implied by the Mint designs. Yes, ?Hug? is cute, but it also is a beautiful form that actually tells a story. And the story is what people are responding to.

The same theory can be applied to Mint?s ?Salad Song? Oil and Vinegar Cruets. Alone, one of these vessels is a pretty cool form because of the way it bends and the interesting way a liquid would flow from it. But together, the cruets tell a story. Together, they are a choir, serenading you at dinner.

Zumi Stool from Offi:

Shuichiro Koizumi was a struggling product designer working at a retail store in Tokyo when he dreamt up the Zumi Stool. The store sold modern furniture from some of the top manufacturers from around the world. One of them happened to be Offi.

Shuichiro showed his boss his design, and his boss was so impressed, he sent the design to Offi. Offi was so impressed they immediately began manufacturing it. Now Shuichiro can buy his own design at the store where he once worked. Pretty cool.

The brilliance of the design is that it is really just one, simple ?L? shaped form repeated three times. When you order it, your receive a box much smaller than the stool. In it there are three pieces of molded plywood. Assemble them in about three seconds, throw on a couple of short screws using the provided allen wrench, and you?re done.

What I love about stools is that they are so multi-functional. Need some quick seating with guests over? Need a cool end table for magazines and miscellaneous pieces of paper (even if you don?t need it for magazines and miscellaneous pieces of paper, you know that?s what?ll end up there)? Or most importantly, do you need a place to put your feet up? Never underestimate they joy derived from putting your feet up.

Thank you Jeff - What a great contribution to decor8. We all really appreciate your insights and short stories describing these beautiful products.

(photos and text from Jeff Benzenberg at Follow Function)

[:::quick blurb::: my buddy Adriean over at designbot told me someone had pinged him about follow function so he's posted it on his site too. Check out Adriean's post here.