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07/31/2013

Finding Our Voices

By Robert Nieminen

 

Robert Nieminen | Editor-At-Large

Nearly nine years ago, I penned my first letter as the editor of this magazine in which I quoted the late Martin Luther King Jr., whose words ring as true for me today as they did then: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

In the years since, I’ve had the privilege of retelling the stories of so many designers and the meaningful (and beautiful) work they do, as well as voicing my own opinions about the things I felt mattered to the design community. It has been an incredible journey, and I can say unequivocally that I feel as if my work has just begun—and that I’ve never felt more alive.

Change can have that effect on us if we allow it. And as every successful brand before us has proven, embracing change is essential not only to longevity but also to relevance.

To understand a brand’s successful design evolution, we must look beyond the here and now. For companies like Flavor Paper, Tiffany & Co. and Vanessa DeLeon Associates (see our bonus online feature later this month), successful design is about being of the moment while holding onto key elements of the past, and integrating them in new ways to shape a stronger future.

Sometimes it takes a careful eye to notice the subtle evolution of a brand over time, as you’ll discover in the details of our photo essay on Flavor Paper. We revisit the company’s mixed-use “Flavor Lair” to see what has changed since the space was first unveiled in 2010.

Similarly, after 175 years, Tiffany & Co. is returning to its Manhattan roots with a new store in SoHo, and symbols of the brand’s history abound. Each selling space is adorned with luxurious, shimmering elements taken directly from the shops and jewelry designs that first emerged in the 1800s. Here, embracing a brand legacy is about celebrating the past in its purest form.

At other times, as is the case with New York School of Interior Design MFA student Erika Reuter’s project, Marche: Adaptive Reuse of U.S. Post Office Buildings, brands are simply unable to keep pace. The Postal Service has changed not because of a drum beat and a renewed vision, but because the world changed around it. As post office buildings around the country shut their doors (no sleet or snow necessary), Reuter suggests we let a new guard reinterpret these buildings to forge a different kind of community center—one focused on local business, experiential shopping and turning the suburban big box retail model on its head.

Brands become stagnant when they grow silent, drowned out by the rest of the world rushing by them. But by pointing out the links between where we came from and where we’re going, we can take from the past to help us create anew.

Although my relationship with the magazine has changed—I’ll now be Editor at Large—what I assure you is that the Interiors & Sources brand will continue to evolve and become an ever-more relevant resource to you as a design practitioner. As Erika Templeton takes the helm as editorial director beginning with the September issue (look for her first editorial next month), I’m confident that her experience in the world of branding and consulting in the design industry, coupled with a fresh vision for the future, will result in dynamic, thought-provoking content and appealing designs that will raise the bar for what you’ve come to expect from us. I know she is eager to hear from many of you, so please join me in welcoming her to the Interiors & Sources team by reaching out to her at erika.templeton@interiorsandsources.com.

As I come full circle again to that first editorial I wrote back in 2005, I hope my voice will be counted among the chorus of those who are compelled to speak about weightier things, and I am certain that both harmonies and new melodies will resonate with you as Erika’s voice begins to emerge from these pages.

 

 
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