Posted on 10/1/2013 12:52 PM by Robert Nieminen

The rainy, gray weather Seattle is notorious for was on full display this past weekend for the kickoff of Mannington Commercial’s second annual Design Local event, but it would have taken much more than that to dampen the spirits of the designers assembled in the Edgewater Hotel, all of whom were excited at the prospect of designing a new line of carpeting.

Building on the success of last year’s inspiring competition, Mannington is once again hosting six local designers from cities across the country (Nashville and Philadelphia are up next) for a 24-hour design charrette, with the goal of developing a new product line from the inspiration gleaned from the surrounding area and celebrating the rich, local flavor that each city has to offer.

Unlike last year, however, Mannington changed the format of Design Local from a formal competition, where the entries from each city were posted online for voting to select a winner, to a product development exercise in which all of the participating cities will create a permanent carpet collection that will be launched at NeoCon next year.

“Going into Design Local last year, we were not sure what to expect,” said Natalie Jones, Mannington's vice president of commercial brand development and creative product. “We found that we had tapped into an amazing platform for bringing designers together and facilitating the creative process. We saw designers look at their city in a new way, a detailed way, and craft a physical, textile representation of their locale. So we decided to continue and evolve the program, and launch designs inspired by all of this year's cities."

What hasn’t changed are the rules, which are few and simple: with $200 and a digital camera, the designers are set loose on the city for a three-hour “inspiration scramble” to search for their muse anywhere they can find it. They then return for a crash course in product design. The photography and artifacts collected during the scramble form the basis for the product line’s colors, textures and patterns, as the group looks for common themes and decides on a direction for the design. Mannington’s in-house design team will then take the final inspiration board back to headquarters to create samples that will in turn be shared with the group for feedback before the yarn is spun into new carpet.

Contrasting the gloom viewable outside of the Edgewater, Jones began the session by asking each of the designers to introduce themselves and disclose their birthdays, which she then looked up in Colorstrology, a book that explains what birthday colors reveal about a person. As each designer’s qualities were read aloud, it was surprising how accurate the book’s forecasts really were, almost foretelling how they would soon form an inspired, cohesive unit.

This year’s Team Seattle—Cecelia Arroyo, Allie Leaf, Bridgette Hyde, Natalie Hyde, Tatjana Milovic and Carolyn Turina (pictured below from left)—immediately held a quick discovery session before the inspiration scramble to determine what areas of the city should be covered. Once the landmarks and neighborhoods were identified, they broke into three groups of two in order to cover as much ground as possible. 

Yours truly had the pleasure of shadowing designers Natalie Hyde and Tatjana Milovic, who chose to first explore the Georgetown area to capture the Seattle’s industrial side before moving on to the Museum of Flight near the Boeing headquarters--two places that helped give the city its moniker, “Jet City.”

We finished off the scramble at the historic Pioneer Square—once the heart of the city known for its Renaissance Revival architecture but better known among younger generations as the birthplace of the grunge music scene and iconic bands Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Moving at shutter speed, the designers snapped hundreds of photos of just about everything that caught their eyes, a small sampling of which are below:

The group reconvened the next morning to share the photographs and found items they collected, sometimes finding colors and textures in the most unusual of places, including the infamous (and disgusting) Market Theater Gum Wall near Pike Place Market.

Working as a cohesive team seemed to come naturally to this fun-loving bunch of designers, and we’re certain the end results of this year’s first Design Local event will reflect the creativity, collaboration and warmth of Team Seattle.