June Grant

Director of Design, Steinberg Architects

07.31.2014

Background:
I must have been five or so when I became glued to the window of life. We live our lives surrounded with one constant—change. Fascinated by construction sites, accumulating yesterday’s completions until one day, the result of much effort and materials, something is created … and delivered. Then the next genesis begins: a family moves in, occupies that stage, and makes it their home. Their choices register a new beginning: life in action.

Key projects/accomplishments:
There are four specific projects that have shaped my career: the NASA Sustainability Base and the GE Software Center of Excellence are the most recent and well-known. Truthfully, the first project was not in the U.S. but ... it was a glasshouse for botanical researchers in Graz, Austria. I had only a short amount of time with it; however, that project introduced me to the art and importance of questions. 

The fourth project was the Bloomingdale’s Emporium in San Francisco, a year after I graduated from Yale’s School of Architecture. This project taught me the importance of mastering connections, and resolving the construction details required to successfully build complex shapes as I envisioned.

Guiding design principles:
I have five principles by which I guide myself:

  1. Footprint: I am extraordinarily sensitive to land. I’m amazed by the way some architects appear to simply insert, cut away, and extract without a second thought. Lightness is my first guiding principle—how lightly can I touch the land? How lightly can I use materials?
  2. Light: Whether the lighting is daylight or electric, what is the mood I wish to instill and what is appropriate?  Is it fun, adventure, speed, slow, mystery, solace, calm, excitement?
  3. Connections and Separations: Where do things, ideas, people, objectives and goals connect, and where do they need to separate? 
  4. Tactility:  What are the physical properties that need to be expressed and encouraged or discouraged?
  5. A Sense of Wonder: As humans we thrive on change, surprise, and delightful encounters. How can I provide a moment—or multiple moments—of surprise?  

Do you believe there is a universal language of design that spans mediums?
I’m not sure if I believe there is a universal design language. I do have to say that I think pattern is central to all cultures. I am not talking about decoration, but rather the repetition, rhythm, and shifts that result in a complex form/pattern.

Would you say you like to bend the rules, or adhere to them strictly?
As someone who gets excited by new technology, I absolutely insist on bending the rules. As a society we only move through innovation and change. 

What rules of design do you feel should never be broken without exception?
Safety. I see design as one of the most impactful careers. We have a responsibility to always consider safety. 

Have you passed on any of your principles to other designers?
I have a staff of approximately 20. Ultimately, they follow my lead, but one aspect I am adamant about is exploration. They are all talented and must bring their voice and their skills to the table. It is not important that I accept what they offer; what is important is that they participate. What I try to teach is a way of being: being open to possibilities, being able to collaborate with those outside our field, and to always question assumptions.

Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Design

Dieter Rams is one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. A minimalist, functionalist, and protégé of the Ulm School of Design in Germany, Rams has created innumerable iconic works since he began his career in the 1950s. Case in point: the iOS calculator is based off of Rams’ 1987 Braun ET 66 calculator.

Jhane Barns
Owner/ Founder, Jhane Barnes Inc.

Background: I started my fashion design company 39 years ago when I was 21. I left Maryland to attend FIT in NYC, and after getting rave reviews at the FIT year-end fashion show, I borrowed $5,000 from a professor to start my company.

Kevin Walz
Principal, Walzworkinc

Background: I studied fine arts at Pratt Institute and the New York Studio School while I continued to make art. I had a need to design a raw 4,000-square-foot loft my wife and I purchased in 1976, so I taught myself to design interior spaces.

Adam Jackson Pollock
President & Director, Fire Farm Lighting

Background: I originally became interested in light and space through photography. My father is an accomplished image-maker and architect, and my mother is an artist as well.

Bryan Collins
Art Director, Unvisible

Background: Like many designers of my generation I was deeply inspired by music packaging, skateboarding culture, MTV's 120 minutes, David Carson, the designers Republic, Tomato, V23, and so on.

Ty Parr
Co-Founder, Chief Designer, and Builder at True Emporium

Background: I was an artist my whole life growing up, and went to school for fine arts. At some point I actually started building boats. (I’m from Maine.) When you work on boats you work with a lot of different materials, so there are a vast number of disciplines that are involved.

Julie Baird
Senior Designer, PacifiCrest

Background: My background is textile design. I studied textile design at Philadelphia University. In high school I took a textiles-based art class and fell in love with an art form called batik. Fueled by this passion, my artwork went on to win several awards at the state level.

Chris Stulpin
Creative Director, Mohawk Group

Background: One of my first jobs was in visual merchandising when I was in high school. It was that experience that guided me to my first job in New York City working as a materials expert for a design firm specializing in retail.

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