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  • theaptPORTFOLIO

    theaptSHOWS

    April 14, 2014

    i was invited last week to spend some quality time at the wonderful design department of colman university in Tel-Aviv, Israel. my agenda was simple: try to bait the thirty-two students who had signed up for my 5-day workshop to look up from their notebooks, CAD workstations and CNC machines long enough to look around at the world around them and think of design not merely as a skill but a component of life itself. i was expecting some push back, especially from the administration, when i told them that school wrongly doesn’t encourage thinking but rather solely doing, that even tough their teachers ususally want to see busy hands, i would rather see open eyes. but no, no push back, well, not much. sure, it was weird to have me come all the way to the holy land just to see me talk to the students for an hour and then leave them to their own devices, only to check on them the next day, but they soon learned, both old and young, that in order to succesfully one day design what is out there, one must first wonder about what’s in here (can you see the “hand-on-the-heart gesture?…)

    the theme i proposed was Unloved…

    unloved

    …named after the objects of our lives that rarely get more than a fleeting thought from designers more concerned about adding their oh-so-special version of “the chair” to the fair grounds of the world. it’s enough! i thought… we have enough chairs, tables and lamps! who will focus on the more efficient cardboard box, the safe syringe, the lowly pail if not the next generation of designers for whom intention must trump ambition?… i thought. and, mostly, the students delivered with thirty-two projects borne of personal investigations into their own lives, looking at their daily routines and proving to themselves that they must first design things or experiences that have meaning for them, before tackling opportunity. i am so proud of them, especially since they did all this in a language that is not their own! i believe i will go back…

    October 10, 2013

    protect

    We do not care enough.

    Admit it to yourself. It’s okay, I don’t care enough either. As Salieri utters, in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, to a priest whom he feels is less than he purports to be, “I will speak for you, father. I speak for all mediocrities in the world. I am their champion. I am their patron saint.” I think it is more than adequate to confess to one’s own unremarkability, for it is not what we do but rather who we are, or have become, that is less than exceptional. With such acknowledgment, we can tackle anything, the big problems, the small problems, and design is at the source of every decision made to that effect. Not for beauty but assistance.

    About his citrus juicer, the Juicy Salif, somebody once challenged Philippe Starck, specifically about usability. He said (I’m paraphrasing), “Well, that’s not really why I designed it. I designed it because one day, it will probably be a gift that a son-in-law gives to his girlfriend’s mother. And they really haven’t talked a lot before because they don’t have all that much in common, she probably thinks he’s a slacker and he thinks she’s a mom. But he’ll give her the juicer as a gift, to be polite at some kind of event, she’ll open it in the kitchen, and they’ll put it up on the counter. And she’ll politely exclaim, ‘Wow, this is interesting. What is it?’ and they are going to talk about it. That juicer is going to make a conversation happen. About a juicer at first, granted, but a conversation nonetheless, which may be the beginning of a relationship that needed a starting point.”

    Design works when it enhances my life as a human being, not just when it enhances my consumerism.

    Which is why i am so happy to see more and more designers and design companies finally pay attention to “the boring objects” of our lives, the annoying fire alarm, the lowly door lock, those products that have been around for decades and left for dead. here’s hoping there is a revival of interest for making the things already here, better, not just merely “redesigned”.

    April 9, 2013

    you can always ask whether a designer’s home is liveable in an attempt to diminish the effort but the answer is never as general as the question. the real question should be “could you live in it?” and when it comes to marc newson’s home in london, my answer is yes.

    November 30, 2012

    like every year, i have been very consciencious about writing to mr. claus on time and like every year, his elves over at the sublime better living through design have been kind enough to communicate my wishes to his excellency. fortunately for you, the list is also somehow visible by the public so as to act, i have been told, as inspiration… now, i don’t know about that, seems a little far-fetched since my desires are so personal and taylored to my considered life but who can control the internet?… not me! so there you go, have a wonderful weekend and thoughtful xmas shopping!

    November 2, 2012

    this sig lounge chair by bludot is just one of the wonderful new pieces in their collection for giant store target. i remember like it was yesterday when our own store on crosby street, now a lawless no man’s land, was the first to carry their wares in nyc. good times…

    October 3, 2012

    you might remember the above diagram from a lobby we designed for a residential tower in istanbul, turkey posted to our work-in-progress section. well, i am so delighted to announce that we are almost done with it and it looks a-ma-zing! that’s why we can’t help but post a sneak peek, below the radar, before official unveiling proceeding get under way in the next few weeks…
    //MORE

    September 27, 2012

    all in all, even though it is a solid under-the-hood iterative upgrade for my favorite mobile computer, i quite dislike the new general sheen that apple has added to iOS 6. it’s hard to pin-point because it’s not a single app that disturbs but an overall feeling. let’s see, first there’s the new share screen:

    with its icons trying to mimic the home screen when it should have its own vocabulary, there are not enough services, rendering the icons too spaced away from each other. and don’t get me started on the perforated metal icons which have no other correlation throughout the OS other than the industrial design of the phones themselves. then, there’s the dial pad in the all-important phone application:
    //MORE

    September 11, 2012

    our new baby has arrived, the adventure with the good people at yelo spa continues as we have just unveiled the new location and brand rethink! having worked on this multi-disciplnary project for over a year now, i cannot tell you how proud and relieved the team and i are that we have made it to the finish line. well, almost to the finish line, as usual… see, the kinds of projects that we, the apartment creative agency, choose to ponder on a regular basis are neither exclusively graphic nor solely architectural in kind, neither purely strategic nor marketing-driven, rather we deliver experiences, for lack of a much better word, to clients who have a product and a desired customer reaction in mind but don’t know how to get from one to the other. that is when we step in, not to deliver what they want but find out what they need, a marked difference in approach that is not without its (lengthy) explanation cycle. using tools such as architecture, graphics, strategy, music, film, writing and more, we conscientiously tell the story we believe in if anyone else can be also asked to and deliver an experience to the eventual and probable customer that surprises, delights but, above all, means.

    that is how we took on the mammoth task of rebooting yelo spa, the brand we created with founder nicolas ronco almost six years ago. looking at everything we had done right and, of course, all that had not quite worked in that span of time. the concept was ripe risk-taking again, ripe for trying new things, ripe not simply to be upgraded but looked at from scratch in most areas so as to imagine what the spa of the next ten tears might feel like. and the one thing you need above all on such an adventure: trust. from the client, for your team as you make recommendations that go against industry standards (colors!) and sometimes even common sense (naked babies?) but in the end, agreement won over compromise and we launched yelo spa 2.0 last month to incredible critical acclaim as much from the press as from clients returning after a month-long hiatus.

    we could not be more proud to present to you our efforts and hope that you go see the real thing at 5 east 57th street (between 5th and madison) in new york city very soon. you can say the apartment sent you and see what happens…

    as partners in this journey, i would be remiss if i didn’t give a shout-out to the theaptTEAM who worked of the pieces on the puzzle: guy reziciner on architecture, william gralewski on senior graphics, nicole audette on junior graphics and hilary bowers on public relations. they are incredible and, by the way, i’m willing to share… just ping me.

    in the meantime, take in our latest portfolio entry, yelo spa 2!

    June 18, 2012

    i am always fascinated by designers who think they have something to add to the chair. really? four legs, a seat, back? will the world not be able to move on to more pressing matters until all designers have given us their version of that apparently un-perfectible object? perhaps, but i cannot help but be a bit sad when the need to clothe, bathe, feed, house and connect entire populations who still, to this day, cannot do so by themselves, is more critical than ever. the only course of action left, to my mind, is now protection from the consequences of our inability to act, protection from the elements as they will eventually crush our continents, our cities, our comforts, protection from our gluttony as the food supply shrinks; protection from each other as desired living areas become scarce and we have to fight for space, as is already happening in the east village. what an opportunity for design!!! a chair is not what i need, the next step in the evolution of human living is the understanding of who we have become, for better and worse, the end of complacency and commiseration. where is the designer who is working on a better nail, or a better screw, or a better way to synthesize lumber so that we may not have to deforest our planet to provide housing? where is the engineer continuously searching for better ways to cool a space other than by forcing freon through a vent? who is looking at the future of clothing, not clothes? nobody. with a few obligatory exceptions, few are looking at these issues because they are not sexy, not worth the press. because of economic circumstance and because of the aforementioned toy race, we do not pay any mind to products that have already been considered once and never again. from the nail to the constitution, for some reason, we hold these truths to be inalienable and we do not see fit to change them. why are the basic things of life not allowed to evolve with us? we matured from ape to australopithecus to cro-magnon to modern man and will to whatever comes next, yet haven’t switched most of our tools. the thing is, we are progressing a lot faster than we used to. there have been more advances in the last hundred years than there has been in the last million. we move ahead so fast these days, yet, still seem to concentrate on things that make us neither happy nor more efficient. why there are more scientists studying the sexual life of bees than those studying cancer is beyond me. that’s probably not actually true by the way, i haven’t checked… but it feels true. there is a reason why it is called “progress” in that each step must be ostensibly better than the one before, not merely commentary. have we done that?

    ironically, the allure of creation once felt, which got us into this mess in the first place, is probably what we need to get started again: the need to create, not re-create, not re-invent but invent. we need to put ourselves in danger, to feel uncomfortable again, to take leaps without knowing whether there is sure footing on the other side, to bet the farm on ourselves as a species, on the fact that we, will, survive… how can we attempt such work when we spend time and resources on designing another ironic take on the mug, every year, all over the world. the answer is simple, we cannot.

    and that’s because, simply put, we do not care enough.

    admit it to yourself. it’s okay, i don’t care enough either. as salieri once uttered in peter shaffer’s amadeus to a priest whom he felt was less than he purported to be, “i will speak for you, father. i speak for all mediocrities in the world. i am their champion. i am their patron saint.” i think it is more than adequate to confess to one’s own un-remarkability for it is not what we do but rather who we are, or have become, that is less than exceptional. with such acknowledgment, we can tackle anything, the big problems, the small problems, and design is at the source of every decision made to that effect. not for beauty but assistance.

    let’s all of us do just that this week, let’s assist our species and design something useful!

    January 23, 2012


    it has been said (too) many times but we here at the apartment creative agency strongly pursue the notion that design is indeed not how it looks but how it works. to that end, when we take on new projects, we heavily involve ourselves not merely with matters of colors, layouts and door handle choices but how a business works. that is especially true when we are tasked to create that business from scratch as was the case with one of the jewels on our chintzy crown, yelo spa. when entrepreneur nicolas ronco came to visit us, back from asia after courageously dropping off corporate america’s radar, he had an epiphany about an industry we seldom question, that of “the people we pay to feel better“: he judiciously wondered why it was that mindful rest is considered a boost to productivity over there and a shame over here?

    we agreed with him that what was needed first and foremost was not to make a logo but rather to find ways to convince americans to seek better productivity, not more as they have been tasked to by protestant ethics this side of martin luther. to accomplish that, his strategy included creating a physical space where people would feel safe to compose themselves, with the help of a highly and specifically trained staff who understood and cared for personhood, not just wallethood, and worked to soothe each of its facets. and so we dug deep to understand social and behavioral processes, to understand the science of stress, the science of natural recovery, the science of well-ness. and through studying different forms of reflexology, chromatherapy, aromatherapy, skin care and more, we arrived at a cogent vision: that help, different than mere service, was what the launch city with a sleeping disorder needed.

    and so we got to work, inventing new paths, procedures and YeloCabs™ along the way so that said help would be available in ingenious ways, even available to come to you when you couldn’t come to us. so deeply entrenched we became in the new brand that their success depended on ours, at every level of the company. and now, after 4 years of successful operation, having profits go up at the same time that competitors’ stagnated, it is time to go deeper still… as alan kay so rightly advanced, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it” and it is paramount, once in a frequent while, for companies to take stock, keep all the good ideas and clear one’s brain and inventory of all the ones that didn’t work in order to stay ahead, not of any competition, but of our own ambitions.

    and that is why i am delighted and feel extremely fulfilled to have accepted nicolas’ offer to help him do just that and become yelo spa’s chief creative officer (on top of my job here, of course) and expand on all matters that impact the brand and its beloved customers. i could not be happier or more proud to be able to shepherd this amazing concept into roads heretofore undiscovered, especially in a field that rarely takes the kind of risks we at the apartment have built a reputation on! when a business understands design to be a strategic cog and not mere marketing gloss, it allows its entire hierarchy to function holistically and take its cues from very simple, customer-oriented goals and it is to nicolas’ credit to trust me to play thus with his baby and i hope not to disappoint.

    it is then my pleasure to invite you to visit our website and make a reservation at yelospa.com, visit our location at 315 W57th street, get acquainted with our specials on our Facebook page and get involved in YELOlife on twitter @YeloSpa! there will be MUCH MORE in months to come as we continue to imagine the YELOfuture, be part of it and have a wonderful week!

    December 5, 2011

    while driving the other day, i decided to throw caution to the wind and turn on my parents’ spotify, i.e., the radio, only to hear madonna’s voice emerge, treading ever so subtly on the lyrics of her 2008 “give it 2 me”: “got no boundaries and no limits. if there’s excitement, put me in it. if it’s against the law, arrest me. if you can handle it, undress me.”

    i cannot sufficiently express how disingenuous and tacky that half-hearted drivel sounded to me. thing is, i had believed her when she told us, all those decades ago, that she had been through the wilderness but somehow made it through, and that like a virgin touched for the very first time, her fear was fading fast…

    those were the words of someone with more than a rhyming dictionary handy but something to declare, something inside that begged to escape, an unquenchable thirst to announce her vision of the world to the world. listening to her now, clinging to predictable expectations of herself, i could not shake the sadness i felt about her apparent lack of conviction, and it got me thinking about others in the chosen and over-rewarded fields of art and entertainment. did steven spielberg really care about the journey of a foreign national stuck in the terminal as much as he made us believe he did about extraterrestrials? was damien hirst ever as certain of the importance of for the love of god, the diamond-encrusted skull worth $100 million, as he was, 13 years earlier, about the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living, the formaldehyde-bound white shark that kickstarted a movement and, at the time, sold for less than $100,000?
    sometimes, upon reading about this or that on the internets, i get the feeling that few people are serious about what they do anymore. maybe it is because of age, maybe because of success, but the lack of conviction seems to be a virus spreading through too many professions faster than a promiscuous gwyneth paltrow. and there is no better example of such apathy than in the design industry.

    what are we to think about yet another plastic chair from philippe starck, another re-used container from lot-ek, another minimal movie poster from freakin’ everyone? do these and other designers not create from visceral need anymore? is design not of greater impact when it is the result of a serious principle applied by a serious person with serious skills? it seems to me that design lacks conviction of its own.
    //MORE

    November 7, 2011


    as it so subtly says on the left there, sometimes we also work… and today i just wanted to give you a quick look into what we are working on right now because it is, if i may say so myself, SUPERCOOL!

    i am sadly not able to divulge the nature or name of the client, yet, but let me say that this industry is ripe for new vision. that which we are lucky to have been asked to provide. what you are looking at in the picture above is going to be the piece de resistance of an amazing project we were hired to design a few months ago and the round structure is an incredible piece of engineered art that we are designing with the visionary marc fornes of theverymany. fitting within a space that is part showroom, part womb, we will be unveiling this beauty early next year and we could not be more excited!

    but what i really want to talk about this morning is criteria by which we are lucky to choose our clients. as with most projects that we take on, this one has involved us in a field that we never plowed before, which is exactly the point. when the phone rings and the person on the other side asks if we can show them examples of things we have done before in their industry, my response is always this:

    do not hire us because of what we may have done, hire us because of what we can do.

    now, 3 times out of 5, the new business prospect hangs up on me… but it guarantees that the other 2 that keep talking will have a built-in tolerance for the unconventional solutions we are bound to come up with. that is why i rarely show our portfolio any more. the reason i created the apartment creative agency was to have the ability to touch, unrestrained by the increasingly reductive industry of design, all aspects of the consumer experience. whether tasked to build an individual a home that feels as if they could have dreamt it themselves or launch a new car in a way theretofore unseen, the apartment staff and i believe that, ultimately, good design lays not in the individual instrument but the symphony, the way all the parts come together. our goal, in life as much as in business, has always been and always will be to do interesting things. and as such, we live to be hired to do that which we haven’t done before, not what is easily pointed to in a portfolio. we work with dozens of designers across the world who join us on teams specifically assembled for goals yet to be defined. that is how the unexpected happens. that is what we strive for.

    my focus, is never simply to give our clients what they ask for but to define their mission on their behalf using the tools of branding, graphics, product design, architecture, strategy, marketing and publicity, yes, but also those of memory, experience, imagination, fantasy and emotion in order to give meaning to the adventure, not just success. i believe we are one of the very few agencies in the world today offering such comprehensive understanding of our craft beyond its tools. as alan kay famously said, “if you want to predict the future, you have to invent it…” we are inventors.

    and that is what we hope to achieve with this and other projects in the pipeline. after 12 years of doing this, it truly feels like we’re just getting started…

    sorry for the seemingly complacent post this monday morning but i felt compelled to explain what we do who we are to some who may not know. thank you for listening and have a splendid weekend!

    October 24, 2011

    in winter 2002, while probably taking a break from nothing, the phone rang on my oversized desk and on the line was the politely determined voice of a young woman, just graduated from interior design school in germany, who had heard of our little dog and pony show in manhattan and wanted in for a summer internship. the apartment, having just been invented out of thin air a couple of years at that point, it never dawned on me that we could teach anyone anything, let alone offer “internships,” those were for “real” companies i thought, but my interlocutor that day reassured me that she would pay her way from germany and do whatever we asked, for free, as long as she could learn our trade… our what?! i didn’t know we had a trade, i thought until then that what i had been doing was pushing back the date when i would have to put my film degree to good use and be a waiter at dojo’s. i tried to tell this young woman that i would not want to take advantage of her and could not have her waste her time so i said that there wasn’t a position available at this time but to please stay in touch because, you know, yeah… and stay in touch she did, by email, voicemail and, about a week later, getting me on the line again and now saying that she was going to book a flight to come meet me for an interview because, obviously, the telephone was too poor a means of communication to convey her intention to never be told no to anything she wished. i was dumbfounded by her persistence to fill a non-existent position that i felt would be of no use to anyone but i couldn’t let her spend her money for a transatlantic flight just for an interview, that was crazy! so, defeated, i said ok. after all, it would just be a summer internship and by september, she’d go back home, disappointed, and i would put on my apron, filled with guilt, as things should be…

    but i had underestimated ms. pia richter…
    //MORE

    October 10, 2011

    have you seen the news about this amazing concept in crowd funding a restaurant that’s all over eater, thrillist and grub street?… sure you have, because you know this is no mere gimmick but an honestly clever idea that none other than the apartment’s own former head of design, david lefkowitz (responsible for the back apartment and yelo among too many to count) has dreamed up and launched. i have known that he and his partner, scott kester (ex-avroKO,) have been gestating this project for the last 3 years and i could not be more proud that they have finally opened the virtual doors to their category-busting idea and unveiled not just a wonderful way to do business but a dream team of collaborators: daniel patterson on menu, dale degroff on drinks and scott mou on music for starters and with more surprises to come… and i’m very excited that we’re getting a peek into their process today because i had a chance to corner david and ask him some pointed questions about his plans, dreams and spirit animal…

    //MORE