Design in The Small Things

I was recently watching this video featuring Fuse 2013 speaker Jonathan Adler where he discusses designing a limited edition straw for Diet Pepsi, and I got to thinking about the ways that design has become part of the conversation...even outside of the design world.

Drinking straws always needed designers (Marvin Stone...Joseph B. Friedman?), but this video shows a respected designer chatting with a mommy blogger about his project and inspirations. Like Adler, I grew up using Krazy Straws, but I certainly couldn't have told you who designed them. By injecting design elements and promoting his involvement, an every day object - a small thing really - is elevated...or to look at it the other way, what was once either an "elevated" or an invisible practice is made mainstream and visible.

Jonathan Adler has become a household name across America by bringing his pattern-happy, Mid-century-inspired housewares to the likes of Target and JC Penney and even serving as a judge on a reality TV show: “Top Design” on Bravo.

In a December 2012 feature in the New York Times, Adler was quoted as saying, "I don’t like it when design becomes unnecessarily oblique or when it doesn’t communicate, I hate dour obscurantism. I like it when things are chic and optimistic and communicative. It’s not dour at all. It’s not about ‘process’ and ‘exploration.’ It’s about ‘I’m going to make my apartment even cuter.’ ”

What it comes down to: the appeal of things that are "chic and optimistic and communicative" is universal (We've heard before about the psychological appeal of rounded corners or certain logos.) Huge brands like PepsiCo and Target are embracing this and using design as a differentiator. The explosive popularity of Pinterest is yet another indicator of interest in the topic.

Is this new, more inclusive idea of design, even in the small things, just a trend? Or are we looking at a future world of "cuter" apartments for everyone?

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing, she may be reached at



Most Popular