Two weeks ago, on September 16th, Marc Newson sat down to discuss his work with Alice Rawsthorn as part of the 92nd Street Y’s lecture series called “Dialogues with Design Legends.” The talk coincided with the opening of “Transport” Newson’s exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery. I must admit that I was more excited to see Ms. Rawsthorn than Newson as I follow her International Herald Tribune column regularly and have a lot of respect for everything that she has achieved at such a young age. But Newson proved to be charismatic and interesting and Rawsthorn was the perfect person to interview the designer as she wrote a monograph on him and they have also been friends for many, many years. The talk really felt like a conversation amongst close friends as Rawsthorn lead the discussion without notes and just freely conversed with him.
In a matter of two hours we found out that Newson studied sculpture and jewelry in school because it allowed him to make things with his own hands, and fell into design because he wanted to work in a creative environment. He actually began to design furniture out of necessity, and is astounded by the record price of $2 million that his Lockhead Lounge is now worth. Newson made few copies of the chaise longue not because he wanted to make it a collector’s item but because it was too expensive for him to make in quantity. And although he has no interest in collecting design, he wishes that he would have saved a copy of the Lockhead for himself!
Like a true industrial designer, he feels that his job is to improve on other designer’s bad ideas, in other words, he is inspired by poorly designed objects. When commissioned for a project he approaches it like an artist would, never placing any constraints on himself and allowing his imagination to lead the way. Since the objects are usually produced in limited editions, money is not an issue so much. Overall, he is dissatisfied with the state of design today and feels that there is plenty of room for improvement. But like a true industrial designer, he is happy when a project is complete so that he may move on to the next one. Newson equates each project to a mini-university degree as he gains knowledge about new technologies, processes, and materials along the way which he then applies to his next project. His goal is to design good quality objects that improve people’s lives.
So which objects on the market does Marc Newson crave? Anything from the Apple people- he loves the way their products are made. His dream project (for now) is to design another car (he already did for Ford and model 021C is on view at the Gagosian show).
Finally, Newson believes that his job as a designer is to figure out a solution to a design flaw that consumers might not have thought of. Marc Newson is here to make our world a better place and he is doing this one object at a time.