NeoCon 2011 marks an auspicious start to the partnership between furniture brand Coalesse and multidisciplinary California designer Cory Grosser: his "CG-1" won the Silver Design Award in the table category. We had a chance to catch up with him at Merchandise Mart.
Core77: Let's start with a little background—where you're from, where you studied, how you got into industrial design?
Sure. I'm Cory Grosser, a designer from Los Angeles. I studied architecture at the University of Buffalo and I have a degree in industrial design from Art Center in Pasadena.
How long have you been working independently, and how long have you been working with Coalesse?
We're entering our 10th year [but] this is my first project with Coalesse... and we started [working with them] about a year and a half ago.
How did that come about? Was there a brief?
In fact there was; there was a brief for a line of tables that could fit in a lot of different types of space. That was the original brief for the project.
Coalesse's design office in San Francisco, so I flew up there and we presented about ten ideas. [Of those initial designs,] four were a little bit more interesting for them, and we studied those four and we ended up with the [CG-1].
Can you elaborate on your design process?
I'm really interested in this idea of the narrative: that objects should have a small story. So we don't really design the object, but we design the story too. Coming up with a narrative with the project was the key, and this one has a more interesting narrative; I think that's one reason that they were attracted to it, and why it [stood out among] the other ideas.
But a narrative is good because 1.) it helps the salespeople talk about the project; 2.) it helps the customer understand the project; and 3.) it also helps us communicate the value of the product to the client. It allows us to have a dialogue, as opposed to only talking about the design parts of it.
And is that something you try and incorporate into all of your work, the narrative aspect?
Very much so. Increasingly, as more and more products hit the market in all different kinds of categories—and quality begins to equalize, at some point—this idea of having a small story or having more emotional value for the people that use your things... is the key. Those stories could change; they could be tiny, small insights. Or more elaborate stories. But I think it's becoming kind of necessary [in order to differentiate] these things.
So what's the story behind CG-1?
It's basically inspired by fashion; it's a little bit like a 'little black dress'—in the studio, we called it the 'little black table'—because the idea is that it's a table that can fit in to any environment. But—like a little black dress—you can dress it up or dress it down... so the signature detail is the foot. While the foot is the last consideration [for most tables], if it's considered at all, we wanted to make it special. I think of them as the shoes.
It's what determines if you're dressed up or dressed down.
Right. Exactly. So the shoes are available in different ways; they're available in wood or in Corian, in different colors. Basically, you could have a very simple black or white table, with a yellow 'shoe' for example.
On the wood version, you could also have a wood or an aluminum table with a wood detail. So it's a little bit like flip-flopping materials, because usually solid surface or wood is on the top, and we kind of wanted to have fun and put it on the bottom.
Also, uniquely, it's the exact same table available in aluminum and wood; it's the first project I've had that is these two different materials with totally different material properties and totally different material techniques... but with the exact same style, the exact same form[al] language.
Sounds (and looks) great; congratulations again on the award. Thanks for your time.
Thank you very much.