In 1999, Michael Graves debuted his pioneering collaboration with Target known as "Art of the Everyday Object." In addition to his work with higher-end brands like Alessi, Graves' partnership with Target was aimed at creating "design for all." Over 15 years, they brought more than 2,000 exclusive products to market across 20 categories and sold over $1 billion in retail all while elevating consumers' expectations of design and turning Graves into a household name.
In a 2011 interview with the New York Times, Graves remembered how Target executives asked him to lunch one day and said, "'We've been knocking you off for 20 years...maybe you'd like to come and try designing for us, if we can keep the price at a Target range.' So we designed half a dozen things for them, and they liked it so much they said, 'Well, let's keep going.'"
Save for a reissue last year to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Target's "Design for All" program, it hasn't been easy to get your hands on a Michael Graves design, but that will soon change. His namesake firm, Michael Graves Design, will release its own housewares line at the International Home + Housewares show in Chicago this March. As Architectural Digest explains, MGD licensed the option to sell to its retail partners—like Target—but retained exclusive rights to its extensive library of over 5,000 products. Though we don't know yet where the products will be sold, MGD has partnered with brand agency Earthbound to expand its licensing program and it seems the company has its sights on spreading Graves' designs as widely as possible.
The new collection will include some familiar reissues as well as brand new designs, including kitchen accessories and gadgets, food storage solutions, and cleaning supplies.
"Whether it's a teakettle with an unexpected whistle or a toilet brush that you're proud to leave out in your bathroom, Michael Graves Design seeks to bring a smile to consumers' faces," Donald Strum, principal of product design at MGD, said. "After more than two decades of exclusive relationships with major retailers, we're thrilled to launch our new housewares line that can now be widely distributed across the retail landscape."
The news came just as The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan announced it had acquired the entirety of Michael Graves' product design archive for its permanent collection. A selection of 21 designs is now on view while the museum plans additional permanent and temporary exhibits around the body of work.
"Michael Graves and his designers performed a kind of design alchemy, transforming often humble things—thousands of them—into objects of delight, humor, and elegance," said Marc Greuther, chief curator at The Henry Ford, in a press statement. "He showed that seeming near-opposites such as practicality, whimsy, affordability, decoration, and modernity could actually coexist—and move swiftly off the shelves of everyday retailers."