No good design comes from thin air—ideas must be nurtured, refined, and articulated to oneself and others before they mature. We asked designers where they capture their thoughts and lay out their research. From Pinterest boards to flow charts to good old-fashioned pinups, here are some surfaces filled with great ideas.
Click to see how New York’s creatives map out their thoughts
My inspiration board is almost six feet high. I now live in the Bay Area, but when I needed to do research for my latest book, “The Elements of Home: Curious Histories Behind Everyday Household Objects, From Pillows to Forks,” I booked a ticket and headed straight to the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue & 42nd Street. There’s no better place to do research than The Library with the Lions.
I love using the web-based app Mural because it becomes my big visual blackboard. Depending on the project it always looks a little different. This one is for a coffee commercial I shot last December in London, and it shows how I break down a commercial project.
Assistant Professor, Footwear and Accessories Design
Maria Cristina Rueda, Phoebe Streblow
@uhurudesign, @phbrz, @wilderkil
The furniture finishes for Uhuru are always derived from nature, so for these editorial images we collected specific natural objects to tell the color story.
Kimberly Ellen Hall
Wallpaper Designer/ Illustrator
My sketchbook is where all of our design work begins!
This image reflects my firm threadcollective’s design process; interior detailing is a critical part of our architecture. This is the palette for a restoration and addition to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last homes, the 1959 Olfelt House.
Where do designers do their most creative work? In a city like New York, it depends on who you ask and what they do. Many have their own studios or a dedicated corner in a makerspace, but some find the perfect setting in unexpected places—a virtual environment, a building courtyard, or a historic apartment.
Step into some of our city’s creative workspaces
Design lies in the beholder’s eye. We asked designers to scan New York’s urban fabric for beauty, pattern, and meaning. Here are some hidden gems they uncovered.
The residential lobby of 300 East 34th Street has a 30-foot long sculpture wall of CNC milled Corian.
The image was taken by the West Side Highway.
Snug Harbor on Staten Island is a true hidden gem in NYC. This 80-acre cultural center, botanical garden, and urban farm offers an escape from the city unlike any other. This archway is one of my favorites because the design of the structure changes with the seasons. In fall, you get a beautifully messy passageway of overrun branches.
Design Marketing Professional
1410 Broadway, a 34-floor office building in Times Square, has been turned into a fun and friendly workspace through the use of colors. The best are the seven different colorful elevators.
A construction barrier acts as a natural frame for the city’s buildings.
Ivy growing on a fence in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The face was probably painted before the full growth.
NYC Subway Station Mosaics
It seems they stopped midway while installing light panels in the Spring Street
subway station. I was delighted to see this design that related so well to a piece
I was working on at my studio.
This was taken outside a Lower Manhattan hospital. Great inspiration for a custom marble mosaic.
Barring pedestrian entry to Interstate 495
At Radio City Music Hall—the original office phone/meeting booths!
Architect & Interior Designer
Some type at the Lexington and 63rd Street MTA station
I love seeing the cranes at a construction site outside of my apartment window. It’s so structural and sculptural against the sky. It feels like deconstructed art. The juxtaposition of nature and man-made creation is the essence of New York City.
Graphic and Interior Designer
Walking to Soho Diner on a sunny day
A pink color-blocked facade found while walking around one day.
Trinity Church is one of New York’s oldest parish churches—founding father Alexander Hamilton is buried in its cemetery. When it reopens at the end of November, visitors to this National Historic Landmark will discover the results of a 20-month rejuvenation project by Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects (MBB).
Discover how MBB breathed new life into Trinity Church
Presented by Interior Design magazine and ICFF, the NYCxDESIGN Awards represent the best projects, products, and student work in New York City. The 2020 NYCxDESIGN award winners were announced this past May in a virtual awards ceremony. Every winner received a trophy created in collaboration with MakerSpace and Brooklyn Army Terminal—an iridescent X that represents “the intersection of all things design,” according to Interior Design editor in chief Cindy Allen.
Read more about the NYCxDESIGN Award winners here
ODE to NYC
21 designers pay homage to New York’s creative energy with this citywide poster campaign inspired by the late Milton Glaser’s “I Love NY” project.
A podcast that offers an inside look into New York City’s most creative minds, hosted by Debbie Millman. Anyone can submit to be featured, pitch your story now.
A network of designers and architects to support the reopening of small businesses, created in partnership with NYCEDC, Design Advocates, and AIA NY.
From the editors of Metropolis, a guide to the showrooms, destinations, programs, and cultural hot spots that are open to designers this fall.
All the content for NYCxDESIGN: The Magazine was contributed by New York’s designers and creative professionals. Avinash Rajagopal, Kelly Beamon, Akiva Blander, and Lauren Volker edited the content; Travis Ward, Eric Lish, and Carlos Dominguez were involved with the design. Valerie Hoffman, Maya Bayram, and Samantha Sager were instrumental in the realization of this project.
New York City has more designers than any other city in the world. There are hundreds of studios, ateliers, research labs, makerspaces, and workshops across the city’s five boroughs, where thousands of creative minds are hard at work changing our world an idea at a time. You’ve likely never had a chance to hear from most of them—until now.
Earlier this year, the NYCxDESIGN team reached out to those designers and asked them to share a slice of their world with you, in their own voices. A few months later, in the midst of a global pandemic, we are proud to bring you these inspiring flashes of New York’s creativity for the very first time. Welcome to the inaugural online edition of NYCxDESIGN: The Magazine!
Here are the places where New Yorkers say they are at their creative best.
It’s simply a space within my imagination that can be located at any place and at any time, allowing me to always be in a creative state of mind. In many ways, the best place to work is in your own head!
East Village, Manhattan
My friend took these images of my in-home studio while I was in grad school at the Rhode Island School of Design. The home has always been such an important sanctuary for me and my artistic process, which led me to develop an in-home studio I could retreat to when I need inspiration and comfort. The state of my home is also a reflection of my mental being. If my home is clean, I’m usually feeling collected and in charge. If it’s a mess, well, I probably am too! I do my best work here because creating small moments of beauty with the everyday objects around my home helps to clear my mind and put me at ease. That way, I can focus my best efforts toward whatever I’m working on.
Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn
This is the atelier room, the room where everything starts. It’s the library and the creative space where I find a good pace during the day. The morning light is very special and creates a good vibe and energy for the day—and even if it’s not sunny, the view toward Soho is always inspiring.
These images were taken in my ceramic studio in industrial Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I work every day. The space in this photo is the sunny side of my studio by the south-facing window where I do most of my work, from photo shooting to sketching, sculpting, and emailing. I work in this studio every day. It has the tools and equipment I need to work. I hand-built this studio with my friends three years ago, and it is a place I look forward to being in every morning.
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn
I’ve been in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for 15 years. I moved into this huge loft before I really needed it but as my business grew (including its evolution to my current, eponymous lighting brand), I expanded into the space. I constructed walls to divide the machinery and heavy manufacturing from the assembly and fragile fabrication spaces, and to divide that from the office. I added elevated shelving for storage, where I keep crating materials, prototypes, reference materials, and more. Big windows line two walls of my shop, so I’m looking out over the water as well as the Navy Yard in its many different character forms: polished in some places, rough in others, old and new alike. The Navy Yard has changed to grow with all its different residents over the years, and I’m grateful it’s been so accommodating to my various creative stages.
I built out this studio in Dumbo about ten years ago, organizing the space into two separate sections: an office for design and a woodshop. I design and build furniture, and my process involves constructing objects out of multiple layers of wood. This means that there are always a variety of overlapping stages and tasks that take up mental and physical space. The studio is on the smaller side, but I’ve found that this limitation forces me to stay better organized than I would otherwise. I’ve whittled down the machinery to the bare essentials and keep everything on casters so I can shift equipment around to accommodate different workflows. The building is small and fairly run-down, but this makes it feel tucked away in a forgotten corner of an otherwise bustling neighborhood (it’s also what’s kept the rent reasonable). I hope to stay in this space another ten years.
I absolutely love working from our new office space in the St. James Building on 25th Street and Broadway. We moved in this past November and the building and its facilities (and the prime location!) have provided a wonderful work environment. I love the 12-foot ceilings, prewar moldings and oversized windows, which provide so much natural light and embody that classic New York vibe. I feel very inspired here and truly look forward to coming in every day!
This is our studio’s 3D printer in our prototype room. It’s constantly humming along in the background, endlessly printing variations of our designs. We always get excited when the time comes to review prototypes. We can make a lot of assumptions about scale and proportions in front of the computer but there’s no comparison to holding an actual object in your hands. As designers, we usually come up with several designs for the same products. Once the time comes to print our designs, we gather tactile insights that enable us to narrow down our ideas. That’s the magic of our prototype room, where we gather to review and improve our work!
These images were taken at the Healthy Materials Lab (HML), a design research lab at Parsons
School of Design. HML is dedicated to a world where human and ecological health are placed at
the forefront of design decisions, in order to change the future of building. In these images, a
group of students, professors, and builders are working to create HempLime precast blocks. As
an innovative, renewable, and environmentally friendly construction material, HempLime has
the potential to reverse the negative impacts of the construction industry, specifically its
contribution to 30-40 percent of global CO2 emissions. Our best work is based on experimentation, innovation, and collaboration. The raw workspace allows our multidisciplinary team of designers, researchers, educators, and builders to test ideas and experiment together.
Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Head of Professional Services, Ceros
Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan
My favorite spot is at the end of this long, curvy bench in the courtyard of my apartment building. The space features something ridiculous like 80 trees and was a huge reason my husband and I moved here after living in the loud, dirty, wonderful heart of Hells
Kitchen for more than ten years. Residents severely underuse the courtyard—to my benefit!—and the bench is deceivingly comfortable for a slab of concrete. It might seem odd for the head of professional services for an experiential digital content platform to do her most creative work outside—and off-line. But the open space (and lack of Wi-Fi) in my courtyard allow me to
disconnect, decompress, and process the day’s information. Whether concepting ideas for an event, thinking through process improvements, or brainstorming client solutions, this bench is my personal creative “oasis.”
This photo is of a duplex apartment in the Modulightor building, designed by architect Paul Rudolph. Being in the space inspires me to talk about his work and the need to preserve it with students and the public. I’m excited by the spatial complexity and how light changes it throughout the day, and the feeling I get being in the space is reflected in the tours I give. Standing in the middle of Rudolph's space helps me explain why his work is so special and why it needs to be preserved.
Midtown East, Manhattan
Industry City, Brooklyn
The old warehouse buildings have great light and high ceilings, and all my neighbors are also creating, so it’s inspiring to be part of the community.
My Williamsburg live-work studio is a beautiful loft with large windows and lots of natural light. There is a certain sense of freedom in not having a super structured office, since I can always pick up and move if I really desire. Although I often yearn for more space—which is difficult to come by in New York City, especially if you are combining living and working—there is just something so sweet about working from home. We use our walls and floors as test surfaces and get to experience our work from an authentic perspective. I’ve been working and living in studio-like spaces since I was 14 years old: at boarding school, in college dorms, and in a live-work studio in Boulder, Colorado similar to my current one in Brooklyn. This style of living and working is ingrained in me.
An integral part of New York City history, Trinity Church has been rebuilt three times since it was first erected in 1697. The present building, designed by British-born architect Richard Upjohn in 1846, has recently undergone an extensive renovation led by local firm MBB Architects. The interior rejuvenation project, which began in May 2018, revitalized the National Historic Landmark, celebrating its 19th-century Gothic Revival style while respectfully modernizing interior details. Here, MBB’s Jeff Murphy highlights some of the project’s unique restoration efforts.
Honoring the Past
This church had not been restored in about 70 years, and a lot of things had been done on an as-needed basis. The result was a patchwork of repairs. Part of this project's vision was to unravel the patchwork and create a new infrastructure that would serve the church today and chart a path for the next 30 to 40 years.
Over the years a lot of the spaces—even the sanctuary itself—had morphed into multipurpose areas. So we first addressed how the church would be used as a more purpose-built space.
There's a lot of wood carving in the church, particularly in the space surrounding the altar, or the chancel area. In the 1870s the Astor family gave Trinity Church what's called the reredos. Serving as a backdrop to the chancel area, it features beautiful stone carving with angels, iconography, text, and symbols in mosaic tile. Over time it had deteriorated: Angels were missing arms, saints were without staffs, and sculptures were missing fingers. We tried to re-create what was missing with a resin that was cast and carved. We worked closely with Building Conservation Associates and Sciame, the construction manager, found the craftsman.
We also improved the lighting, as the preexisting downlights caused a lot of glare. If you stood up on the chancel, you almost couldn’t see out to the congregants,
and there was nothing shining on the architecture of the building. To get light up on the ceiling and on the surrounding walls, we worked with Melanie Freundlich, a lighting designer with a lot of experience with these kinds of buildings. She developed a custom pendant light in the nave with an uplighting element that illuminates the ribs, nave ceiling, and side walls, and downlights that enable people to read in their seats.
Another important element was the procession from the sacristy to the back of the church, where the client desired a covered walkway. We worked with Eckersley O’Callaghan—known for their amazing glass design work for clients like Apple—and German glass company Seele to create a canopy and a series of “trees.” The glass trees are painted the same color as the church’s brownstone, and the freestanding canopy blends into the historic architecture, offering a deferential response to the church’s programmatic need.
Designing an element that can coexist with this amazing architecture and surrounding artifacts was a great challenge, and I think a minimalist design shows that a sensitive Modernist intervention can actually add to and not detract from a beautiful building like this.
"A project like this is an incredible team effort. People recognize how important a building like Trinity Church is to New York—and to the world—and tend to be a little more inspired. Everyone brought their A game."
Preexisting downlights were replaced with uplighting and custom pendant lights that showcase the building’s impressive interior. A new exterior glass canopy provides coverage with a modern sensitivity that lets the historic architecture shine.
All churches, and particularly Trinity, have this intense humanistic mission. And yet the building wasn't addressing things like accessibility and comfort.
We set out to make the church fully handicapped accessible so that visitors with disabilities could get from the sidewalk to the sanctuary, chancel area, altar, and secondary spaces. We also installed a hearing loop to assist those with hearing disabilities.
To make the space more comfortable for all occupants, we addressed acoustical imbalance, working with a wonderful acoustician out of Chicago named Threshold. They were able to help us improve acoustics for both spoken word and music, doing things like tightening up and putting protective glazing on the windows and using doors designed to reduce outside noise. When I went to the Christmas service last year, the choirmaster Julian came running up to me saying, "I just can't believe how great our choir sounds." The changes had made such a difference that he actually had to tell his choir not to sing as loud.
We also reworked the pews to make them more ergonomic. I don't think human comfort at church was at the top of anyone's list in the 1840s.
Another cool aspect was the east window, where the church had an opportunity to convey a message to the world. The clergy wanted to
Creating the Future
replace the original stained-glass window and commission a new one through an international art competition. The selected artist, Thomas Denny from England, came up with a beautiful abstract design based on the Parable of Talents. The clergy fell in love with it. As you can imagine, there aren't too many historically significant churches in the United States that are getting modern stained-glass windows installed in them.
The last thing was upgrading the building's technology: We replaced every single wire and conduit. There's a ton of infrastructure that we needed to sensitively weave through this building, and we used this as an opportunity to declutter the church.
Whenever you do a major project in a historic building, it's an opportunity to make it as sustainable as you can. We didn't have all the tools that would be available if we were building anew, but we campaigned to tighten up the building and did everything we could to improve performance.
A project like this is an incredible team effort. People recognize how important a building like Trinity Church is to New York—and to the world—and tend to be a little more inspired. Everyone brought their A game. We had an amazing commitment from leadership, an incredible staff at Trinity Church, upwards of 14 consultants, and all-around an amazing design team.
The team added a new stained-glass window, commissioned through an international competition, at the building’s Wall Street access point. Created by the artist Thomas Denny, the statement piece features an abstract design based on the Parable of Talents.
Photos courtesy Colin Winterbottom/MBB