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Creative Partnership: SVA Students Design for MoMA

This January, MoMA Wholesale—a manufacturer and distributor of design-centric products operating as part of The Museum of Modern Art in New York—released its 2017 catalog, advertising all the items it would be selling this year. Two of the new offerings—the "geo stacking" coaster set, featured prominently on the catalog’s front and back cover, and the "illusion spinner" paperweight—are the work of MFA 2016 Products of Design alumni Panisa Khunprasert and Oscar de la Hera Gomez, respectively.

The inclusion of both Khunprasert's and de la Hera Gomez’s designs in this year’s catalog was no coincidence; it is the first fruit of an ongoing partnership between MoMA Wholesale and the SVA graduate program. Three years ago, Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s senior curator of architecture and design and an MFA Products of Design faculty member, introduced department chair Allan Chochinov to Chay Costello, MoMA's associate director of merchandising, and Gabrielle Zola, MoMA's manager of business development, wholesale. Together, the three formed an arrangement through which interested students in Chochinov's program pitch and develop product ideas for the brand over the course of the academic year. Project lead and department faculty member Sinclair Smith, along with select MFA Products of Design advisors and the staff of the College’s Visible Futures Lab, provide feedback and technical support as students refine their ideas, build their pitch presentations and prototype their designs. Costello and Zola visit for critiques and, at year’s end, select the most promising works for MoMA Wholesale’s product-development pipeline. Any royalties from future sales are to be shared with the designer, students retain intellectual property rights to any ideas that the brand declines to pursue, and product packaging and advertising includes the designer’s name and calls out MoMA’s collaboration with the MFA Products of Design.

As their names indicate, both of this year's MFA Products of Design-shepherded items are inventive, playful takes on common tabletop gifts. In keeping with MoMA's reputation for design excellence, each is equally concerned with aesthetics and function. Khunprasert’s coasters—available in eye-catching primary and pastel colors—are made of dishwasher-safe silicone and have ridged edges of varying geometric shapes, which enables them to be snugly stacked. De la Hera Gomez’s spinner, made of bone china and ball bearings, is engraved with overlaying floral and spiral patterns that create a hypnotic optical effect when set in motion ( see it here), intended to clear one's thoughts and refocus attention.

Chochinov sees the partnership not only as an incredible opportunity for students—giving them the chance to be associated with one of art and design’s most recognizable and respected institutions, and to have their work manufactured according to the brand’s exacting standards—but “an extraordinary honor” for the program and the College. MFA Products of Design is the first and, to date, only academic program with which MoMA Wholesale has such an arrangement. “We cherish this relationship,” he says.

Several more items by MFA Products of Design alumni and students are now in varying stages of development for future MoMA Wholesale catalogs, including a second product by de la Hera Gomez, a kitchenware item, scheduled for a 2018 release. For more information about the MoMA Wholesale partnership and other MFA Products of Design initiatives, visit productsofdesign.sva.edu.

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