Designer & Target Collaborator Michael Graves Dies

Michael Graves

Michael Graves, the designer who helped build Target Corp.‘s “cheap chic” reputation for affordable and attractive household goods, has died. He was 80 years old.

Graves and Target started working together in 1998 with a line of housewares, but Graves said he had never stepped foot in a Target store before the partnership.

Michael Graves toasterGraves was Target’s first design partner and the longest standing when the collaboration ended in 2012. The groundbreaking Michael Graves Design Collection for Target debuted in January 1999 and pioneered the movement to bring innovative design to all. The partnership signaled to American consumers and competitive retailers alike that brand Target was changing, evolving and differentiating. They chose to cease behaving like a second tier Walmart and become the much-loved Target Brand of today.

Throughout the last 13 years, Target and Graves collaborated on more than 2,000 products, including the now famous Pop Art Toaster and Spinning Whistle Teakettle.  In addition, the partnership spanned multiple architectural projects including the Washington Monument Restoration, the Elephant Fountain at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and the Target Wing of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

“Michael Graves was Target’s first and longest-standing design partner to date. Together we created an iconic product collection that expertly blended design with function,” said in a statement in 2012 Stacia Andersen, senior vice president of home, merchandising, Target. “While this partnership is coming to end, Target remains dedicated to bringing our guests innovative design in new and meaningful ways.”

“Beginning in 1997 with the Washington Monument, Target has been a wonderful partner who has afforded me an opportunity to bring great design to America on a scale that was unimaginable before our partnership,” said Michael Graves.  “I am very proud of the design work and its legacy, and I look forward to continued opportunities to design great products for American homes.”

Later in life, Graves also added a line at JCPenney during the ill-fated Ron Johnson era.

The statement from his practice follows:

It is with deep sadness that Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MGA&D) announces the firm’s Founding Principal Michael Graves has passed away today, suddenly and peacefully, of natural causes.  He was in his home in Princeton, New Jersey.

Since founding the firm in 1964, Michael transformed the role of architects and designers, and even the place of design in our everyday lives. For those of us who had the opportunity to work closely with Michael, we knew him as an extraordinary designer, teacher, mentor and friend.  For the countless students that he taught for more than 40 years, Michael was an inspiring professor who encouraged everyone to find their unique design voice.

Of all of his accomplishments, Michael often said that, like his own family, his proudest creation was his firm.  As we go forward in our practice, we will continue to honor Michael’s humanistic design philosophy through our commitment to creating unique design solutions that transform people’s lives.

Plans for a public memorial that will be held in Princeton will be announced in the near future.

Graves started his own practice in 1964 in Princeton, New Jersey, and has taught at Princeton’s school of architecture for more than 40 years.  A prolific architect, Graves has also met with considerable success as an industrial designer, producing products for companies such as Target, JC Penney and Black & Decker. He is highly decorated, having won such prestigious honors as the Nation Medal of the Arts (1999), the AIA Gold Medal (2001), and the Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture (2012).



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Christopher Durham

Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan).

Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s.
Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago.

Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.