I was walking through our kitchen at work recently when design literally stopped me in my tracks. My colleagues Susanne and Trish were chatting by the microwave and as I glanced over, something on the counter caught my eye and I stopped cold.
It was Susanne’s nifty new thermal lunch bag. It looked like a purse with an owl’s head as the flap. When I remarked on how cool it was, she said she had taken her kids back-to-school shopping at Target and couldn’t resist the “owly” purse—I mean, lunch bag.
I wasn’t at all surprised to learn that her new fetish, I mean, lunch bag, came from Target, widely known for democratizing design through their “Design for All” product line. Their shot across the design bow came in 1999 with the Michael Graves line of home products. Anyone remember the tea kettle? I do, and they’re still selling it. I can’t tell you if the teapot has changed much in 12 years, but it stands out in my memory as an honest-to-goodness designer item anyone could buy, compared to the pricey Alessi tea kettle it resembles.
This was a genius move on Target’s part. While other discounters had enlisted celebrities to sell things, Target was first to emphasize the actual product design, and they still do. You can learn all about their philosophy on their website.
The other thing Target does that’s genius is the way they partner with hip designers on limited edition items. They are able to inspire cravings better than anyone I can think of. I raced out and bought a cute little Rafe straw handbag as soon as another colleague, Joslynn, told me what a big deal Rafe is in Pricey Handbag World. I didn’t have a clue who Rafe was but as soon as I found out, I had to have one of his bags.
Same thing happened with the Christopher Radko Christmas tree cookie jar. I remember when they launched his line of Christmas dinnerware. It was every bit as charming as Spode, a heck of a lot more reasonable, and I yearned for that cookie jar the way I usually just yearn for cookies.
Right now, they’re teaming with famed Milan designer Missoni on more than 400 1960s-inspired items. The limited-edition line went on sale yesterday and promptly crashed Target’s website. I stopped by the nearest Target after work. Women’s clothing was already picked over and dinnerware was down to a handful of lonely plates on an otherwise empty display.
So here’s to Target; long may they prosper by catering to those of us who love design as much as we love bargains. Nobody does it better.
Image courtesy of Jackie Fox