The original City Plate was a commemorative platter in honor of the 2006 AIA Convention, which was hosted by Los Angeles. Rios Clementi Hale Studios had been working on a series of diagrams for their Civic Park project in downtown Los Angeles, looking at elements such as open space, circulation, and land use in the downtown core relative to the urban context of greater Los Angeles. A draft of the plan was up on one the common walls in the studio that notNeutral and Rios Clementi Hales Studios share, and, typical of the cross-disciplinary interplay, notNeutral had the inspiration to translate the diagram onto a ceramic plate. The reductive graphics of the diagram and the recognizable pattern of LA streets and landmarks translated well to the medium. The response to the plate at the Convention was very enthusiastic (‘Do my city!’), and we expanded the idea into a series of plates.
The result was a line of City Plates, released in series of four, which look at cities as a graphic language of line, color, and pattern as a means to investigate the cultural, economic, historical, and political impacts on city form. Each series has a particular conceptual framework that relates the four cities to each other, and the series as a whole operates within an ecological matrix organized by patterns of urban development: organic, baroque, gridded, and eclectic. The idea was that as the series evolved, the City Plates would form a network of relationships to each other that would allow people to design their own combination of plates (American cities, Coastal cities, Colonial cities, for example) that would allow interesting comparisons. This methodology led us to some of the great cities of the world, and also to some less well-known cities that warrant attention. Each plate celebrates the beauty implicit in a city’s unique form, a distinct pattern that has evolved over time as layers of history are inscribed into the urban landscape.
BABY BOOMER FURNITURE
Prior to BB2, parents with a sensibility for modern design or the environment had limited choices in children’s furniture. First conceived for the award-winning Warner Bros. and Universal Studios’ child care centers in 1991 and 1994, our BB2 Furniture Collection has evolved into a suite of children’s furniture for the consumer market, while honoring its original form and eco-friendly values. Tried, tested, and built to last generations, the original furniture we designed for the childcare centers is still in use today.
In 2003, we redesigned the Table and Chairs set to ship flat for the consumer market. In making this switch to a consumer product from the commercial/institutional application, we updated the set to ship flat, and designed the instructions to allow anyone to easily put the furniture together. The number of fasteners was greatly reduced, so that the table took ten minutes, and the chair takes only five minutes to assemble.
Later, we shifted to more versatile and accessible blonde plywood, introducing a Toy Caddy, Shelving Unit, Twin Bed and Sidetable, to fill out the kid’s bedroom. These pieces all incorporate the geometric form referencing the boomerang that was the original design inspiration for the Baby Boomer furniture. Following the immediate success of the BB2 Collection, we introduced the brightly colored painted MDF version in 2006. The latest iteration, released in 2009 in collaboration with Loll Design, is the BBO2 (as in oxygen) Table and Chairs, an eco-friendly indoor outdoor version.
Throughout its evolution, the BB2 has remained faithful to its original mission: furniture for kids that is simple, sturdy, affordable, and built to last a lifetime.
Our Flora pattern took a more graphic 21st century approach to a floral design, which brings beauty with an edge featuring flowers, thorns and leaves. It’s a floral design with an element of danger. At first glance your eye picks up on the beauty of the color and the form but then after looking further, your eye notices subtle assertions of thorns and forms that are not usually considered beautiful. In the dinnerware the pale blue and white combination adds a delicacy not seen in many notNeutral designs. But in black and white the pattern is pretty but strong. Within the collection the pattern varies in scale and treatment.
The Letters pattern was derived from deconstructed letter forms based on the font Clarendon. We turned the letters bold and enlarged them took parts of the outlined forms, added the dots and overlapped them to form a continuous pattern. This pattern has been used on dishes, rugs, fabric and barware.
Our very first pattern when we launched back in 2001, this pattern was based on the links of a bicycle chain. We were fascinated with the way the links fit together and looked for other ways to “connect” them. This pattern has been used ever since at many different scales, colors and configurations and continues to be a top seller.
A time-honored means of bringing people together, coffee has evolved and expanded greatly in the last century, thanks to the efforts of both overcast Seattleites and passionate Italians.
The results of a thorough, collaborative design process with artisanal coffee purveyor Intelligentsia, our family of cups—including espresso, single cappuccino, double cappuccino, small latte, large latte, and brewed coffee—further evolves this ritualistic cultural experience.
To fashion the perfect set of cups for Intelligentsia, we took lessons in pouring and sipping their exceptional direct-trade espresso. At their roasting facility and coffee bars, we studied the dynamics of fluid during a pour, the ergonomics of grips and handles, and the interplay between the cups’ mouth and nose during a sip.
Through this careful examination of the baristas’ pouring and the consumers’ drinking experiences, we have successfully created LINO, a family of cups and serving dishes that provides exquisite form and function. Our cups functionally support the barista’s art, while also exhibiting personality and presence on the table.
RIBBON PATTERN INSPIRATION
Based on the Guilloché engravings used to make money harder to copy, our Ribbon pattern explores variations on interwoven lines. Guilloché is a decorative engraving technique of scratching very fine lines into a plate to create a very intricate pattern. We were specifically interested in how it was used on money and looked at the pattern in detail; at the interwoven loops, the cadence and at what happens when two areas overlapped.
We then increased the scale dramatically and played with the overlaps. We started with patterns as flat art on glazed dishes, etched into glass, screen printed on pillows, and woven into wool rugs. We are now expanding Ribbon to include more three-dimensional products, drawing direct inspiration from wrought ironwork, which has decorated railings and gates and been used to create household goods for centuries.
SEASON PATTERN ORIGINS
Our iconic Season pattern has its origins on the runways of LA Fashion Week. In 2006, we were commissioned by a local fashion designer, Louis Verdad, to create a runway for his spring collection that would convey his inspiration of a Sunday in the Park. To evoke this atmosphere, we replaced the front row seats with park benches on grass, and lined the runway with stylized, vibrant cut outs of garden motifs such as insects and flowers.
These graphic motifs evolved into more permanent decorative powder-coated garden stakes for all seasons: Bloomin’ Flora and Fauna, Fallin’ and Frosty. In turn, these elements were transformed into table top accessories such as trivets, napkin rings, hurricanes and decorative bowls. These icons were used in their two- dimensional form to develop patterns in various iterations that make their appearance on a full range of our products at all scales, including outdoor lanterns, dinnerware, pillows, quilts, area rugs, and children’s blocks. We have also created reusable wall decals for kids in themed sets so that they can create their own landscapes and decorative patterns.
Each of the motifs in the Season Pattern takes cues from both nature and machine. Intended to reference more than just the flora and fauna around us, our Season designs are also inspired by other abstract forms of decoration, and even mechanical parts. For example, the designs for the Leaf pieces are inspired by the ancient Indian art of Rangoli and Kolams. The forms recall the beautiful, symmetrical patterns the women and girls create in their homes, at the entrances and on the walls, to celebrate marriages, births, and other important events. We also took inspiration directly from the bur oak, whose geometric shape is reminiscent of Rangoli art, as well as the intricate patterns found in Thai costumes and shadow puppets. With its dual meanings, variations, and range of products, the Season Pattern epitomizes the playful spirit of the notNeutral design process and aesthetic: celebrating the fun of everyday objects.
Playful enough to start in the nursery and sophisticated enough for a formal modern dining room, our Tetra Collection consists of a series of case goods and furniture pieces inspired by the Greek numerical prefix Tetra, meaning “four.” Also inspired by Tetris, the popular 80’s video game, each piece of the Tetra case goods line uses four drawer sizes to build interlocking storage structures.
The Tetra Collection’s frames are made of a Birch Euro-ply, and feature a combination of natural Euro-ply drawer fronts, Sable Brown square drawers, and a choice of one of four colored drawer fronts. Designed to function perfectly without drawer pulls, the drawer fronts can be easily gripped from the top or side, resulting in a clean, modern aesthetic.
Just as in the video game, the design process for Tetra involved thinking of falling four-square shapes, and the way each needs to be manipulated to fit perfectly into place. The Tetra Collection pieces are a versatile series that fit in just about anywhere, while keeping pace with the ever-changing needs of the modern family.
The transportation related graphics were developed for a primary school (kindergarten and first grade) located in a dense urban area of Los Angeles. The school is adjacent to both commercial and residential districts. Painted graphics and murals are a recurrent theme in this largely Latino area of the city. The graphics became the way-finding precedent by adorning each building with a unique graphic (bicycles, airplanes, cars, etc) that can easily be identified by the kids that are using the schools.
Each one of the vehicles was drawn by hand and though they were scanned and manipulated in the computer they retain that hand drawn quality. For use on our products we mixed all of the vehicles up together to create a dynamic pattern. The pattern is used in pillows, rugs and kids dishes.
With our veloCity collection, we bring the allure of travel, landscape, and urban form to the table in a stimulating, innovate fashion. Smart and chic enough for a dinner party, we designed this collection to spark conversation about the links between place, culture, and history.
The collection is inspired by paths of travel, topography, and landscape, which also expands the collection with bowls, saucers, and cups. We designed the veloCity collection under the premise that a map tells an important story about a place. Like any map, each piece communicates a narrative by sorting and accentuating information.
This most recent series was designed to coordinate with the blues, greens and blacks of our top-selling City Plates. Celebrating various forms of travel, this series includes new modern shapes, features delicate porcelain, and flaunts elegant coupe designs.
The Dinner Plate design, rendered in black and white, was derived from driving time road maps and the patterns that the road systems have between major cities. The Salad Plate is a pale sky blue, patterned with intricate white dashed lines that replicate airline flight paths. The shallow, rimless Soup Bowl has a minimal, delicate tiny dot patterns. The design was inspired by rural paths: the routes forged by the first explorers who walked across the U.S., and the train routes that followed. The Cup and Saucer design replicates shipping routes, its design derived from the currents that guide sea navigation.
As distinct, everyday objects, the veloCity collection inspires discussions of settlement and landforms while rousing dinner guests to tales of past travels and plans for future destinations.