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Talbot & Yoon Deliver “Architecture for Everyone” Through Their Products

Jan. 22, 2018

Architects Mark Talbot and Youngjin Yoon mix precision with play, creating everyday products for the consumer who loves to design with an individual sense of quirkiness in mind.

While attending the 2016 BKLYN Designs exhibition in New York City, i+s Editor-in-Chief Kadie Yale was caught off guard by Talbot & Yoon’s display: the combination of warm wood displayed in grid precision for the YY’s Jewelry Cabinet, the brutalist cast-concrete body of the Bob Lamp, and the weather-worn abstraction of the Yantra Centerpiece. This trio of products seemed like an odd grouping but one that could easily work together in an interior with a playful irreverence toward conventionality.

The Bob Lamp, named after a design professor of Talbot and Yoon

That’s the point of Talbot & Yoon, the namesake firm of founding architects Mark Talbot and Youngjin Yoon. “If it isn’t fun, why bother?” is their ideology. “This is why we promote play as the central driver of our own productivity and maintain that while the products we sell are ‘finished,’ when they leave our studio they are never truly finished; the end user takes over by actively participating in our design objects both physically and emotionally,” states their website's mission statement.

As the second installment of i+s’ ongoing series on craftspeople and makers—released every other Monday—Talbot, speaking for the duo, leads us deeper into their design process, discusses what’s on the horizon, and explains his very specific favorite color.

The coral-like Yantra is meant to be rearranged according to the user's whim, and can hold anything from pencils to flowers
Architect-Designers Youngjin Yoon and Mark Talbot

interiors+sources: Where can your goods be found?
Mark Talbot: You can find our goods for sale on our website, talbotandyoon.com, and at various stockists in the U.S. and Canada, including our wood shop’s own Shook & Co. located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Starting in February of this year our candles will be available through Areaware, the home accessories brand based in Brooklyn and Columbus, Ohio.

i+s: How did you get your start?
MT: We started out as architects and are both licensed in the state of New York. We got frustrated by the pace, scope, and exclusivity of architectural work and wanted to find a different way to design and experiment that was not only at a faster pace but would also allow us to make our own designs available to a wider audience. Talbot & Yoon was founded with a kind of egalitarian notion in place, architecture for everyone at the scale of products.

The YY's Jewelry Cabinet made of warm wood provides the user with an exact--yet fun--way of 
organizing all of their baubles.

i+s: What inspires you?
MT: We are inspired by the notion of play. Because Talbot & Yoon started in architecture, which is a massive team effort, we see design as a necessarily social act. To us, the most engaging and enjoyable form of teamwork is for the purpose of play. Because play is such a central element of our design culture, we thought play should be facilitated not just by the designated objects of games or within our own studio but also by all design objects and out in the world where they are consumed. We imagine a world of products people can take home and play with, products that can grow and change as peoples’ needs and desires grow and change.

i+s: What is the hardest part of the creative process?
MT: The hardest part for us is knowing when to put down the pen and make prototypes. We have a tendency to work through drawings and digital models until fairly late in our process. We need to be better at forcing ourselves to make real things earlier. We’re working on it.

Talbot & Yoon's "Goobers" product--both in development and finalized.

i+s: What is your favorite thing in your working environment?
MT: We work in a shared shop space with other designers and makers. Our favorite thing in our work environment is the other people we work with in the space, people we share with and learn from.

Interior of their Redhook studio

i+s: What career or personal mistake have you learned the most from?
MT: Going to work for a small Brooklyn-based developer was a career mistake that I learned a lot from. What struck me from the experience was the ubiquity of a new, generic, open-plan, white-walled residential spaces being built around the city. The experience cemented my understanding of the immense responsibility that products and furniture have in providing comfort, fulfilling our personal desires, and displaying our sensibilities to others in the domestic setting.

i+s: Who has helped you realize your dreams?
MT: We owe thanks to all of our friends and colleagues but also to all of the amazing small shops that took a chance on our work early on.

i+s: What is your favorite design era?
MT: My favorite design era is the 1970s, specifically the kind of Italian design featured in shows like “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” at the MoMA in 1972. In addition to products and furniture, the show featured a series of commissioned “environments” that betrayed designers’ criticism of the contemporary culture. It was also a moment when architects and designers ignored any distinction between architecture and design, design and art, object and theory, and embraced the incredible productive force of their conflation.

i+s: What’s your favorite color?
MT: Anna Castelli Ferrieri, “Componibili Storage Unit Red.”

i+s: Do you have any rituals for getting out of a design rut?
MT: When we get into a rut, we do historical research to learn about the incredible people and things that have come before us to put the work into perspective.

The First-Tri Bar Stool and Footstool

i+s: What’s next for you?
MT: Although we got frustrated, our interest in architecture has not disappeared and, if anything, it has been replenished by recent experience. As for what’s next, in addition to continuing our experiments with playful product design, we would like to take what we have learned—both what we have made and the working method for making—and use it to think about and produce architecture. What that means exactly is still uncertain, but we think that it means making, installations, interior design, and smaller buildings.

i+s: What do you think is next for the interior design industry?
MT: Due to the ubiquity of new, generic, white-walled, open-plan residential spaces, the consideration of interior domestic space seems extremely important today. We see our design experiments and many of those of our peers engaging in a resistance to the generic and at the same time to the digital. We see people reinvesting in concrete reality—in specificity and weight, materials and color. This can be reflected in the product offerings, cocktail tray, soap dish, cake stand, etc. We think it is and will be seen more often in interior design through an interest in rooms tailored to specific moods using a wide variety of rich materials and patterns, mirrors, felts, fabrics, and wallpapers.

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