Having been refused subscriptions to the likes of Wildlife Treasury and Sweet Pickles during our formative years, we’re suckers for flash cards. Combine their didactic delights with posters and architecture and you’ve got Archigrams: minimal, informative prints of famous buildings ranging from Gerrit Rietveld‘s Schroeder House to the Gherkin (a.k.a. 30 St. Mary Axe by Norman Foster, no relation to Sweet Pickles). “The idea came to me years ago when I was an architecture student at UCLA, studying for my architecture history exams,” says Michie Cao, now a graduate student in interaction design at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She returned to the idea as part of a project for her SVA course in Entrepreneurial Design.
“As designers, we tend to be perfectionists and want to hide our ideas from the world until it’s one-hundred-percent developed and perfect. Unfortunately, that often prevents us from actually building it and getting the objective feedback we need to take the next step,” Cao explains. “The goal of this class was therefore to teach us how to use our networks, build a community base, and to learn how to test ideas out in the real world.” Her Archigrams Kickstarter campaign of last month raised $11,258, nearly four times the original goal, and production is now underway. Cao took time to tell us more about the concept, her sentimental favorite building, and how you can get in on the architectural fun.
How would you characterize the initial response to your concept?
Mixed! My initial concept of Archigrams was essentially a set of visual flashcards for modern architecture, and the first people I showed this to were classmates, friends, and Reddit. Many people, especially designers and architecture people, told me they loved the prints. Others told me they were turned off by the idea of flashcards, because it invoked bad memories of high school. From there, I iterated and played with all the ways I could frame my concept—first, by completely eliminating the informational aspect of it and then, incrementally bringing it back. Finally, I arrived at the concept I have now, which is that they are beautiful prints, supplemented by tidbits of important information every architect knows. My Kickstarter campaign took a while to catch on in social media, but after getting featured on various blogs and websites and as [a Kickstarter] Project of the Day, it finally got the exposure it needed and took off.
Any personal favorites of the buildings depicted?
I think my favorite has always been the Villa Savoye, as it is a perfect example of how technology and design can complement each other. In embracing modern engineering techniques and relying on a grid of columns instead of traditional walls to bear the load of the structure, Le Corbusier created the opportunity to craft a whole new design language of open floor plans, free facades, and ribbon windows. The house represents many new innovations in technology of its time, yet amazingly, remains elegantly simple. As a designer who’s all about making complicated stuff more accessible and delightful, that really resonates with me.
In the wake of your successful Kickstarter campaign, what’s next?
For now, my priority is to fulfill the orders I’ve gotten from Kickstarter and to make sure Archigrams is produced at the highest quality level possible. I hope to get them all out to their owners by late August. But definitely, I am also thinking about expanding it to include more sets, with new buildings and perhaps themes, and creating an online shop to sell them.
How can those who didn’t back you on Kickstarter get their hands on Archigrams?
For those interested in purchasing an Archigrams set or poster, they can sign up for pre-orders and updates at archigrams.launchrock.com. I hope to launch a shop soon, and that’s where they can hear about it first! They can also follow me on twitter @archigramsny.