Alexandra Lange | Essays

Shall I Complain About the New Yorker?

I know, I always do. But this week is the Style issue, which means they suddenly discover the world of design and there were two howlers in the profiles of James Dyson and Mickey Drexler (and please, does every magazine need to fawn over him and/or Jenna Lyons? I have seen her navy kid’s room 100 times now. And I think J.Crew quality sucks).

The first was this:

In engineering his vacuum cleaner, Dyson followed the trial-and-error method developed by Thomas Edison, in his Menlo Park invention factory. He would build a prototype, test it, analyze why it failed, make one change and build another prototype. Dyson built 5,271 such prototypes over four years, until he had a machine that satisfied him.

Invented by Thomas Edison? And presented as if no one since has employed this top secret “trial-and-error” method? I think Detroit, Henry Dreyfuss, the Eameses — and so on — would beg to differ. I think what writer John Seabrook has just described is industrial design, or really any good design, for that matter.

My larger point is the same one I keep making over and over: The New Yorker embarrasses itself every time it profiles an architect or designer by failing to understand, or explain, the context. It would never take literature so lightly.

Now that I have calmed down, let me point out that at almost no point in Nick Paumgarten’s profile of Drexler does he talk about clothes from a visual, aesthetic or creative point of view. He only talks about brands. I don’t think he heard what Drexler was trying to say.

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