show

Jessica Helfand

Cats and Their Designers



Mies, a Devon Rex cat. Gary Venter, New Zealand

Three days before I was born, my grandfather's business partner passed away, and I was named for him. Had he survived, I would have been named Rebecca. But instead, I was named for Jack — Jewish tradition allowing for the first initial to honor the name of the deceased loved one.

Jack's last name was Katz and I've always wondered: what if Jewish tradition bowed to the last instead of the first name? Would I have been Katherine, Karen, Kimberly? Or might things have taken an even odder turn, like that which befell the immigrant haberdasher, Horatio Katz, back in 1849 when his name was mis-translated as "feline" which was subsequently misinterpreted as Filene?

No such problem for our true feline companions, who dwell in and around the studios of so many designers, a sampling of whom are shown here. Not one of them is named Jessica, by the way. (Nor, for that matter, Jack or Horatio.) But we've got an Adolf and a Fyodor, a Mies and a Monotone, even a Fred and a Lucy. (No Ethel or Ricky, however.)

Behold: our collection of feline wonders, and the designers who named them.

[Canine lovers can find solace in our original post, Dogs and Their Designers.]



Posted in: Other

Comment 35  |     |     |   Like 0  |   Tweet 0
Comments [35]
Okay, I hate to be the social scientist of the bunch but...

Forty-three pictures of designers with a fairly good geographic representation.

And they are all white.

Does this say something?
Devin
03.29.09
04:26

Maybe it says that people with less pigmentation value animals as equals

-or they

Invite them readily onto their designed spaces with expectations that pets are more adaptable to their design than
humans accepting of a lessor creatures natural habitat?

Nancy
03.29.09
05:42

Devin and Nancy are right: this mix of designers is hardly representative of the variety within the design world. Despite this being an open call for submissions (we did not edit participating contributors), ethnic representation was not achieved. We will try harder next time.
William Drenttel
03.29.09
07:31

excellent photos! thanks for posting.
Vesper de Vil
03.29.09
08:49

to name a cat Mies is to insult the hell out of the master Mies Van der Rohe. he was no feline. would the genius be cuddled like in the picture?
richard corbinn
03.29.09
09:03

William,

This was not an attack on DO regarding political correctness! Not at all!

I think it's just interesting. I think it's VERY interesting. And it isn't DO that is responsible for the situation at hand.
Devin
03.29.09
11:57

My comment was more about pigmentation. Though I do realize I am seeing this in a rgb color space.

As I have noted elsewhere I find it interesting to notice people's tendency of color to lean toward either magenta or yellow or even tinged with cyan instead of just evaluations in shades of K on that scale.

nancy
03.30.09
08:18

Matthew & Abby, you are handsome! Great Picture.
xiaohong
03.30.09
09:41

designobserver should not be called to task on not featuring a representative sample of the designer population. even if they did so, what's the big deal? this is not the pseudo aesthetic of abercrombie or the gap et al which is forced to include a black or mixed race person (usually black/white) in every campaign by default.
Herman Shapiro
03.30.09
10:13

This was great. I just wish I had remembered to upload my photo. Devin I wonder if my photo would have given you a different perspective?
sol
03.30.09
11:32

@Herman

Please read below, I did not call out DO on being Politically Correct.

My question was speaking to a larger issue; Is there racial diversity among Designers in the community; period. Many founders and famous contemporaries are racially homogenous (for the most part).

Though, I would be happy to be disproved.
Devin
03.30.09
11:38

If I had seen the call, my cats and I could have added some Canadian "colour"...
Kevin Yuen Kit Lo
03.30.09
11:54

How depressing. I love cats, I love design, and I love that some designers are crazy about their felines as i am. I'm not exactly a frequent poster here, but I find the conversation stifling when people notice skin color of these people before their sense of affection. No offense Devin. This isn't to attack you. It was probably a passing observation and no big deal, but it's just the reason why some designers avoid this kind of place... it's sort of hyper-racial-diversity policing that makes something that was easy into something positively rigid.
Kevin
03.30.09
07:05

@Kevin

I thought meticulous scrutiny of detail and the visual is the life and job of a designer?

Mind you, I'm not saying what I said is normal for DO.
Devin
03.30.09
08:34

I won't be back. It's just dry as sawdust, Dev. Any sense of surprise and wonder gets fucked by meticulous scrutiny.
Kevin
03.30.09
08:57

I wish I knew about this, I'd have sent a pic!

FWIW I totally agree that a discussion of race seems spectacularly out of place here. A bit baffline.
Patricia Fabricant
03.30.09
11:59

My only complaint… ACK!!!…Not enough orange cats!

Best, Bill

ACK!!!
Bill The Cat
03.31.09
01:47

I fond this site after reading a post at "moderncat.com" and I have to say I LOVED the slideshow! I am a fan of design and of kitties...thanks for this.
MochaCaliGirl
03.31.09
08:22

I am sorry to see that some people were offended or did not want to come back, etc etc. I thought this was all about our furry friends, the gorgeous, mysterious, beautiful CATS. I loved every single picture. I loved the cat and the owner. They do bring out the best in us, they do bring out the love in us, don't they? Thank you. I am inspired to photograph my two kitties even though the task is next to impossible.

Ciao!
Mona Shahgholi
03.31.09
11:20

I'll go out on a limb here and say that not everyone in these photos is white - Ahrum Hong? (though you can't see much of him in the photo). And there was at least one person who seemed to be hapa. . .
But that just falls into the trap of assuming that we can tell whether people are 'diverse' or not by looking at them. Just as not all asians 'look same' or are the same, not all white people are either.

Just food for thought! I appreciate the well-considered comments from most of the people above.

Thanks for a cute and inspiring slideshow.
Driver B
03.31.09
01:16

As a designer and cat fanatic let me recommend two books - they are obvious frauds, but two of the funniest books you'll ever get:

Dancing With Cats

and

Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics
Tom Manning
03.31.09
05:21

actually, i think the end all in cat publishing came in 1949.

The Color Kittens. Are there people in America who have grown up not knowing about Brush and Hush? and all the colors in the world?

The book's famous catch phrase is "Blue is blue, and red is red! They still need green!" RGB

and now look about us, they have marketed green allover, but have the people really seen it?
nancy
03.31.09
09:14

That Norwegian Forest Cat is the most magnificent cat I have ever seen.
marian bantjes
04.01.09
12:07

hope that geezer isnt just about to do anything nasty to that little cat. he has it looking bloody terrified.
peter donaldson
04.02.09
02:59

Very funny collection, I love it! My cat also has a designer. I made a picture of us some time ago Link
Xantifee
04.02.09
06:08

Where's Martin Venezky's cat Baby Girl? She's the most famous design cat of all time. She put the kool in "kool kat!" Check her out at: http://www.appetiteengineers.com/

John Foster
04.02.09
06:10

This post could be subtitled "designers and their glasses." Everyone, (with the exception of those iconoclasts the Skolos/Wedells), is sporting the squished-rectangle frames du jour.Hmmmmm!
Lorraine Wild
04.02.09
09:52

I really enjoyed the slide show. It's not often that we get to visually observe the dynamics of the cat-human relationship. It's as mysterious, funny, and mischievous as the cat itself. You have shown us the nature of this quiet interaction woven with dry humor and affection. It's absolutely lovely. Thank you.
micah mcdaniel
micah mcdaniel
04.03.09
12:32

>Everyone, (with the exception of those iconoclasts the Skolos/Wedells), is sporting the squished-rectangle frames du jour.

The reason is obvious. The cats prefer them. (q.e.d.?)
Kenneth FitzGerald
04.03.09
04:43

cats don't see color...
online feline
04.04.09
01:48

God had give you a gift....
Tom Brain
04.06.09
04:55

You nullify the Word of God through your TRADITIONS! JESUS CHRIST(a Jew)
wilson
04.08.09
02:38

LOL, cats don't see colour... spanner in the works
Sizzle Creative Agency
04.08.09
12:08

orale yo soy mexicana, no sabia nada de sus tradicciones.
http://respuesta-rapida.net
rocio
04.08.09
01:19

While reading the excellent biography on Cipe Pineles by Martha Scotford, I was delighted to find numerous references to another famed designer who loved cats. William Golden was apparently given any freelance job his wife could come up with that might involve photographing, painting or sculpting his favorite subject: felines.

(I'm writing this as my own little five-week old tries climbing up my pant leg)
Derrick Schultz
05.06.09
01:11



Creative Opportunities
  • Twitter Facebook Google+
    Tumblr Pinterest RSS

    Design Observer
    social media à la carte
  • Newsletter signup

  • Design Jobs
    Observer Jobs Spotlight