Ron Johnson was at Target in 1997 when I was invited to design the scaffolding they sponsored during the renovation of the Washington Monument. By chance, he looked at a sketchbook I had, which had a lot of small objects for the kitchen. He said, “You really have something here. Let’s talk.” I loved the challenge of making good design affordable. It’s what Wiener Werkstätte, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright did.
We went from half a dozen objects in 1997 to more than 2,000 when the partnership with Target ended last year. When we had started, we got a whole 24-foot space and were the only outside designers. Then they added a larger stable of designers such as Isaac Mizrahi. Target eventually added 500 in-house designers. Little by little, we became the last outside designers standing. We became competition. That’s not a favorable position to be in. Instead of having a Michael Graves aisle, they began putting the toasters with the toasters, and tea kettles with tea kettles. It was harder to find our statement. It was a good time to go.