Designing

FOR JEWISH TRADITIONS

@ Michael Aram, Inc.

MY ROLE: DESIGNER

TIME: 6 months | TOOLS/ TECHNIQUES: Hand sculpting, sketching TEAM: One Designer (me), one sampling/ production coordinator & one Sculptor

ABOUT THE BRAND

Michael Aram is an American home decor brand with its marketing base in New York and it’s design and manufacturing base in India. The brand is known for its nature-inspired metalware products such as tableware, furniture, and lighting. With his unique design style and the innovative use of traditional hand-working techniques, the brand positions itself as a leader in the luxury goods market in the US. The diverse product range allows them to work on commissioned pieces, and pieces for a wider audience.

 

A large segment of the brand’s target American customers are jews, who are constantly in search for products for their biggest festival, the Passover, including the seder plate, Kiddush cup, and the menorah. The company aims to capture this segment of the market by offering them a unique and exquisite Judaica (Jewish) collection in the appropriate price range.

Michael Aram's design style

CHALLENGES

- To design a Judaica menorah for the American market in the design style of the Michael Aram brand, which is narrative and nature-inspired.

- The menorah must illustrate the religious sentiments of the jews

- The collection must include a menorah, a Seder plate, and a Kiddush cup. 

- Ancient metal-working techniques such as sand casting, repousse, and traditional finishing techniques are used for sampling and high-quality production.

- These products must be user, cost and production-friendly.

MY ROLE

- Design conceptualization and prototyping for large scale production using ancient handcrafting techniques

- Tracking and maintaining cost targets, regular check-ins with the prototyping team.

- Product lifecycle management from inception, technical design, prototyping and efficient handover to the production team. 

- Technical problem solving and quality control to create a high-quality production-friendly design

KICK OFF

PROJECT OUTLINE

RESEARCH & DISCOVERY

Michael Aram products are sold through luxury goods stores in the US such as Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s and other such stores worldwide. The users demand high quality, elegant statement pieces that are simple and easy to use.

Multi-candle holders are the best selling products out of the entire product range, which is why the menorah is the main focus of this project. Functional pieces with multiple uses attract more sales. Adding additional use would be an important extra feature. This collection must be cost, production and user-friendly.

INSIGHTS FROM COMPETITOR RESEARCH

Three main competitors for Michael Aram are Nambe', L'objet and Arthur Court. The product, price range, and target customers are all similar to the Michael Aram brand. These brands offer an exquisite range of menorahs in the target price, but none of them have been created keeping the Jewish Passover festival in mind. Moreover, other products associated with the festival are missing from their product range. Passover appropriate products, offered by other small retailers, lack design, uniqueness, and quality and are high in price. A unique Judaica collection, consisting of all appropriate products in the Michael Aram design style will be successful in capturing the Jewish customers. This collection must be exquisite as well as functional with excellent workmanship and quality.

STORY & CONCEPT

Judaica products are most representative of the beliefs, customs, traditions, and practices of the Jewish people. Passover, the biggest festival of the Jews, is an early-Spring festival celebrating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE. The Passover seder is an important Jewish custom because of which the Seder plate a common outlet for Jewish artistic expression.

This Seder plate, has six symbolic dishes, reminding them of the struggle of the Israelites in their quest and journey to freedom. The Kiddush Cup with wine is also part of the offering. The nine candle Hanukkah menorah is a symbol to commemorate the miracle of the oil. It is also customary to light one candle of a menorah everyday during this nine-day festival.

CONCEPT

I decided to use olives as my inspiration as olives form an integral part of Jewish cooking. The bible is also brimming with references to olive oil. Since ancient times the olive tree has been worshipped by the Jews.

IDEATION

PROTOTYPING

FINAL DESIGN - BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

IMPACT

The olive branch menorah was the best selling Judaica menorah in New York in 2005, as per the New York times. It was also a best seller for the company from its entire product catalog. The collection was later expanded to include many more products in different finishes and is still one of the best selling collections for the brand 15 years later.  

REFLECTIONS

At Michael Aram, I got the chance to explore many materials and experiment with different techniques which gave a tremendous amount of technical knowledge. Metal, as a material, was something new to me in the beginning along with an unfamiliar use case and the unique brand style. So, I learned to roll up my sleeves, get my hands dirty and address the challenges head-on.