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Michael Graves: a great American designer

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› Michael Graves: a great American designer
  • Published on March 13, 2015

Michael Graves is a designer that impacted so many facets of American life. All those across any field of design can respect his work: architects, user experience designers, product designers, and industrial designers can all appreciate his influence. He died this week, leaving a big hole in the design community.

To understand his influence on design around the world, you need to only look at his vast body of work. If you’re an American who ever purchased any type of kitchen ware at Target or JC Penny, you likely have one the products he designed. From tea kettles to can openers or coffee mugs, he designed thousands of products.

Architects around the world know Michael Graves for the hundreds of building he designed. He is considered a thought leader for his buildings that represent New Urbanism, as well as New Classical Architecture, and also Postmodern design. He was a designer with a huge body of work spanning many design philosophies. He traveled the globe, making hundreds of trips to international destinations, including significant time in Rome, and hundreds of trips to Japan. His architectural fingerprints are on building around the world.

While architectural critics have many top picks of his work, the general public is more likely to have been impacted by some of his iconic hotels. If you’ve ever been to either Disney World or Disney Land, he left his mark in both places. In Orlando, he is responsible for the iconic Swan and Dolphin Resorts at Walt Disney World, and in Burbank he is responsible for their team building. In the middle of the U.S. you’ll find his work at the NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions, located in his original home town of Indianapolis. In the northeast, you'll see his work at the Miele Appliances headquarters.

As an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, he joined the Sigma Chi fraternity, and later went on as a graduate student to study architecture at Harvard University. Later in his life he was left partially paralyzed by an infection in his spinal cord. Influenced by this, he turned his attention to creating products that were designed with accessibly and use in mind. Michael Graves saw design opportunities, and responded by producing great things, whether they were products or buildings. His impact is lasting, his contributions appreciated, and he will be missed.

About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.