DESIGN FOR ALL: Pink Essay Colors Outside the Lines
Words by Naomi Accardi
Photography by Adam Whyte
Despite its meditative attributes – and thus therapeutic effects – for some reason, the practice of cloudspotting is something we collectively do not take into account as an entertaining pastime worthy of our time.
Perhaps due to the fact that we have lost the ability to just be, sitting under a blue sky recreationally observing clouds as they come and go, simply absorbing the moment while enjoying the breeze, is not an activity we consider a viable hobby; no matter how deeply intrigued we are by the great outdoors. Laying idle on grass, the soil’s dew seeping through our clothes may have felt great in our youth as we exchanged hopes for the future with friends and siblings but it (sadly) definitely lost its appeal as our naivety vanished and we grew into adulthood.
As time passed by and our perception of free time was manipulated into a fleeting moment, we began partaking in different kinds of mindless behavior; a sort of technological celestial scrutiny right at the tip of our fingers. Readily available on our phones simply by swiping up, left or right, we were given access to a zenith of content fed to us in pills with the aim to keep us hooked.
Just like weightless clouds, this colorful information quickly runs by before our eyes, leaving space for the next video or photo in less than 15 seconds. The only difference is that we now have control over how long we want to spend on the same item by firmly pressing down – or clicking away – on the thin layer of glass shielding the liquid crystals that power those very images.
Social media has replaced the sky; creators have become our clouds. It’s on this objectively infinite platform that we now find inspiration, expand our horizons and dream beyond our limits in the comfort of our home, on our commute to work, or when the firmament is too cloudy for us to stop and stare. As bleak as this new reality may sound, this hypnotizing device has given many the strength to break free from their 9 to 5 job by building their own space. As controversial as Instagram can be, it has opened doors for people to create unique curatorial projects that bring art, fashion and design to an endless audience transcending class, race, religion and gender. Pink Essay is one of these radical spaces where people go to get inspired.
Founded on the particular premise to “re-design design culture” as boldly stated in a pop-colored font on the top of their website, Pink Essay aims to bring design to all. The platform provides a growing community with a tool to discover new talent by going beyond the traditional narration of furniture making and functional art while putting special effort into highlighting designers from underrepresented categories.
Behind the Y2K nostalgia-infused website sit David Eardley and Matt Pecina, respective founders and conceptual directors of the project. Both soft-spoken and sporting very “on brand” hats – David in a pink baseball cap, Matt in his own studio’s merch – the pair punctually showed up to our meeting with a charming grin on their faces. Their presence immediately brought a sense of effortless chill to the digital room.
With an unconventional background – having no fancy design degree or family ties in the business – and that defiant DIY approach to education inherent to millennials, David and Matt’s paths serendipitously collided during a pivotal moment in their life in early 2020. David had just quit his job to dedicate time to growing Pink Essay beyond a post-Tumblr design archive after years in academia as a primary school teacher; Matt had been displaced from his downtown New York studio and was looking for ways to connect with like-minded people and found what he was looking for in David’s platform. After a short back and forth, a friendly professional relationship started to unfold.
WE REALLY BELIEVE IN CREATING AUTHENTIC, NO BULLSHIT CONNECTIONS WITH PEOPLE IN THE DESIGN COMMUNITY.
For both creative entrepreneurs, the journey behind their noble partnership started in their youth. David’s proclivity for design began brewing at home. “My Interest for design is strictly intertwined with my upbringing. As a child, we probably moved 20 times. My parents were obsessed with shopping for homes and so I spent a lot of time looking at other people’s houses and subconsciously assimilating interior design” he told me. This influence lingered and eventually turned into a visceral need to find different creative outlets, ultimately leading to the creation of Pink Essay.
For Matt, the seed was planted by attending a public arts program in elementary school. “My family is not creative, I didn’t have a connection to this type of industry at home so I had very different dreams as a child,” he confessed, “As a teenager, I dreamed of moving to NYC and working in a coffee shop, having my own place and being free.” Furniture design was not part of his initial plans, although the industry swiftly sucked him in as he grew up and found work in the visual merchandising teams of stores like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, after dropping out of art college.
Eventually, he took a leap of faith and moved to New York City where he ended up working for ABC Carpet & Home, a renowned interior design shop right off Union Square. There, he felt nurtured and inspired by being exposed to the local furniture industry. A few years into this stable job, Matt decided to quit and start freelancing, taking odd jobs here and there before finding his niche and founding his own studio: Studio Guapo, an interdisciplinary practice blending mixed media art, streetwear and hype culture.
David and Matt are part of a wave of daring creators ready to take their future into their own hands even when uncertainty is lingering all around us, proving that no matter how scary creative life can get, there is always a silver lining.
Aside from running Pink Essay, both creatives work on a copious amount of projects as independent contractors. David does Copywriting, Editorial Direction and Creative Strategy and works in the beauty industry; Matt builds furniture and consults for brands like Nike. All of these endeavors are pursued with the fundamental idea to blur the edges of design, injecting a dose of youth culture in everything they do in order to build a compelling environment for all types of eyes.
Their professional light-heartedness and transparency bring a breath of fresh air to the conventionally arcane world of design. It is easy to recognize their authentic passion and commitment to their central mission when you hear the inflection of their voices when discussing the multitude of ventures they undertake.
For Pink Essay, redesigning design culture means giving space to undergrads and spotlighting those upcoming designers who are generally overlooked. This radical concept is pursued through projects like Design Heads, an editorial segment highlighting the work of designers and artists that have a hard time being covered elsewhere. In its offline iteration, Pink Essay has given the same designers room to showcase their work through a series of innovative exhibitions in collaboration with strategic partners.
For example, at the beginning of 2020, driven by the lack of opportunity for students to showcase their work, they collaborated with Lichen – an independent design store in the heart of East Williamsburg – to host, “Open Studio.” “The basis of the exhibition was.. anybody who’s a student, whether they were in school, apprenticeship or autodidact.. this exhibition is for you. So we had 20 people show their work and that was the real beginning of our descent into large commissions” recounted David. The momentum kept growing from there, eventually leading to more institutional projects named “Physical Education: Parallax 101” in fall 2021 and “Physical Education II: Design For All” hosted by SKILSET STUDIO at NYCxDesign in May 2022.
“I think the main reason Pink Essay has grown so much is that we are really intentional about connection and we really believe in creating authentic, no bullshit connections with people in the design community. And that’s why we keep on working with a lot of the same people whilst continuously expanding our circle” continued David.
While fostering connection in real life remains a priority, David is very adamant about the importance of continuing to improve the editorial aspect of the platform as he believes there aren’t many design journals that are casual and approachable. On this point, David and Matt’s visions overlap seamlessly, wanting to keep on pushing in an underground direction.
Scrolling through their Instagram though, it is clear that chairs hold a special position in Pink Essay’s heart. As the most basic item of design, chairs are a universal language joining cultures across the world as studied by Sicily-born designer Matteo Guarnaccia in his seminal book “Cross Cultural Chairs”; a work surveying the human necessity to sit down.
“To me, the chair is sort of a mirror of the human body, or at least an approximation of it” said David when speaking of why this particular object is so prevalent on the feed. “A chair has legs, a back, a seat. Just like the human body. It’s also an egalitarian piece of furniture, everybody has one in their home no matter where you come from”. Chairs – in all of their nuances, from stool to couch and daybeds – may also be the easiest and most reproduced piece of furniture at every major fair. Matt Pecina, whose most notable work features a wooden rocking chair, thinks these items are the most primordial design objects in the history of humanity. “You can tell the story of human civilization through chairs,” he said, “since the beginning of time, you know, people have been sitting on a rock in front of a fire inside a cave.”
As simple as they can be, these objects require a lot of engineering as they are designed to sustain weight and be sturdy. Chairs are to designers what a plate of simple Spaghetti al Pomodoro is to rookie Italian chefs: a brazen feat. Sometimes what seems to be an undemanding ask turns out to be the hardest challenge. “I think chairs can be compared to what t-shirts mean in the fashion industry,” said David, only to be reprimanded by Matt who would instead compare them to hoodies. Throughout the conversation, the affinity between the work-duo was palpable; their ability to challenge the status quo and draw parallels between industries is what sets them apart.
Pink Essay is the core circle in the Venn diagram uniting design and subculture; it represents the perfect outlet for young generations to get accustomed to an antiquated industry that seldom makes space for them to learn or be included unless they are from a privileged background. It provides clear insights into the lives of unorthodox design practitioners, while at the same time tearing down walls and inspiring others to look at art and furniture in a more socially impactful manner.
Following a pillar principle in their strategy – Design for All – David and Matt aim to continuously empower young creatives to think outside the box. Subtly provocative and progressive in the most honest meaning of the world, Pink Essay is ushering in the next generation of great American designers by opening the floor for a much-needed conversation.