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Designer Talks: Morrison & Morrison Design

For over 20 years, the creative couple Scott and Torrie Morrison have been designing distinctive home products that set trends in the industry and set their clients apart. The husband and wife duo met while attending Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She studied graphics while he pursued industrial design. They tied the knot a few years after graduating and soon found themselves working just outside of New York City.

As a product designer and sculptor, Scott focuses on a project's form in a variety of materials including wood, metals, ceramic and glass. Torrie, an illustrator and graphic designer, works on the surface design of each project ranging from textiles to dinnerware and paper goods. Both attribute their success to their devoted design partnership in which each brings their own set of skills and supporting each other's strengths.

Scott, do you have a greatest career moment? If so, what was it?

I landed a job designing product for Dansk some 28 plus years ago and it's there that I met all of their Danish designers. These were the designers who made that company a leader in modern tabletop upon its founding in 1954 by visionaries Martha and Ted Neurenberg.

What was your most challenging career moment?

Torrie had been working for a graphic design studio in the city when she was asked to create dinnerware for Dansk. She took this work on in addition to her graphic design work for about a year or two. Looking back, at 25-years-old, one of her hardest career decisions was deciding to leave a paying job for the unknown of starting her own design business, but she did make that leap. Her second hardest decision was letting me join her a year after opening her own practice.

All these years later and after countless trips to Forty One Madison, our office is still just a studio of two and our work remains heavily involved within this tabletop market.

What is the basis of your design strategy?

Once you know what has been done, it is easier to access a creative solution for the client. I think people are hoping to hear that we are inspired from things in nature, as Hollywood might write it. Torrie and I have been creative individuals from the day we were born. I am convinced it's a genetic thing passed down like somebody gifted with a mind for science and math or they are gifted athletically. Torrie had a grandmother who was a graphic designer. Our eldest daughter is a graphic designer. It's my feeling that creative people see the world and everything in it from a completely different perspective. We are visual and can't help from noticing things around us that are either appealing or appalling. All that we see gets stored away unconscious and comes back to us when in the creative process.

What do you consider to be your design expertise?

My mother is a very accomplished painter. She is an artist and creates work that fits her look and interests. We are not artists. We are designers who solve problems for our clients; we are not solving our own personal creative goals. So, if you were to ask me what our look is, I would have to reply, "We don't have one." We have designed traditional dinnerware and very modern metalware, completely different looks, yet they both were successful for our clients.

Where do you seek inspiration to kick-start your creative process?

A question we often get asked is: "Where do you get your inspiration from?" We start with research. We want to make sure that we understand what the project is and what has been done already that may guide us toward or keep us away from any end solution.

It's my feeling that creative people see the world and everything in it from a completely different perspective. We are visual and can't help from noticing things around us that are either appealing or appalling.

How do you overcome creative blocks?

Sometimes it's hard to get started with a project, but once you break through, things can begin to flow quickly. Many times, I realize that some of my better solutions for a given project came from my first efforts. If I find things just aren't flowing, I will get up and leave the studio. I personally enjoy being outside, so some time spent in the sun, away from the project can serve me better than grinding it out.

How do you define your personal design aesthetic?

In my personal life, I am intrigued with modern designs and our office is quickly being overtaken with a growing collection of midcentury modern objects. Our home tends to be furnished with classically designed furniture with a mix of antiques and a large art presence.

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Do you have any rules regarding design?

I can tell you there are no rules in design. It either looks right or it doesn't; it either works well or it doesn't. To be a designer you need to have a passion for being creative. And to be a designer in business you need to also have the ability to check your ego at the door. You'll need to work well with those who may not always agree with your point of view so that collectively you can reach a good solution.

So many people I have spoken to about what we do admit that it doesn't often cross their minds that somebody like us spends their time creating and sweating over the details and production of the objects that they buy. We respect that there is a team of people involved with the launch of a new product including sourcing, marketing, packaging and sales, to name a few. All of these teams take part in making a product successful. Hopefully at the end of the process, the product finds a home where it can solve a problem for a client and the end consumer can appreciate the combined efforts from everyone involved - then we are happy.

Is there one person who you admire or consider to be your greatest mentor or design inspiration?

It was during my 6 years at Dansk that I was inspired by Jens Quistgaard then in his 70s. He was Dansk's first and most important designer. Jens was a sculptor at heart with an eye toward making things beautiful and working in many different materials. Everything he created was carefully considered on every level not excluding its function. He designed until the very end, a role model for sure, and Dansk as a company certainly set us both on the path we are still on today.

What do you use on your table?

You'll typically find a retrospective of our latest creations mixed with older designs on our table.

Any other thoughts you would like to share?

People often ask us what it's like to be working with your spouse. Well, I can't imagine doing this alone. Our design partnership works because we have different strengths and our success together comes from realizing what those are and then supporting those strengths in each other.

To learn more about the designers and their work, visit the Morrison & Morrison website.