Two Minutes With // Michael Brown, of NAU

Hi everyone! Today marks another First Friday; it’s time to post our second interview. This month’s interview is with Michael Brown of NAU (below, left). NAU is doing some amazing work in the realm of interior design, architecture, exhibit design, advertising, events, and entertainment design. NAU’s team is comprised of ultra creative thinkers with their eye on the future. Their entrepreneurial instincts have led them to some interesting dimensions in the world of design, so be sure to check out their website for the full scope. Follow them on twitter for ongoing thoughts @NAUnews. In the meantime, we hope that you enjoy this insightful interview.

Images courtesy of NAU.

VT: Your work exudes a sense of pure optimism for the future. Yet, young people here in the US, in Europe and around the world are protesting under the idea that their future is less than bright. How can society move toward your vision of a bright future?

MB: One could also see protest as the purest form of optimism. Protest assumes we do not have to be content with the context we have inherited, be that context political, economic or social in nature. Our work in no way claims to be revolutionary on its own, but we think that people acting as individuals, or in small groups, can come up with ideas that can shape generations. As a designer you have less control over society than we might often like to believe. But what we do have control over is the quality of design, and with quality sometimes we are lucky enough to open people’s eyes to possibilities they might not otherwise have considered.

VT: You speak of a trans-media approach to design, where architecture, design, film and other disciplines blend together to create spaces that tell a story. How do contributors find their voice in this collaborative approach to design?

MB: People are by their nature collaborative, so it seemed to be an obvious way to combine our talents. I don’t think that anyone at NAU is concerned too much about their artistic voice, at least from the point of view of whether 20% or 55% of a design was “their” idea. Rather, I think our common goal is to come up with really amazing projects, regardless of individual ownership. The general tendency towards specialization into fields has historically been driven by practical concerns, and sometimes guild-like attempts to limit competition or assure quality. But so much is changing in the design fields, especially from the point of views of communication, workflows and technology, that the emergence of new generation studios that work across several design fields seems inevitable.

VT: With so much of your current work seemingly residing in the future, what’s next?

MB: Much of our work actually resides in the present, though in some cases clients prefer designs to be released only after their completion. Currently we are working in a number of fields. We just completed our first short film, shot with almost completely digital backgrounds and starring Keir Dullea, who played the astronaut in the original “2001: A Space Odyssey.” We are also working on a private villa, events for Nike and Mercedes, public bath and wellness facilities in Switzerland, a couple of interactive media exhibitions, a show garage for luxury automobiles, and several commercials. So stay tuned!