Monday, March 26, 2007


Parties Apart

Previously on Top Design: The designers had to make a garage multi-functional. Andrea's design took the prize. Carisa found the garage disgusting; Ryan found the challenge "goofy." Andrea decided Carisa was a "slacker" for spending all her time in the shed-turned-home-office. Michael and Carisa argued about her participation. Michael was spanked for falling in love with his dreary curtains; Carisa was spanked for not being a team player; Ryan was booted for the unrealized graphics. He went off to create on his own terms. Step one: stay away from reality show contests.

The designers arrive at the PDC. Carisa interviews that she's happy to be halfway to the finish wire. She always starts projects convinced she's going to screw things up, and then is thrilled when she does well. Lowered expectations -- the secret to a life of happy surprises, rather than pained disappointments. Erik is also happy to still be in the game, and he hopes to stay in the game.

Todd greets everyone in front of the PDC to talk about the next challenge -- designing a party for the product-placed product, hosted by Margaret's magazine. Erik interviews that putting on an event is a "specialty kind of area" because designers aren't the same thing as event coordinators. I can see an event coordinator hiring a designer, though. He thinks this will be a tough one. Todd explains that the party will be held where they're standing -- the PDC plaza, also the site of Elton John's Oscar party and therefore "sacred ground." In the Church of the Poisoned Mind, perhaps.

Alas, it's another team challenge, so Todd has the designers pick paint chips to sort themselves out. "These group challenges I'm completely over because you have to deal with a bunch of crazies on your team," Matt grumps. Specifically, Matt gets stuck with Carisa and Michael, the Bicker Twins. First a garage full of crap, and now this. "Oh, God, Michael is really difficult to work with. No matter what you do, he is going to complain very loudly about something," whines Carisa, with no sense of irony whatsoever. Andrea, Erik and Goil are pleased to be on the other team. Goil reveals his inner fanboy: "Since I got here, the one person I wanted to work with is Andrea. She's a better model of me. Like, I'd be R2-D2 and she'd be R2-D345. She's many, many models ahead of me."

The product people like to think the product is "sensorial" so the parties should appeal to all five of the senses. The partygoers will vote on the designs, although I don't think they get to pick the winner; the judges aren't ready to abdicate to mob rule. One member of the winning team will get an extra hour to complete the next challenge; one member of the losing team will get the boot. Each team has a budget of $8500 with which to deck out a 30'x40' tent.

Sketching. Andrea describes her team's design as "supermodel party in Iceland." So, people with hardly any clothes on standing around freezing and pretending to eat? (Actually, that's not entirely fair; Iceland has some interesting climate features and isn't a year-round block of snow and ice.) Goil proposes a Dorothy Draper-like chandelier made out of product bottles, and the others love it. Goil provides a little background on Dorothy Draper, but y'all are just going to have to Google her because there's lots more to write about here.

The Bicker Twins listen respectfully as Matt describes how some plexiglass thing will be filled with lemons. Michael describes their design as "chic" and "minimal." He gives Matt and himself credit for limiting the use of yellow, so it won't turn into "a Disneyworld of lemons." Yep, traumatized by Mickey at a young age. Matt stays busy drawing as the Bicker Twins bicker. Carisa proposes treating something "as one" but Michael thinks making everything "one-dimensional" is "boring." Carisa laughingly interviews, "Michael's role on our team, apparently, is to create conflict." Carisa proposes two bars, but Michael objects that people cluster near the entry. Okay, traffic flow is a valid point. Carisa interviews about the impossibility of pleasing him. She proposes some seating areas, but Michael claims that people don't like to sit down in "this kind of atmosphere." And then -- and it sounds really funny, but it's true -- he turns pushing up his glasses into a gesture of utter condescension. It's an awesome power, if only it could be harnessed for good. Carisa proposes a shade of yellow and Michael mimes retching at Matt, who smirks, while Carisa looks at them like, "Are you guys for real?"

Over at Team Saving-My-Sanity, they discuss carpet. Goil tries to interject an idea, but the others don't pay any attention to him and he peters out. Goil interviews that the others are ignoring his input. Once again, Goil tries to talk but Erik talks over him, and Goil recaps that he was shut out. I don't think Andrea and Erik are doing it deliberately or maliciously; it's just that they're sparking off each other nicely and Goil doesn't really command attention. Consider it an object lesson on the downside of being cute.

Todd calls time. Erik and Carisa have fabric duty; Todd tells them to pick up some phones as they head out for half an hour at the store. Andrea and Michael will visit the party rental company; they get an hour. Matt and Goil will be selecting the menus; they also get an hour.

Michael interviews that he just knew he wanted the party rental job; he's sure he knows what he's doing. Paging through the catalog, Michael indulges his fantasies: "I'm getting a fountain of chocolate." Not! He jokes he's planning the bar mitzah he never had.

Erik and Carisa browse fabrics. Carisa interviews that she'd like a "sharp" black-and-white pattern, but "the boys" aren't interested, so she'll get a nice selection of solids. She asks Erik if the swatches they're looking at a flame-resistant; Erik observes, "Not everything's marked." He helpfully interviews that California requires flame-resistant fabrics for outdoor events. Good to know. Carisa bleahs at her choices. Erik continues that they didn't have many options to choose from, especially with their color schemes.

At the catering company, the saleswoman explains that the ten hors d'oeuvres choices were designed to appeal to the five senses. Matt and Goil will taste the samples and each select five choices. (Presumably they're allowed to overlap.) One of the choices is a truffle pizza; the saleswoman tells them that white truffles go for $2000 a pound. Goil interviews that this is all a new experience, since he's "used to a small hole in the wall in Chinatown." That's where you can find some of the best food, though. Matt interviews that he was trying to appeal to a broad audience with his choices. Goil coos over a miniature burger. At the end of the session, he asks if he can take some food home and the saleswoman says, "Of course." I can't say that it never hurts to ask, but if you're going to ask, cameras often help.

Another saleswoman sets Andrea and Michael loose on the party rental showroom. They browse around and try things out and get advice. Michael mock-scolds the saleswoman about the price for some benches.

Back at the PDC, Todd gives the teams 30 minutes to "download" their carpenters. Jared's worth downloading, but I don't know about the rest of 'em. Andrea, Erik and Goil have Blair, Jared and Sarah. Andrea interviews that they have to build and paint lots of walls with impeccable finishing, because the staff of Margaret's magazine will be there. Erik interviews that working with two architects means that "everything was about the detail of the structure" but he has a bigger picture in mind. Their construction projects are about creating atmosphere, rather than functional pieces.

Carisa, Matt and Michael have Carl, Ed and Cary. Carisa draws out a plan for the bar area. She interviews that she came up with a "square donut" motif that was repeated throughout the space. After she has gone over it all, Michael chimes in that it doesn't really suit the client's "aesthetic." Carisa interviews that they're leaderless and struggling with decisions. Michael draws out a plan; Carisa quietly says, "Fabulous." Michael asks her, "Could you be a little positive?" Well, I suspect she's had all the positivity sucked out of her by a nattering nabob of negativism. Matt chides her that they all have input, and Carisa agrees, "We're all having input." "Oh," Michael pretends to be shocked, "That's something new." Which is really quite brazen of him. Nonetheless, Carisa steps back from direct conflict (stop being such a girl!) and promises to shut up. But that's not enough for Michael. "We all should be able to express our opinion without being talked over and put down," he lectures. Which would be an excellent time to look him straight in the eye and laugh your head off. But Carisa doesn't, and gets to listen to Michael condescend some more while Matt stands around smirking some more.

I'm really getting tired of Michael's "Isn't Carisa awful?" game. Carisa is a drama queen and a teacher's pet, but those faults are largely due to a lack of filters. Michael's Mean Girl bitchiness is deliberately cultivated, and I suspect he's rather proud of it. Carisa can learn to do better; Michael doesn't want to. His bitchiness isn't just fun, it's also tactical: Michael needs to tear down Carisa so that he's not the low man in the pecking order. And by playing Mean Girl, he has Matt -- one of the front runners -- playing up to him. I hope Matt feels really stupid when he realizes he was playing sycophant to Michael, of all people.

Designers and carpenters confer some more. Carisa recaps the challenge for those of you just tuning in. Once again, she is drawing while the others look on. Todd arrives to end the consultation. They'll have until midnight (6.5 hours) to work. In the morning, they'll start assembling down in the PDC plaza.

The work begins. Carisa sums up the plan: "We're making sort of a big, bold, graphic statement out of our tent." Matt draws while the others look. Michael claims that they all worked on the design, but then he and Matt "developed on it," using Michael's experience as a New York event-goer. Why would Michael get invited to events?

Erik recaps their goal as a "mod, clean, contemporary kind of space." He claims responsibility for some "wall systems." I'm wondering how many walls you want to put in a tent. It's only 30' x 40', which fills up fast when you start adding people. Andrea wants to make sure everyone has a chance to shine. She wants to concentrate on making a "beautiful" space.

Todd drops in, which is always fun. He compliments Erik and Goil on all their "interesting" ideas. Goil explains that they're really featuring the product bottle, which Todd finds "very smart." He visits Matt and Carisa as they review their rectangular cocktail tables built like nested shadow boxes. Carisa explains that the outer rim will have lemons while the inner box will have pebbles and a reclining bottle. Todd worries that it looks like the bottle is lying in a casket. Carisa suggests ditching the inner box and just doing lemons. Matt admits that he had casket thoughts and Carisa agrees, but she didn't want to say anything. Todd points out that this is the time to raise concerns. The tables will be black on the outside and yellow on the interior. Todd thinks the yellow lemons against the yellow paint will look "amazing." Matt interviews that everyone needs to do their best because the judges are looking for an individual contributor. In that case, he might want to think about speaking up when he has casket concerns.

Work, work, work. Matt finds Carisa painting the interior of the table black. She explains that both she and Carl thought it would look better. Matt asks if she checked with him (obviously not). She explains how they tried it and the yellow really popped, but then she realizes that Matt doesn't like the black. Matt confirms, so Carisa concedes. Matt interviews that they don't have time to waste waiting for paint to dry.

Erik interviews that he came up with the idea of making the chandeliers into "floor chandeliers" because of the difficulty hanging them. They have four 2x2 posts in a square; the shelves are square donuts that slide over the posts and are braced with pegs. So now they're more like towers than chandeliers. Goil recommends adding x-braces for stability. He interviews that he had the original chandelier idea, and he always knows how he's going to build something when he proposes it. Now other people have gotten involved and the execution is all messed up. Goil tells Sarah that he prefers the thinner edge, but she tells him that Andrea prefers the thick edge and he should talk to her about it. I don't think she means "Andrea's in charge of the edge" but rather "You guys come to a consensus." But I don't think Goil is hearing the same message. Goil interviews that no one would listen to his suggestions, and looks defeated. In the studio, Erik and Andrea agree that they won't let Goil work on the chandeliers; Erik thinks Goil will "obsess" over them. It definitely sounds like they think Goil is someone they can boss around. They aren't being mean about it, but it felt a little clique-ish. Goil interviews that he's doing whatever needs doing, because he wants to be a team player, but if his team loses, he's "fried." This man desperately needs a good night's sleep.

Michael shoos some carpenters away while he makes a phone call to a dancer. He interviews that Matt's idea was to hire a dancer to "add some energy." Carisa arrives and listens as Michael explains that the vibe is "fun and sexy" but "classy," or at least "as classy as a go-go dancer could be." Carisa interviews that she wanted to make sure Michael's instructions wouldn't have the dancers show up looking like "working girls." Michael is trying to explain the wardrobe requirements but finally has to stop and order Carisa away. Michael interviews that Carisa was making noises and faces. I didn't hear any noises. Michael continues that Carisa "made a scene" during his "professional phone call," and she's "kind of a bitch" when it comes to teamwork. He heads off to confront Carisa: "We need to talk about this." Because Michael cannot possibly pass up the opportunity to condescend to someone. He complains that she was "distracting" him with her "hemming and hawing" and making him "look like an idiot" during his phone call. Carisa just wants to get on with the project. She interviews her reaction: "What a dick." Probably just as well she didn't actually say it; I don't want to see Michael in a full-out hissy fit.

It's 5 a.m. Andrea interviews that she and Michael were up early to buy flowers. Michael interviews that he was looking for "architecturally interesting flowers," so he chose calla lilies. Andrea interviews that she wanted textures and bright colors to offset all the white. And the flowers, they are bought.

PDC Plaza. The tents are up, and the designers have 4.5 hours to get everything done. Erik interviews that he was "worried" because the tent was a new environment. Carisa reveals that she's "a little stressed out" about getting everything done. The work begins. Goil struggles to lift one of the wall assemblies while Erik and Andrea talk about what needs to get done. I don't know why Goil's trying to move stuff all by his lonesome. He interviews that he's getting all the "dirty work" and he has to do it to be "a team player, uh, you know, whatever that means."

Matt warns Carl that they have no time for perfectionism. Carisa interviews that Matt has been "the tick-tock guy" keeping everyone on schedule. Carisa advises, "Everybody needs to take a deep breath and relax, and just plow forward." Matt's not having it: "None of us has two minutes to stand." Carisa checks in with Michael, who explains that he has finally figured out what he's doing with the flowers, so he can crank through it. Carisa exasperatedly interviews that Michael was "arranging flowers all day" while everyone else was constructing up a storm. Carisa talks through some painting tasks with Michael while Matt squintily observes. He interviews that he thought they had figured out who's doing what, and then Carisa drags Michael off flowers to help with painting. Not that Matt says anything about it.

Andrea explains that Goil is on "special projects" because "he really wants to focus on one thing at a time" and now some things aren't getting done. They just aren't managing to get it together. Goil interviews that the execution was inefficient: "I wish that they would listen to me because I feel that I am kind of like a halfling, you know, I'm a half-human, half-carpenter kind of person, and I can really help out here." As long as he's not the kind of halfling with hairy feet.

Michael complains that a yellow banner "looks like caca." Matt defends it as "the only pop of yellow" they have. He consults with Carisa, who thinks it's okay, so Michael is overruled. It looks pretty half-assed, but I can see how they'd want some yellow up high to balance the lemons in the cocktail tables.

Workety-work. Todd calls the 20-minute mark. Frantic workety-work. Todd calls the 5-minute mark. More frantic workety-work. Todd calls time. The teams collapse in relief. Todd congratulates them on their efforts and sends them off to the White Room. Goil interviews that he knows he's the "scapegoat" if his team goes down.

White Room. Todd recaps the challenge and introduces the judges. Jonathan is wearing a yellow, black, white and possibly red striped shirt; his tie is black with white polka dots and has a knot as big as his chin. Kelly is wearing a dark pink sheath gown with a cascading ruffled skirt; since this is an afternoon party, she's wearing it over a light pink t-shirt and gray leggings. Margaret is wearing a gold lace frock. The guest judge is event planner Ben Bourgeois, who did Elton John's last Oscar party. Todd takes off. Jonathan lays out the judging criteria: overall design, execution, incorporation of the five senses, teamwork and individual contributions. The guest reactions will also factor into the decision. The judges are going to the party; the designers get to watch it all on TV.

Guests arrive. Guests party. Designers watch. Erik describes his team's tent as "space glamour, fun, eclectic, contemporary styling." Way too many adjectives there. Andrea describes the layout: entrance at the short end of the tent with a wall screening off the entry, dance floor in the center. They used the product bottles as "crystals of a deconstructed chandelier." These chandeliers were about sight; the flowers provided "color and visual texture;" cut lemons provided scent; the change in floor textures (soft seating area, hard dance floor) appealed to touch. Goil explains that they used the chandelier bottles satisfied the client's need to feature the brand. Michael interviews that the other guys had some "ambitious" ideas but his team had better execution.

Matt explains that they designed "a crisp and clean environment." The front of the tent was left open to attract people with the vista; the beverages and food appealed to taste; the DJ took care of sound; for touch, they went for smooth finishes. Michael thinks the addition of a bouncer helped create "a cool, clubby atmosphere." Carisa's favorite part of the design is "the overall look of it and the concept," which she designed. Or at least helped design. She did come up with the square donut, and the room does have her strong lines and graphic punches, so it's not a complete fabrication.

The guests diss the "shower curtains" in Team AEG's tent and Andrea looks despondent. Andrea voiceovers that Team CMM's tent was too safe, and design should be about pushing yourself out of your "comfort zone." A guest likes the strings of lemons at Team AEG's tent, while other guests think Team CMM's tent has the "more classy" environment. The judges depart the party. Matt interviews that he's not sure if it's Michael or Carisa who'll get booted if his team goes down.

See Carisa, Matt and Michael's tent at See Carisa, Matt and Michael's tent at See Carisa, Matt and Michael's tent at

White Room. The designers have had a chance to clean up. Jonathan starts with Team CMM. He likes the layout. Kelly loved their doorman "assessory." Michael takes credit for the idea. Carisa and Matt explain that they were originally thinking go-go dancers, but came to their senses. Margaret wants to hear more about the go-go dancers. Michael assures her that they wouldn't have been "trashy." "Tasteful go-go dancers," Margaret clarifies. Jonathan wants to know about the "margarine"-colored "schmatte" hanging over the bar. Carisa points out the limited availability of fire-retardant fabric. Michael disclaims all responsibility for the offending piece of fabric. Go, team! Jonathan turns to Ben, who says that anything that doesn't make the right impression needs to get tossed. Matt just didn't want it to look like they hadn't thought about the ceiling. So it looked like they thought about the ceiling at the last minute, instead. Jonathan and Margaret both like the lemons in the cocktail tables.

Jonathan wants to know about individual contributions. Michael claims he leveraged his party-goer experience to produce both low and high seating. But his party-goer experience informed him that party-goers don't like to sit. What's up with that? He also did the floral arrangements, with which he is "very happy." Jonathan calls on Carisa for rolling her eyes. It was a bit more looking heavenward and sighing, but close enough. Carisa is surprised; perhaps she no longer notices when her eyes roll. Her eye muscles must be incredibly buff. Anyway, Carisa finally confesses, "The floral arrangements could have had less cabbage." Michael points out there was only one cabbage per arrangement (which he thinks was "beautiful") but Carisa is willing to go with "no cabbage." Margaret doesn't see how the flowers tied in with the party theme. Ben points out that calla lillies don't have a scent, so what was the appeal? Michael talks about the "architectural" lines -- which didn't really stand out against the cabbage. Ben asks how they appealed to smell and Michael answers, "We had lemons." Specifically, "cut lemons on the bar." Carisa's turn. She says she came up with "the whole concept of the structure." Jonathan asks about the bar and DJ stand, and Carisa says, "I kind of did that also." Now Michael's eyes are moving. Jonathan asks Matt if he agrees. Matt temporizes, and Carisa says, "I'm talking about the shape." Matt says they started out with something more complicated, but they simplified to make it feasible. His voice, by the way, is sounding really ragged. Michael says they started with one thing and wound up with something else. Carisa agrees. Matt doesn't want her to say that she did the whole design. Which is not what she claimed. At least in front of the judges. Michael tells the judges that he was a good, thoughtful designer. "Past experience has proved that, you know, sometimes being a little nicer is better," he laughs. "And you're the spokesperson of nice," Carisa "agrees." Michael shoots her a death glare. Kelly wants to know if everyone "high-fived" upon finishing or just Matt and Michael. Matt tries to say that they all high-fived, but Michael is busy congratulating him and ignoring Carisa, so there's not much point.

I prefer to keep things simple, so I like this room. It's a little plain, but not boring. With the open front framed by columns and all the mirrors, the tent feels spacious. I think they could have used a few more pops of yellow higher up (after ditching the "schmatte" above the bar). Something like Goil's lemon strings would help dress up the space without being bulky.

See Andrea, Erik and Goil's tent at See Andrea, Erik and Goil's tent at See Andrea, Erik and Goil's tent at

Okay, time for the other team. Jonathan likes all their "great ideas." Margaret also appreciates their attempt to be "avant-garde." Jonathan wants to know what made them happy. Andrea mentions the chandeliers. The judges are perplexed by the "chandelier" reference, so Erik explains how they started out as chandeliers, but then they became floor pieces because of the hanging issues, and they became "more abstract." Andrea talks about the bottle being a crystal in the chandelier, and that they squared off the conical shape. Goil brings up his original Dorothy Draper allusion, which is a nice way of claiming credit for the original idea without being all "Me! Me! Me!" about it. Jonathat wants to know how the idea progressed from the original. Andrea explains that she had her idea of what Goil was talking about and figured out the structure of that. Goil admits that he wasn't pleased with the changes, but "at some point you have to put your ego aside and just move forward with the design." Jonathan disagrees; a big part of being a designer is getting your ideas across. Goil confesses that he had trouble; the team "was a kind of club that I cannot join." Ben asks about the flowers and Andrea takes credit; she wanted them "to be slightly odd." Margaret is less than enthusiastic about the flowers. Andrea brings up the avant-garde and the Iceland party; Erik chimes in that they were trying not to play it safe. Erik explains that he came up with the concept of the space "and we all broke off of that" -- showing that he's no dummy when it comes to taking credit -- and he did the wall at the entry. Jonathan asks Andrea about the wall and she thinks it was well-executed. Jonathan asks Erik whose was "the dominant voice, visually?" Erik guesses that would "probably" be him.

Lots of interesting ideas, and yet not much I like. The entry wall deserves to be part of another project. It's substantial enough to interfere with your view of the tent but too insubstantial to provide a sense of privacy and exclusivity. For a party like this, I think a walled entry should provide only tantalizing glimpses of the interior. The chandeliers are loaded up with too much stuff. It's a pity, because it's such a cool idea, but the execution just doesn't sing. The seating areas are boring and the flowers, while colorful, don't really work with anything else in the room. Overall, kind of a mess.

The designers are shooed away. Back in the waiting room, Andrea tells Goil that she didn't mean to be "bossy." Goil is upset that he didn't get to execute any of his ideas. He just couldn't fit into the team. Andrea explains she just wasn't getting what he meant. (Have these people never heard of sketching?) Goil says, "It really felt like Jan Brady. And I don't want to be a Jan Brady." Andrea enjoyed working on the project. Goil didn't. "You were the first person that I thought that I would really like to work with, and it's a mess!" Goil goes over to Michael for a hug. Michael? Really? Michael says, "We have no idea where this is going. No idea." Well, I'm glad that Goil was finally able to communicate his frustrations to his team, but it would have been nice if he didn't have to gripe in front of the judges to get their attention.

The judges confer. Jonathan thinks Team CMM had a "confident" room. Kelly liked the "terracing of the bar and then the DJ booth" and the way it kept all the "function" confined to one area so the guests had room to mingle. Ben thinks the overall design was "cohesive," even though everyone was arguing all the time. Margaret thinks Matt deserves credit for keeping the team on point, but she seems a little sorry to have missed out on the go-go dancers. "It would have been memorable," Jonathan agrees. Which reminds him, the bouncer was memorable. Everyone agrees he really helped set the party atmosphere. Ben points out that at least Team CMM had an entry; Team AEG was rather lacking. Kelly points out Erik's responsibility for the design, which felt "haphazard." Jonathan thinks Erik is "an old-fashioned decorator," which piques his interest. There were a lot of interesting ideas, but they needed some editing. Jonathan isn't sure what to think about Andrea. Margaret is quite certain that flowers should not be furry.

Dear Margaret,

Flowers can too be furry.

Love, God

Goil's turn. Kelly thinks he had good ideas, but the team picked the not-so-good ones. Jonathan is still convinced that a big part of design is convincing people to adopt your ideas. Ben thinks Goil "got pushed out." Jonathan is kind of right, in that you have to sell your ideas, but he seems to think communication is all about sending the right signal, and the receiver is just assumed to be actively engaged. I think Goil could have done more to get his ideas across, but I also think Andrea and Erik were tuning him out. Jonathan sums up their choices: a complete, pulled-together room or a room with interesting ideas. The judges decide.

The designers return. Team CMM are praised for a "confident and cohesive" room; Team AEG is praised for "lots of interesting ideas." The win goes to Team CMM. Turns out the guests voted for their tent 3-to-1 over the other. That's a decided preference. Also, the product people liked it. So even if the teams were more or less tied, the votes could easily have put Team CMM over the top. Michael interviews that the result "was exactly what we were trying to achieve from the very beginning." Carisa interviews that she feels "responsible" for the win. The judges saw Matt's "imprint on the space," so he gets the extra hour for the next challenge. Matt's interview is basically, "Extra time good." Carisa is still convinced that it was her design, no matter what those judges say.

Andrea gets spanked for her "decorating choices" and flowers; Erik is spanked for his discordant vision; Goil is spanked for not making his ideas heard. Goil is safe. Andrea is safe. Erik is out. Andrea hugs Erik and Goil starts to cry. Erik hugs everyone as he interviews that he's still proud of his design and happy to claim responsibility for it. Sadly, he says he wouldn't change anything. Does that mean if he had been given an extra few hours, he wouldn't have used them? I don't think so. Todd arrives to console him, but Erik doesn't seem to need any. Todd tells him, "You have something unique. You have old-school skills." I wish I knew what that meant. Erik interviews that he feels successful because he came on the show to try something different, and he did. Now it's time to go back to the real world, but with a new attitude.

Right winner? Team AEG had better design ideas, but Team CMM had better execution. Given the crazy time limits, I'm inclined to give more weight to good ideas. Neither team was particularly inventive about appealing to all the senses, so I think that's a wash. Both teams failed at teamwork, although Carisa, for all Michael's carping, was never sidelined the way Goil was. As for individual contributions, there's limited information about who did what. We saw people proposing things, but we didn't see the whole process of revision and adaptation, so it's hard to assign credit. In the end, I think function tipped the scales. Team AEG's tent was just too crowded, both visually and physically. Team CMM's tent was somewhat basic, but it left room for people, and that's why people preferred spending time there.

As far as the individual win goes, it's still hard to say. I don't know what Michael's design style is, other than "unimpressive." I don't have a good handle on Matt's style, other than clean lines and elegance. Carisa is clearly about strong, simple (frequently horizontal) lines and bold punches of color. Looking at the tent, it's easy to see Carisa's style in there. If pressed, I would say she had the most to do with the overall look of the space. But I can see how the judges would assume that Matt was the one holding the team together and moving them forward. Unfortunately, what we saw was Matt smirking with Michael at Carisa's expense, so he was willing to allow at least some of the bickering. I'm willing to believe that Matt was the strongest contributor on the team; I just wish I had seen a better case made for his contributions.

Right loser? Hard to say. Andrea was responsible for the white round tables and chairs, which were entirely ordinary, not avant-garde Icelandic party. I'm okay with furry flowers, but the arrangements didn't sing. On the other hand, Erik was the one who had the whole visual concept, and the tent was too busy for comfort. Either one seems like a reasonable choice. You could even make a good argument for Goil, since his contribution to the design was limited. I think Jonathan was eventually persuaded that the lack of communication was at least as much Erik and Andrea's fault. Goil reacted rather childishly, but Erik and Andrea did shut him out.

I can't say I'm happy to see Erik go. He was creative, hard-working and generally pleasant. I was hoping he'd give Matt a run for his money in the finals. I'm sure he's a much better designer than Michael, and better than Carisa. These stupid team challenges give weaker designers a chance to hang on while more talented designers get the boot, and that's just not how a talent competition should work.


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