Urban Art Museum

Keyshawn Johnson: Tackling Design

Keyshawn Johnson and his design team fearlessly tackle design with their conveniently placed stack of books.

I was studying for my final ARE this past weekend and the general procedure in our household is that I study in the living room, while watching television with my wife. I have been able to study while watching television for years, seriously, but I found myself unable to focus when I heard the title for a new A&E television series. Keyshawn Johnson: Tackling Design, I shit you not.   Here is the press release from A&E to prove it.  Let’s just ignore the fact that I was watching A&E for a minute and focus on the topic at hand. Keyshawn Johnson has a full on design team armed with a pair of Chuck Taylor’s and a stack of design books ready to tackle design.

For those of you who do not know who Keyshawn Johnson is, he was a NFL wide receiver who played for the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys and even won a Super Bowl Championship during the 2002-2003 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The show documents Keyshawn Johnson’s new found career as an interior designer.  He has a whole damn office with about six employees, but make no mistake “I (Keyshawn) design the spaces and they(hired interior designers) make it happen.”  How would you like to go through five to six years of design school to have Keyshawn Johnson tell you that his natural ability to pick out furniture and colors is better than yours.  At first I wanted to watch the show because I thought the finished product was going to be a train wreck!  To my surprise, the design was as nice as any of the others produced on the infinite number of design shows found on cable television.  Is Keyshawn going to be the next Eva Maddox? I don’t think so, but you never know, celebrities have surprised us before.

The interesting thing about cable television design shows are not the designs, but the fact that there are so many of them, and that popularity for design and architecture within the United States is growing.   The question I ask then is, if the popularity of architecture and design are finally making their way towards mainstream pop culture, then why is architecture still not as respected or highly regarded as other professions?  I think this question needs to be asked here, but it is going to take more than one article to answer.  Perhaps the problem is that often architects and designers, particularly weak ones try to impose their own tastes and values onto their clients.  Architects and designers that I talk to often forget that they are designing a building for someone other than themselves, and that although the majority of the people in the world have bad taste, sometimes you have to give them what they want, but that you cannot still create great architecture.  The challenge is to give the client what they want, while still doing what you want, which is an undeniable trait of a great architect.

I’ll leave you with my favorite scene from the first episode of Keyshawn Johnson: Tackling Design:

Keyshawn is designing a his and her’s space where the wife has an arts and crafts space and the man has his television watching space.  Your typical design project, right?  Keyshawn Johnson walks into the space that he is to design, wearing full Lakers warm-up uniform.  Keyshawn has already determined the shade of blue for the walls, but the wife wants to use a lighter lavender color.  She has gone so far as to paint a mockup and tell Keyshawn that the paint color that he has picked is too dark.  Keyshawn procedes to tell her hell no, and that the color he picked out is a man’s color, and that if they change the color of the walls he has to start the design process all over!  The husband walks into the room and the wife immediately asks him what he thinks about the colors.  The husband quickly realizes that he should agree with his wife.  Keyshawn calls him a sissy and paints the room the color he wants anyways.  In the end Keyshawn was right and everyone was happy.  The color Keyshawn picked out was actually the right choice.  I laughed so hard that the only thing I could do was quit studying and watch the next episode.

The problem with shows like this is that they portray the professions of interior design and architecture as trivial, and that even an NFL football player can play designer without professional licensure or academic study. The show plays up Keyshawn as an interior designer, rather than what he really is, a celebrity with enough money that he can hire architects and interior designers to work for him. Just because Donald Trump hires a bunch of architects and starts a company called Donald Trump Architects, it does not make him an architect. This show does not make Keyshawn Johnson an interior designer, just another celebrity hack trying to buy a shortcut to what he doesn’t want to work for.