The Allure of Commodity Chic

When renowned architect Michael Graves was asked over lunch two years ago whether he might want to design a line of home products for a discount-store chain, he paused. Ron Johnson, who runs the home-decor division for Target, suggested Graves stroll one of the company's 800 or so stores and place a Post-it note on every product that needed improvement. Replied the man who recently designed the award-winning Denver Central Library: "I'm not sure there are enough Post-it notes in the world."

Graves, nevertheless, wasn't too stuck up to ink a deal with Target, for whom he has designed everything from...

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