Jonathan Olivares was born in Boston in 1981, and graduated from Pratt Institute’s industrial design program in 2004 after having studied design and management at the New School University. In 2006, he established Jonathan Olivares Design Research (JODR), an office dedicated to industrial design, design-related research, and exhibition design. The combination of these activities gives the office a multilateral approach toward each project.
Olivares has designed furniture for Knoll, Danese Milano, and Driade, all leaders in the furniture field. In her article on Olivares for Kaleidoscope, a quarterly publication on contemporary art and culture, Leah Whitman-Salkin wrote: “Aesthetically, his works seldom resort to fanfare, privileging use-value and tenderness over showmanship. Olivares produces objects that ask to be used rather than observed. His slow-and-steady style, combined with his personal resolve, produces humble results worth looking out for.” In 2011, Smith, JODR’s first product for Danese Milano, won the Compasso d’Oro, Italy’s most prestigious design award given to products. In 2012, the Olivares Aluminum Chair, an outdoor aluminum stacking chair, was launched by Knoll.
In the field of research Olivares works with a diverse group of clients, with a wide variety of objectives. Research projects have included a survey of the American furniture industry for Domus magazine, an installation explaining mobile devices for the 2010 St. Étienne Design Biennial, and a four-year investigation of office chairs for Knoll Inc., which culminated in the book A Taxonomy of Office Chairs (Phaidon Press, 2011). Olivares has been the recipient of two grants from the Graham Foundation, in 2010 and 2011, for the Outdoor Office, a research project focused on creating outdoor work environments for academic and business contexts.
Olivares has designed exhibitions for The Art Institute of Chicago and the EXD Design Biennial in Lisbon, and in 2012 designed a social hub and library for the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco.