Jonathan Adler Chats About His Exclusive Mug Design for Slate

Slate Plus
Your all-access pass
March 25 2014 4:54 PM

The Man Behind the Mug

Jonathan Adler talks about designing for Slate Plus members, life with Simon Doonan, and more.

Designer Jonathan Adler in 2013.
Designer Jonathan Adler in 2013.

Photo-illustration by Slate. Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Coastal Living,

This content is free to all Slate readers to promote our new membership program, Slate Plus. Join Slate Plus to get bonus segments on our most popular podcasts, behind-the-scenes content, discounts on merchandise and live events, and more. Try Slate Plus free for two weeks! Go to to sign up.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.

Our Slate Plus team spent a lot of time debating what would make the most useful, attractive, and enticing gift for Slate Plus annual members. A novelty keychain? A David Plotz bobblehead? The Slate-insignia overalls given to staff members during one late-’90s Microsoft-era retreat? (Legend has it that June Thomas still owns a pair.) None of these seemed quite right.

Part of the problem was that here at Slate we create journalism, not stuff. We’re not experts on stuff. But then we realized we have a stuff expert in the family. Jonathan Adler, the potter, designer, and author who creates zippy, inventive, gorgeous stuff for the home, happens to be the husband of Slate columnist Simon Doonan. You may have encountered his witty ceramics and cheeky accessories and luxe, comfy furniture in the wild.


Photo by Slate staff

So we asked Jonathan to design something cool for all of you. Luckily for us—and our annual members—he agreed and designed the mug you see below. I asked him to tell us all about his thinking, his process, and what he’ll be drinking out of his Slate mug.

Why a mug?

I’m always drinking tea while perusing Slate, so a Slate mug was really a selfish choice. I wanted a fully coordinated Slate immersive experience. A mug also doubles as a place to corral pens on your desk—a Slate mug lets your co-workers know that you’re enlightened and civilized.

How did you think about designing for the Slate reader?

Hmmm … I knew it had to be chic and classique, a little bit preppy, a lot peppy, and, most importantly, the mug needed to be bisexual to appeal to Slate readers of each and every gender.

Where is the brand overlap between Jonathan Adler and Slate? What do fans of both share?

Slate’s readers, and our customers, are smart, popular, good-looking—and impeccably chic. They’re all-around superior people.

Tell us a bit about the final design.

I combined one of my favorite patterns—the Greek Key—with a sportif racing stripe in an alluring navy and white palette.

Your husband, Simon Doonan, is a Slate columnist—how have the Slate readers entered your household conversation?

It’s been really interesting accompanying Simon on his Slate journey and learning how smart and interesting the Slate community is. I really mean it. I think that Slate readers have made our household more interesting. We’re always poring over the comments on Simon’s columns.

You’re a potter, he’s a writer—which creative endeavor is more difficult and why?

When you care passionately about your work—which we both do—you’re always a bit tortured by it. But Simon is a genius and insanely talented. (He’s reading this, right?)

What’s in your mug, coffee or tea or …?

I’m married to a Brit so it is tea, tea, tea, and more tea. We’re constantly bickering over who made the last cup of tea and whose turn it is to make the next.

What’s next for Jonathan Adler?

New products, new stores, more, more, more.  The more I make the more I want to make.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.