10 Short Takeaways from Last Year’s Be Original Americas Design Fellows

As a college student, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed when trying to sift through numerous summer opportunities. Each program promises incredible and unique experiences, so what makes the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship stand out from the rest? Check out what last year’s fellows had to say:

The 2016 Fellows present at the 2017 Be Original Americas Annual Members meeting.


“As a young designer, my thought process is constantly evolving and this immersive program allowed me to explore areas of design I haven’t seen or done before.” – Karina Campos

Getting hands-on experience at Bernhardt Design.


“This experience exposed me to so many things that I had never heard of before… it really gave me a better overall understanding of how things work in the real world.” – Sarah Ahart

Photo Jun 15, 2 24 27 PM
Sarah and Karina at Harry Allen’s studio.


“One thing that became more apparent during the fellowship is that in order to sustain the design industry, it is vital that we challenge the way in which knowledge is passed from established design professionals to young designers.”
– Sarah Ahart

The 2016 Fellows get an inside look at design processes at Carnegie.


“After this incredible experience, I have learned to approach design a little differently and think beyond the confines of my own discipline. It makes for a more holistic and meaningful way of designing.” – Karina Campos

A peek into the marketing of design with Spencer Bailey, Editor-in-Chief, Surface Magazine.


“Be prepared to have your thought process turned on its side, come in with an open mind of design possibilities because the things you will experience during this fellowship are lasting impacts that change the way you will view design.”
– Karina Campos

The Fellows try out some of Ligne Roset’s original designs.


“The fellowship ignited this new interest in spatial design and understanding the relationship between people and the environments and how design fits into that realm.” – Karina Campos

Untitled design (14)

Interested in a hands-on experience that will change the way you think about your career in design? Click here to apply until 2/28.


Coming Up: The 2017 Summer Design Fellowship

The 2017 Summer Design Fellowship is now open for applications. Fellows will visit pioneers and leaders in the design industry, including Bernhardt, Carnegie, Design Within Reach, Emeco, Flavor Paper, Rich Brilliant Willing, FLOS and Vitra. They’ll dive deep into all aspects of creating innovative, high-quality products: from research, design, and manufacturing to marketing, distribution, and promotion through hands-on, in-the-field learning.

Already sold? Apply here, and read on for some highlights from the 2016 fellowship: Continue reading “Coming Up: The 2017 Summer Design Fellowship” »

The Originals: Felicia Ferrone


What does “original” mean to you?
As a designer “original” means having the intent to create something unique, something that doesn’t already exist.  It’s that simple.

How does the interconnection of the world today actually encourage designers towards unique design?
Now that we all have the same access to all the same resources, it’s more crucial now than ever to be original.  The internet gives us a unique opportunity to view designs from all over the world and to self-educate in an unprecedented way. Through the interconnection we are able to see where the conversations exist and where there are gaps.

What do original industrial design and artisanal craftsmanship have in common?
Industrial design and artisanal craftsmanship are two sides of the same coin.  For me the most important question is really about ‘originality’ which I feel comes down to the intent:  Whether there is intent to create something truly new and unique that expresses an idea that is adding to the overall conversation.  ‘Not original’ works are about a financial gain, lack of education, and not about ideas.

I strongly feel that if you are going to copy someone else’s work, just stay in bed that morning!  The world would be better off.


Born in Chicago, Felicia Ferrone graduated with a degree in architecture from Miami University, Ohio, after which she moved to Milan. Ferrone’s expansive reach is informed by her early experience as an architect in Milan, where she was first taught to “blur boundaries.” In a series of positions with some of Italy’s most notable design luminaries, among them Antonio Citterio and Piero Lissoni, she developed her belief that all aspects of design are interdependent, that nothing exists in a vacuum but always in relation to the environment, objects, and systems that surround it. Her award winning work is included in the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection, is a recipient of a GOOD DESIGN Award, and her work is widely exhibited and published internationally. She is the Director of Graduate Studies in Industrial Design and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and previously an Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for many years. Producing and distributing her own work under her brand, fferrone, she also does commissioned work for clients, of which Boffi, The Macallan, and Volume Gallery among others.


Looking Ahead to 2017

In the spirit of the New Year, we’re looking back at Be Original Americas’ most successful year yet and ahead to what’s in store for 2017. We asked prominent designers, activists, and influencers in the design world on their take on how design has changed since January 2016 and where it’s heading now.

Read more on the legacy of Zaha Hadid, influence of 3D printing, emergence of calculated luxury and more from Be Original Americas members Colin Wilkinson of YLighting and YLiving, Danne Semeraro of Sempli, Jaime Derringer of Design Milk, president John Edelman of Design Within Reach, and co-founder Beth Dickstein of bde.


What do you think was the most influential moment in design in 2016?

Colin Wilkinson: The untimely passing of legendary architect and designer Zaha Hadid, in my view, influenced design most critically in 2016. It was both a tremendous loss to the community, and spurred a necessary recognition of women in design.

Danne Semeraro: More than a moment, I want to point out a few striking observations in 2016: Memphis throwback: The one style that was most prevalent this year was the revival of the Memphis movement in a modern (more or less) representation. 2016 was also the year the DIY/hand-crafted movement grew up and became fully mainstream.

Jaime Derringer: The death of Zaha Hadid was a big moment in 2016, so sudden. It reminds us that our work is what we leave behind and do we must strive to continue to push and break boundaries. We need to also continue to expose and encourage girls and young women to pursue a career in architecture and design.

John Edelman: In November, Herman Miller launched the remastered Aeron Chair. Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick designed this iconic piece in 1994. It still sold very well and was extremely popular, but Herman Miller wondered, “Can it be better?” After all, there had been 20 years’ research in the science of sitting, as well as key advancements in materials since its debut. The remastered Aeron is what modern design is all about. Updating products as new materials and techniques become available is how the world moves forward. And in no way do the changes make this Aeron any less authentic than the 1994 chair. In some ways, it’s even more authentic than the first chair since Don Chadwick, who was instrumental in this project, could finally do some of the things he and Stumpf wanted to do in the 1990s but couldn’t because the technology didn’t exist yet.  It was a risk for Herman Miller to remaster a masterpiece, but the results speak for themselves. Customers love the remastered Aeron.

Beth Dickstein: For us, it would be the recognition by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency on the problem of counterfeit furnishings and accessories coming into (and out of) the U.S. Allowing us to help educate and train their agents has been a tremendous influence.


What do you predict will be the biggest design trend in 2017?

CW: The bidet. While slow to catch on in the United States, there is increased exposure to this longstanding luxury thanks to easy-to-install toilet seats that feature bidet functionality. Between these hi-tech enhancements available for your existing toilet, and stellar standalone bidets by designers such as Philippe Starck, I predict this to be the must-have of 2017.

DS: The Memphis throwback style will modernize itself and perhaps be distilled down to a few main trends and take on a positive role and make 2017 a “happy” design year.

JD: Art Deco and Craftsman-inspired design and the rise of democratic 3D printing.

JE: I wouldn’t call this a trend, as that word doesn’t play a big role in modernism, but choosing longevity over “fine for now” is something I predict we’ll see more of in 2017. Today’s consumers no longer want to settle for disposable product. They care about what they bring into their homes, and they worry about what happens to products when these objects reach the end of their useful lives. Two things are driving this shift. First, consumers are realizing that it’s worth it to pay more for something they really like and that will last, rather than choosing the cheaper option and having to replace it a few years later. Also, changes in manufacturing are making it possible for companies to produce high quality products that meet a wider variety of budgets.

BD: My wicked brain is thinking “gold and gaudy”, but I hope not. I do think more embellishment though.


If you could describe the 2016 design climate in one word, what would it be?

CW: Diverse. As an online brand that celebrates originality and authenticity, we have uncovered more voices in the modern luxury space than I could have ever imagined. It’s an exciting time in design, where a team of two in Brooklyn can truly nudge the whole industry should their vision resonate.

DS: Paradoxical.

JD: Calculated luxury. (That’s two words, but one concept.)

JE: Inventive. People are creating more new products with authorship and integrity than ever before.

BD: Healthy. I thought this year saw a lot of great design coming from large and small companies. I also saw more collaborations between companies, which is great.


What do you wish for Be Original Americas in 2017?

CW: Tremendous success, of course. We are proud partners of Be Original Americas, and look forward to another great year of preservation and celebration of authentic design.

DS: To become the household name for the promotion, preservation and education on original design and its true value!

JD: To continue to grow awareness of and educate people about the negative impact of the knockoff industry on the livelihood and creativity of designers and manufacturers. It would be great to get more members involved in more events and panels around this topic.

JE: My wish for Be Original Americas is to continue to explain the value of authenticity, and how knockoffs destroy the design community and hurt consumers.

BD: That more and more people become aware of the organization and movement. That more and more people understand the detriment that copies have on our economy, our environment and that so many are produced in unsafe factories and use hazardous materials.


Wishing you a happy and original New Year from all of us at Be Original Americas. Want to be involved in 2017? Click here for more information on how to become a member.

Photograph of John Edelman by Neil Landino, Jr.

Profiling the Masters: Le Corbusier

“I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies.” —Le Corbusier (1887 – 1965)
Le Corbusier by Willy Rizzo. Photos © Willy Rizzo

Le Corbusier, born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in 1887, was a Swiss-French architect, designer, painter, writer, and urban planner. Often known as one of the pioneers of modern architecture, his storied career spanned five decades and his work can be found across the globe.

Unite d’habitation, 1952. Le Corbusier’s first large-scale housing project. Photo © Guzman Lozano

In 1917, Le Corbusier moved to Paris, a move which would be highly influential on the rest of his career. There, he met post-Cubist Amédée Ozenfant and the two developed Purism, a new concept of painting and design. Three years later, he would adopt the pseudonym Le Corbusier.


Famously, he linked architecture to revolution, designing with the intentions and needs of a technological and machine-driven society in mind. On why he linked the two concepts, “Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city.”

From Le Corbusier’s book “The Radiant City” (1933)

Le Corbusier’s style was characterized by clear and geometric forms and structure. He built primarily with steel and reinforced concrete, creating minimalist and striking lines in each of his projects.

Villa Savoye. Photo © Flavio Bragaia

Famous works among many include Villa Savoye (above) in Poissy, France (1931) and Palace of Assembly in Chandigarh, India (below) (1951).

Photo by Dave Morris.

Curious to learn about more iconic designers? See our entire Profiling the Masters series here.

Profiling the Masters: George Nelson

“Design is a process. One starts with a need, a problem, and ends up with a design for a thing.” -George Nelson


Early in his storied career, Nelson was appointed director of design at Herman Miller, a position he held for almost 30 years. While there, he recruited other iconic modern designers, including Charles and Ray Eames and Isamu Noguchi.


The Herman Miller designers. From L to R: Robert Propst, Alexander Girard, George Nelson, D. J. De Pree (founder), Ray and Charles Eames. 

Nelson was famous for such pieces as the Coconut Chair, Marshmallow Sofa, and Ball Clock, all which depicted his playfulness and whimsy.


The Coconut Chair.

In addition to creating and directing design, George Nelson was a powerful writer and teacher. Throughout his career, he wrote several articles for publications like Pencil Points and lectured on the importance of design across the country.


Nelson at work.

One of the most inventive minds of his time, George Nelson had the rare ability to envision what was not yet there. He called his creative epiphanies a series of “zaps” – moments of spontaneous inspiration that allowed him to connect seemingly unrelated ideas in an innovative fashion.


The Marshmallow Sofa.

A pioneer of modern design, George Nelson’s innovative solutions and pieces have undoubtedly shaped design as we know it today.

All photo credit: Herman Miller.

Learn more about the masters of design here.

The Originals: Laura Guido-Clark


What does “original” mean to you?
Original is a creation that is unique and authentic that emanates from a point of view or personal inspiration. While work can be influenced and inspired by the world around us originality radiates an energy and beauty which comes from an honest place.

In what ways is protecting original design today important for future generations?
It is important to protect original design and to educate future generations because original work provides meaning. It has value and is worth passing on much like one collects art. If we don’t protect original design we will have soulless objects. We risk losing the essence and palpable energy that only comes from original work and the value of craft, art, and design.

Have you noticed a role that color plays in preventing or facilitating copycats?
Color, material and finish can play a role in identifying copycats. Unique colors and combinations, gloss levels and materials in combinations become intrinsic to the original and are more difficult to duplicate in their holistic totality. Color plays such a powerful role in brand recognition that companies often try to trademark their brand colors. A Louboutin red heel, Tiffany’s blue and UPS brown evokes an emotional response that the consumer connects directly to them. Trademarking protects these brands from competitors within the same industries who attempt to be mistaken for that brand.


Laura Guido-Clark is an expert in the skin of consumer products – their color, materials, and finish. Laura has spent her life studying the always new and surprising ways that human beings react to the look and feel of any given product. As a result, her insights and honed process have defined her role as an experience consultant to help her clients connect with their consumers in a meaningful way.

Laura has analyzed the conscious and unconscious influences that drive buying decisions. Her ability to translate those influences into prescient forecasting and concrete applications of color and finish has helped companies such as Herman Miller, HP, Samsung, Toyota and FLOR design products that resonate with consumers and succeed in competitive markets.

In 2011, Laura founded Project Color Corps™, a nonprofit organization dedicated to painting urban neighborhoods with color and pattern that impart positive messages of optimism and hope.

Are You Listening to Clever Podcast Yet?


Be Original Americas is proud to highlight Clever, a podcast about design. Hosted by Designer Amy Devers and Design Milk’s Jaime Derringer, Clever is about designers and the world they help create.

Learn more about the podcast here and listen to a recent episode sponsored by Be Original Americas, featuring former NFL linebacker, actor, writer, artist, and design patron Terry Crews.


5 Tips For Protecting Your Brand, from Niche Modern


Be Original Americas member Niche Modern is a pro when it comes to defending their original designs from would-be copycats and knockoff retailers. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, CEO Jeremy Pyles described how “merchants on AliExpress and other sites have used his copyrighted photographs to sell knockoffs of his lights” and “he now has an employee dedicated to filing complaints to such websites.”

Experiencing similar problems? There’s good news: with dedicated efforts, Niche has had great success in removing their products from hundreds of fraudulent websites.  The luxury glass lighting company offered to do a guest blog for Be Original and share their 5 most important tips for protecting your authentic brand name and products from imitators, here’s what they had to say:

 1. Register Your Copyright

Copyright covers published and unpublished works in the U.S. as well as in other countries, and your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created. While registering your copyright is optional, it will only help if you have a lawsuit or need to fight infringements. It’s the first step in protecting your original work.

2. Set Up Google Alerts

The world wide web consists of at least 4.65 billion pages and is growing every day, so how is it possible to know when someone is using your brand name to sell their impostors? Google Alerts is an easy way to get email notifications when new results are found on web pages that match your search terms –  for instance, your brand or best-selling product name along with words like “replica” or “knockoff”. Setting up alerts is easy and will help you catch copycats at the earliest opportunity – get started here.


Niche Modern CEO Jeremy Pyles sketches a pendant light.


3. Enforce the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) allows owners of copyrighted materials residing on the internet to request that their material be removed from any infringing website. Notices that are created using DMCA guidelines are sent to the Internet Service Provider of the website at fault. After an ISP has received the notice, they must inform their client of the infringement and request its removal or remove it themselves. We recommend streamlining the process for sending take-downs by creating an editable sample notice, so it’s easy and time-efficient to take action. There are many sites that allow you to look up a domain name or IP address such as www.whoisnet.com. Try this sample DMCA takedown to get you started.

Bonus tip: You can also block IP addresses from computers that are located in China and Hong Kong from accessing your website. According to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 70% of the world’s seized counterfeit goods come from China, so why not keep them from seeing your products to begin with?



Every piece of Niche Modern glass is hand-blown in their upstate New York factory

4. Trademark Your Brand

A trademark is in essence a brand name used to distinguish the source of goods of one party from those of another. A Federal trademark, when registered, is governed by national laws. Whereas a copyright protect your products and ideas, a trademark protects your brand. Register trademarks not only in the US but in other countries as well, depending on where your products are being counterfeited. Putting the trademark sign or ® after your brand name, regardless of whether you officially file, will give you rights to your brand name if someone else tries to use it. US trademark rights are based on actual use, so use it and you’ll be protected.

 5. Educate your Clients

Niche Modern has received inquiries about our lights being sold online for drastically less than list price and many customers ask why. We explain that there are several counterfeit sites that sell cheap, inferior products from overseas, and that purchasing from us means they are supporting authentic, original design made in New York. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they understand the price tag and feel great about supporting our brand and purchase with us. We invite our customers behind-the-scenes with video features showing our process to learn about craftsmanship, and every order is sent with a Certificate of Authenticity, reassuring our client that they have an original piece, made with love.


A certificate of authenticity validates every purchase of legitimate Niche Modern designs.


Learn more about Be Original Americas member Niche Modern by visiting their website. Got another tip to add?  Comment below or tweet at us @BeOriginalUSA.

The Originals: Marcel Wanders

International  designer, art director, and member of Be Original Americas through his acclaimed design studio Moooi, Marcel Wanders gave us his thoughts on what it takes to be original.


What does “original” mean to you?

Original means “there is at least a true unique differentiator between the new and the existing comparable.”

Knowing that in design new works are often based on recognizable archetypes, I am careful about blaming others for copying. The fact that I use an archetype does not forbid someone else of using the same archetype.  We easily find and point out things in the world and load our claims on them, humbleness is a virtue.

Let us designers not act as so many photographers do, who after taking a photo claim ownership over anything on it. Ultimately “you cannot be a leader if you are not being followed.”


Having created more than 1700 products for many premium brands, how much do you rely on manufacturers to protect your designs from copycats? Do you think they have the tools to do so?

Premium brands protect their designs, and yes, there are ways for us to protect ourselves against copycats. We help our brands by truly making differentiated products. Products that are unique when they are new, and we keep proof, of the making of, to support that. I would not advise a brand to go to war with a design that is not truly original and makes a lawsuit questionable. My designs have been the subject of more than 50 lawsuits, and we have never lost a single one!


Has the possibility of being knocked off ever been discussed during the design process with a brand or client?

It always is a subject in almost every design process, we design things that are preferably difficult or uninteresting to copy and make sure we really have a claim to win a process if we act on potential copycats. Unfortunately lots of great designs have never seen the light of day because they are too easy to copy. We have created a world where newness needs complexity and sufficient barriers of entry in order to be safe, it’s sad but its reality.



Dubbed by the New York Times as the “Lady Gaga of Design,” Amsterdam based Marcel Wanders (Boxtel, Netherlands, 1963) is a prolific product and interior designer and art director, with over 1700+ projects to his name for private clients and premium brands such as Alessi, Bisazza, Kosé Corporation/Cosme Decorte, KLM, Flos, Swarovski, Puma, among scores of others. In 2001 Marcel co-founded the successful design label Moooi, of which he is also Art Director. Regarded by many as an anomaly in the design world, Marcel has made it his mission to “create an environment of love, live with passion and make our most exciting dreams come true.” His work excites, provokes, and polarises, but never fails to surprise for its ingenuity, daring and singular quest to uplift the human spirit, and entertain. Marcel’s chief concern is bringing the human touch back to design, ushering in what he calls design’s ‘new age’; in which designer, craftsperson and user are reunited. In his process, Marcel defies design dogma, preferring instead to focus on holistic solutions rather than the technocratic. In Marcel’s universe, the coldness of industrialism is replaced by the poetry, fantasy and romance of different ages, vividly brought to life in the contemporary moment.