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:

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

The Originals: David Trubridge

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What does “original” mean to you?
That I am speaking with my own unique voice, not trying to fit in with everyone else or jump on a bandwagon. It is not so hard to do if you believe in yourself because every one of us is unique.

Why do you feel it’s important to design to be long-lasting, non-trend following pieces?
Because we can’t go on squandering precious dwindling resources on the fabricated need to buy something new far too soon. The creative agencies and advertising campaigns are very good at making us feel inadequate if we don’t have the latest look or the latest gadget, but that is just market spin getting us to buy something they need to sell far more than we need to buy.

What role does beauty play in creating original design?
It doesn’t really. Original design can be beautiful or ugly. But beauty does matter because we love it more, look after it for longer and in addition are nourished by it. A beautiful cup will be loved and cared for, whereas no-one thinks twice about throwing a plastic coffee cup onto land fill, to the detriment of us all. Too much design today is clever rather than beautiful, relying on wit, irony or gadgetry to gain attention. But clever design is like a one-line joke, laughed at once then soon left behind.

 

David Trubridge the company was formed in 1995 when David started to expand his operation from his small designer/maker business. The company is driven by a strong environmentally conscious philosophy which informs all aspects of design and production. The company holds numerous international awards and is held in many of the top museums. David’s work came to prominence in 2001 when the Italian design house Cappellini bought the rights for Body Raft. The Coral light followed in 2004, establishing a blueprint for kitset products that minimize their environmental footprint. His designs have featured in countless influential international publications as an instigator of the trend of ‘raw sophistication’ and as an exemplar of environmentally responsible design.

During an interview with the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Trubridge answered the fundamental question of why he designs: “To provide cultural nourishment, to tell stories, to reach people emotionally and spiritually; the objects are a vehicle for the nourishment we so badly lack in all the pragmatic and consumer stuff we are surrounded with. And the other reason I design is to recreate that vital connection to nature that we have lost so much, living in insulated cities.”

 

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.

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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)
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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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).

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Photo by Dave Morris.

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

The Originals: Brad Ascalon

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What does “original” mean to you?
Originality is in the idea driving the design process, not the aesthetic result of that process. While anyone can find visual influence in, and borrow from, existing designs and design languages, the genesis of good design is not strictly in its visual representation. It is the unique way by which a problem is approached and solved by designer and manufacturer. That is what’s original and cannot easily be replicated.

Your work spans many disciplines – from designing furniture for contract, hospitality, and residential markets to lighting, packaging, and other consumer products.  What have you experienced as the biggest threats to original design? Are the threats different in each discipline?
The biggest threat to original design in any discipline is the lack of context in the communication of design. The media by and large tends to share our output with the public as eye candy, which devalues the work we do and the decisions we make in trying to create design with meaning. When a piece of furniture that takes years to develop is reduced to a stylistic exercise to be appreciated on a design blog or a Pinterest page, it becomes easy (and innocent) for the public to appreciate it and then turn around to find the cheap alternative that has none of the intention of the original.

With all of my manufacturing partners, I make it a point to travel to the architecture and interior firms that they service, discuss my work with them, and make sure they understand the context behind the work. My hope is that as they specify new products, the “why” becomes as much a driver as the “what.” As a whole, consumers of every kind need to begin to understand the “why” as the most important aspect of any purchasing decision. Appreciating only the “what” is what makes knock offs not only acceptable, but commonplace in our society.

You were immersed in art and design from a young age. What was one of your earliest lessons about the power of design?
I am fortunate to have come from two prior generations of artists and designers who instilled invaluable lessons in me — that an appreciation of craftsmanship, a respect for materials, and that the utmost rigor are integral in creating principled design work worthy of existing. Because I work almost exclusively on design for large scale production, these values become even more essential to my work because the impact of how I treat design and production is that much greater.

 

Brad Ascalon founded his studio in 2006. The multidisciplinary designer specializes in furniture for the contract, hospitality and residential markets, as well as lighting, packaging, and other consumer products. With a reductive approach to his craft, Ascalon believes in design that is uncomplicated, rational and manages to find the perfect balance of form, function and concept. Through this approach, coupled with a strong understanding of strategy-driven design opportunities for his clients, Ascalon is widely regarded as one of the leading American design voices of his generation. Working with clients ranging from global brands to start-ups, branding agencies and private clientele, Ascalon’s long list of collaborators has included such brands as Design Within Reach, Ligne Roset, Bernhardt Design, Stylex, Restoration Hardware, OTHR, Council, Gaia & Gino, L’Oreal, Redken and many others.

Ascalon’s work has been exhibited around the world including Moscow, where in 2013 he was singlehandedly invited to represent American design with an installation at Moscow Design Week. Ascalon’s work has been featured in top publications including Wallpaper*, New York Times, Architectural Digest, Intramuros, Whitewall, Esquire, Surface, Dwell, Interior Design, Objekt, Interni, Ottagono, Elle Décor, Metropolis and many others.

Born outside of Philadelphia, PA, Ascalon was immersed in the world of art and design from an early age. Ascalon attributes his passion for design to the two generations before him who instilled in him the value of craftsmanship, materiality and rigor. Ascalon earned a Masters’ degree for Industrial Design from New York’s Pratt Institute in 2005, and that same year was recognized by Wallpaper magazine as one of the “Ten Most Wanted” emerging designers in the world. Ascalon lives and works in New York, NY.

The Originals: Martí Guixé

Photo Credit: Imagekontainer Knölke
Photo Credit: Imagekontainer Knölke.

What does “original” mean to you?
Original means great visibility, and also success in a medium time period, as well as a way to crate a good emotional relationship with the brand.

How do knockoff designs (copies) threaten to limit the range of exploration for original design?
Copies just follow some pieces that succeeded economically and therefore they just emulate and repeat existing things, in that way negating research and progress. This promotes in that way a primitive level of industry.

How does our need for good design to be globally accepted affect how designers think? And does it then allow knockoff companies to have an easier time accessing the good designs they copy?
Designers are normally very accessible, and it makes economically much more sense to have original design. Design in general helps to create a very solid perception of the brand and it can generate huge visibility in a very short time.

 

Martí Guixé is a Spanish designer based in Barcelona and Berlin. He is well known for his conceptual food design and ex-designer approach as well as commercial projects for companies like Alessi, Vitra, and nanimarquina. Additionally, his work has been shown at numerous museums around the world. 

Guixé’s approach to design is rooted strongly in his fascination in design as a means of questioning, visualizing, and influencing human behavior. In 2001, the concept of Ex-Designer was created to describe his design work; a result of the decontextualization that his work is often characterized by. The concept seeks to allow the breaking of and movement beyond the typically imposed limits of the design discipline.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.