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.

The Originals: Brad Ascalon


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


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.


The Originals: Kasper Salto

Kaspar Salto



What does “original” mean to you?
If we are talking about a person [original] could be misunderstood as strange or hilarious, but in the context of an object in design, I see it as something interesting. Even if it was a person, I would still consider very positive to be original – as the world of cultures and the Internet makes people more and more alike, thinking the same thoughts everywhere – original is something very valuable I think. New York is so wonderful because of the different cultures and people.


How does drawing inspiration from nature push you towards innovation in your designs?
No matter what your starting point is, I think your design method will predict your outcome. If you start up a design project only being inspired by nature there is a good chance you will end up with a project that is detached from being a fully functional design object. Too much “shaping” without and research and analytical method means that after a few years, the product will end up in the landfill. Design is not art, and art is not design: they are two different ways of working.


How has traditional Danish furniture been influenced by advancements in industrial design?
Danish design has always been influenced by foreign culture. Poul Kjærholm’s lounge chair PK 22 is led out from the Barcelona chair – far from imitation, but refined to be simpler, lighter, more lean in production and overall very pragmatic. The SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen by Arne Jacobsen must have been started from admiration of The Lever House in New York, designed 1952 by Skidmore and Owens and Merril. It’s not a copy [of The Lever House] but it has some links to it, and I am sure there are several things that have been improved in the later SAS Royal Hotel since 1955. When I recently created my NAP chair with Fritz Hansen, I looked at the PK9 chair – that has always been one of my favorite chairs. So you can say that a lot of architecture and design through history is built on the shoulders of something prior. “Design is to take something and make it better.”


Danish furniture designer Kasper Salto credits the beginning of his storied career to his design of the Runner chair, spotted in 1997 by Be Original Americas member Fritz Hansen. This marked the beginning of a successful and continued partnership with the company, including such iconic collections as NAP, Ice, and Little Friend. In 2004, Salto founded design company Salto & Sigsgaard with architect Thomas Sigsgaard, specializing in interior, product, and lighting design. Notable projects include winning a prestigious 2011 competition, allowing them to design new furniture for the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Today, the room is considered one of the three greatest Danish architectural masterpieces outside Denmark. Learn more at

The Originals: Marc Thorpe



What does original design mean to you?
Honesty from concept through completion.


You have taught at Pratt, Parsons and others. What do you is the most important lesson you would want to impart to students with regard to authenticity in design?
Always be yourself.


You design for so many companies from Bernhardt Design to Target. How do you make sure your original design is honored and never compromised?
With any good relationship there is always compromise. Architecture and design are collaborative. A true collaboration will produce an honest product.


Known internationally for his innovative work, architect and industrial designer Marc Thorpe has collaborated with Be Original Americas members Bernhardt Design and Ligne Roset, as well as such brands as Under Armour, Mercedes Benz, Stella Artois, Coca Cola, L’Oreal and more.  In 2005, he founded Marc Thorpe Design.  The studio works closely with clients and collaborators, and their portfolio includes progressive architecture, interior design, digital media, graphic design, furniture design, product design, retail and exhibit design.  Learn more at

Be Original Americas’ Summer Fellowship: Looking Forward

Photo Jul 14, 11 05 50 AM_Alexander Kusak

As rigorous research and experimentation lead to better, original design, Be Original Americas believes that a hands-on, immersive design education can lead to a well-rounded designer. The Be Original Americas Summer Fellowship program was created to offer just that opportunity: real-world experience to support an informed and creative start to a career in design. As the first-ever Summer Fellowship draws to a close, we talked with fellows Sarah Ahart of Virginia Tech and Karina Campos of Syracuse University about how their experiences in the program will shape their futures in the industry.


What’s next for you in your senior year at university this fall?

Sarah: I am going to be working this semester to prepare for my thesis in the spring.  This semester is about continuing to figure out who I am as a designer, what my interests are, and expanding my knowledge of the design world.  I want to base my thesis on a current problem for which I can design a meaningful solution.

Karina: Whats next? Well, completing my design thesis! This upcoming year will be full of trials and tribulations, sleepless nights, but also full of moments of success and design inspiration. Although the word “thesis” is a little scary, I am actually excited to get started! I have gotten so many preliminary concepts during the fellowship.


How do you think you’ll approach your schoolwork differently in your final year, as a result of your experiences during this fellowship?

Sarah: Now that I have a much broader understanding of the steps needed to create a final product, I will be able to design in a way that keeps the full process in mind.  Prior to the fellowship, I was designing based on my limited knowledge of industry.  The fellowship has made me aware of the many considerations needed to bring a product to market, as well as all the steps that a product needs to go through before being market ready.  I can now include these elements that I have learned throughout the fellowship in each of my future projects.

Karina: 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. Also to continue being curious and never settle in your design work.


How has your view of your future in the design industry been changed or influenced by the Be Original Americas Fellowship?

Sarah: I realized that there are so many different paths that I can go down once I graduate.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do just based on what I knew existed. Now that I have been exposed to so many different options, I realize there are many more opportunities for me than I had originally thought.  It makes me feel like I can pursue anything that interests me, and that wherever I end up working, I will be able to contribute my own valuable skills .

Karina: 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–especially since we are the future of the industry. We can influence change.  Although there is only slight correlation between school and the real world, that rigidity in school teaches essential basics that come in handy in an office setting, at least from what I saw during the past seven weeks.


What key learning from the fellowship are you most excited to share with your peers?

Sarah: I am most excited to share with them my answer to the previous question.  In school, I feel like a lot of us think that we need to go work for consulting firms and get the traditional ‘industrial design’ job.  Because of that, I see some of my classmates being discouraged when their interests and skills don’t line up with the traditional jobs that we hear about.  I think that it is extremely important for students to know that there are so many different options once they graduate and that our major is extremely flexible, allowing us to fit into many career paths.

Karina: I am looking forward to sharing those mind-blowing moments I experienced, anything from incredible manufacturing processes to how design professionals behave in an office setting.  I think I am going to talk about the more intimate moments I experienced that some students often don’t get while doing a traditional internship.


Based on your experiences this summer, if you were to design a tool for designers, what would it be?

Sarah:  I would design a platform that helps connect schools and students with companies in the industry to do collaborative projects.  I have worked on a few projects with actual clients, and these have been the most successful and beneficial projects in my time at school.  With that said, not everyone gets the chance to work hand in hand with a real company before they graduate, and I think that is a shame.  The knowledge you gain from working with a real client for a real company is invaluable, and I would like to create a way to make that a possibility for everyone.
Karina: It would definitely be a pen, specifically a Pilot BeGreen B2P Gel pen.  Being a tactile person, I naturally love hand-writing. It’s the most reliable way of keeping track of my notes–especially when inspiration strikes and I have to make note of it!  During the fellowship I filled two small notebooks of information, random thoughts, and ideas and my Pilot pen is the best for taking hand-written notes on the go. It allows for smooth writing and for some reason I can always read my chicken scratch, hieroglyphic writing the best with this pen. Of course, this is personal preference (every designer that I know has specific pens for specific purposes) if I am filling out a document or drawing my writing utensil needs change.


Authenticity in design begins with intent. Be Original Americas is committed to creating access to the kinds of design education that foster a creative future for the industry at large. Many thanks to our fellows Sarah and Karina for a successful inaugural year for the Summer Fellowship program, and to our participating members and media sponsors for their support. You can read more about the Fellowship experience on and

The Originals: Harry Allen



What does “original” mean to you?

As a designer I make “original” happen every day. It’s part of my DNA. I am always seeking out new design territory — all of my products must forge new ground aesthetically, conceptually, and/or functionally. Otherwise, why design? Only original design is design.


How can trusting the intelligence of your audience lead to innovation in design?

For me, it’s not about dumbing down a product to fit a current trend, or copying something that has been done. I see it as my duty to lead, not follow, and it’s the best premise for design.  A good design mind is trained to see beyond what is already out in the world. It’s the definition of creativity — to create something new, and that is ultimately what consumers want — to be challenged, to bring great new products into their lives, to have their lives bettered by design. That is where consumer intelligence comes in — they can recognize a winner. Sometimes it takes some time, but if you design a great new product it always gets recognition — because people are basically pretty smart.


How effective is the use of new materials in helping to deter copycats?

I love new materials for all they can bring to a design. Right now I am working on a project with Ecovative, a material company that grows a wood-like product out of mushrooms, Designtex, who have developed a compostable fabric, and E2E who make a soy-based glue. I brought them all together in a new acoustic tile called” Weave” that will be manufactured by Ecovative. It is beautiful, functional, and environmentally sound. In fact, they are completely compostable. So in this case, the design of the product is great, but it is the materials that make it amazing. And I am pretty sure no one will be copying them anytime soon.



Harry Allen is the founder and president of Harry Allen Design. He has designed furniture, lighting, products, and interiors for a wide variety of international clients. His long-standing interests in art, new materials, and systematic design approach have led to some of the most intelligent products and interiors in the world today. Allen’s work is in the permanent collection of Museum of Modern art (NYC), the Brooklyn Museum of art, the Denver Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His awards include the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Modernism/Young Designer Award and two Industrial Design Society of America IDEA Awards.