Meet the 2016 Fellows

The Be Original America’s Summer Fellowship Program begins this week, as 3rd-year students Sarah Ahart of Virginia Tech and Karina Campos of Syracuse University arrive in New York City for the first leg of their 7-week experience in all it takes to make, distribute, and sell authentic design. We spoke with the two Fellows about their backgrounds in design, their expectations for the program, what they’re most excited to learn.

The Fellows


Sarah Ahart is an accomplished, top-ranking student in Virginia Tech’s industrial design program. She currently has a product on the market through Swiss toy company Naef, and recently participated as a finalist in the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge 2016 with her in-home workout station for the elderly. While pursuing her desgree, she also works as lead designer at start-up Park and Diamond Incorporated, where she is creating an ultra-portable bicycle helmet for college commuters.


Karina Campos is an award-winning industrial and interaction design student from Syracuse University. Campos has a background in service design, having worked with the Syracuse community’s Connective Corridor to create public billboards highlighting local people, organizations, and programs that have a positive impact on the city. More recently, she worked with Welch-Allyn to design possible solutions to promote workplace wellbeing for health professionals.

The Questions

What drew you to apply for the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship? 

Sarah: I loved the idea that I would get to be exposed to every aspect of the design, manufacturing, and marketing processes, as well as work with several prominent companies.  I saw it as a great opportunity to gain a variety of experiences in order to help me figure out what career path I want to follow.

Karina: I am enthralled yet lost in world of design; there is just so much to it, my interests go in many directions! When I came to know about the Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship, one look at the description and I was hooked. I knew the opportunity to get an up close and personal look at different facets of design was right up my alley.  As a young designer, my thought process is constantly evolving and this immersive program will allow me to explore areas of design I haven’t seen or done before.

What does “original” mean to you? 

Sarah:  To me, original means that something is unlike anything that has come before it.  It has to have some feature or aspect that is novel and sparks interest.

Karina: For me originality is a concept that goes beyond “innovative” and “new”, where it core values lie in the reinterpretation of concepts and forms already in existence; an allusion to pre-established archetypes. Originality finds its voice based on visual observations, human intuitions, needs and struggles and pushes the boundaries of what is in existence but nevertheless has its roots in familiarity.

What are you most looking forward to learning about during the 7-week program?

Sarah Ahart: I am most looking forward to learning about design and manufacturing processes and seeing it first hand.  I am also looking forward to visiting some of the big name companies that I have learned about in school, such as Emeco and Herman Miller.

Karina: I am so excited to uncover the hidden nuances and insights in the design industry as well as observe, learn and connect with design professionals that will challenge my own design thinking and re-define what it means to be a designer.


You’ll be travelling to New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Michigan – which location are you most looking forward to and why?  

Sarah: I am most looking forward to New York.  I have never lived in a big city before, and I am looking forward to experiencing city life!

Karina: Honestly? All of them! This program will really expand my knowledge of design, each state we will be visiting offers different perspectives of design and ways of interpreting the design process. I am looking forward to those mind bending moments!

When you are not studying – orapplying for fellowships- what do you do for fun?

Sarah:  In my free time I enjoying doing ceramics and woodworking.  I also love to be outside and go hiking or boating.  I have always been very sporty and stay occupied with a variety of intramural sports with my school throughout the year. In addition, I am an assistant coach for a youth soccer team.

Karina: Besides my passion for all design, I am an avid cook and a reader. You can always find me on food blogs looking at recipes, experimenting with ingredients in the kitchen or on the couch curled up with a good book.

Follow along with us here on the blog and @beoriginalusa on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on Sarah and Karina’s experiences during the 7-week program. They’ll share exclusive images from site visits to Bernhardt Design, Carnegie, Chilewich, Designtex, Design Within Reach, Emeco, Flavor Paper, Herman Miller, Ligne Roset, and Vitra, and be checking in on about all they’re learning along the way.

The Originals: Jon Sherman

Jon Sherman Headshot 2016


What does “original” mean to you?

Something new and fresh.

Where do you see the line drawn between inspiration and imitation?

It’s a fine line sometimes, but as long as there is an individual’s obvious twist to an inspirational piece that renders it into a different realm than the original it is not an imitation. An imitation only rearranges aspects to make something differ enough to be classified as new, but the object or idea does not have its own life and inspire a different reaction than that of the original.

What makes a designer or artist a good collaborator for Flavor Paper?

Someone who thinks about engagement via walls from a different perspective than others and creates an atmosphere of beauty, humor, fun, transcendence or awe.


Check out Be Original America’s member Jon Sherman and Flavor Paper’s latest award-winning designs ShweShwe and Waynetopia from NYCxDesign and ICFF.


With an entrepreneurial MBA from Tulane University, Jon Sherman began his business journey in real estate development when he heard of a unique wallpaper company in Oregon going out of business. The West Coast producer offered Sherman the large silk screens and equipment–if he promised to remove them within 24 hours. Sherman’s initial overnight investment has grown into a profitable, print-to-order business that produces as many as 1000 rolls of custom paper a month, mitigating waste and optimizing resources, including time. Always looking to “push the envelope” in design, Flavor Paper goes beyond the traditional way architects, designers and end users think and use wallpaper. Flavor Paper can be seen in a wide variety of projects by the who’s who of the creative community, including Tibi fashion house, Kravitz Design, Milton Glaser, and Mike D from the Beastie Boys, and clients such as the IAC Building by Gehry in New York, Nike, Steve Madden, the international W Hotels and more. Recently, Flavor Paper entered into an exclusive, worldwide agreement with the Andy Warhol Foundation. Sherman’s Fishnet wallpaper is in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum, where he has recently been named to the Board of Advisors, and Flavor Paper is also part of the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and The Louvre Museum in Paris.

Be Original Americas Celebrates NYCxDesign


Be Original Americas members are celebrating authentic designs all over the Big Apple with and exciting lineup of events during NYCxDESIGN. Check out the full roundup of member events below, and set your calendar reminders accordingly. We hope to see you there!


  • Carl Hansen & Son: Preview of Newest Launches
    9 AM-5 PM, Thursday, May 12
    Carl Hansen & Son New York Showroom
    304 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, Suite #305
    RSVP to


  • Chilewich: Edges by Sandy Chilewich
    11 AM-7 PM, Friday, May 13-Thursday, May 19
    Chilewich Store, 23 E. 20th Street

Edges by Sandy Chilewich is the latest material concept from Chilewich. The design, which combines fluorescent acrylics with Chilewich’s trademark woven textiles in a striking optical pattern will be celebrated in this special exhibition during NYCxDESIGN.


  • FLOS and ABC Home Celebrate the Story of the String Lights with designer Michael Anastassiades
    5:30-7 PM; 6 PM Conversation, Friday, May 13
    ABC Home, 888 Broadway
    RSVP by May 11 to to

FLOS USA and ABC Home invite you to celebrate ‘The Story of the String Lights’ with designer Michael Anastassiades. See the design evolve from conception with original drawings, renderings and unique installation.


  • Artemide Cocktail Party
    6-9 PM Saturday, May 14
    Artemide Flagship Showroom
    46 Greene Street

The re-opening of Artemide’s renovated showroom features the debut of new designs by Ross Lovegrove, Jean Nouvel, David Chipperfield, Wilmotte & Associates, Herzog & de Meuron, as well as new Artemide Outdoor and Rezek fixtures.


  • Cappellini: Collection Launch and New Cappellini Book Signing
    7-9 PM, Saturday, May 14
    145 Wooster Street


  • Ligne Roset Presents Marie Christine Dorner for NYCxDESIGN
    6-8 PM, Saturday, May 14
    Ligne Roset SoHo Showroom, 155 Wooster Street
    RSVP to

Ligne Roset presents Marie Christine Dorner for NYCxDesign. Dorner will introduce highlights from her collection including MCD seating design debuting in the US. Bubbles & hors d’oeuvres will be served.


  • nanimarquina: Cocktail Event to Celebrate 2016 Introductions
    6-8 PM, Saturday, May 14
    nanimarquina New York Showroom, 588 Broadway, Suite 607
    RSVP here.

nanimarquina will host evening cocktails with Nani Marquina in the New York showroom while displaying new designs by the Bouroullec brothers, Neri & Hu and Nani Marquina.


  • FLOS SoHo Night
    6-8 PM, Saturday, May 14
    FLOS Showroom, 152 Greene Street
    RSVP here.

 You’re invited to an evening of cocktails celebrating Michael Anastassiades and FLOS’ newest collections with an exclusive curated lighting exhibition curated by Anastassiades.


  • Fritz Hansen Celebrates Pluralis & Oxford
    6-8 PM, Sunday, May 15
    Republic of Fritz Hansen, 22 Wooster Street
    RSVP here.

 Republic of Fritz Hansen invites you to celebrate Pluralis™ a modern working table designed by Danish designer Kasper Salto and a new fresh take on an old Classic, the Oxford™ chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen.


  • Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec’s New Designs
    7-9 PM, Sunday, May 15
    Vitra Showroom, 29 9th Avenue
    RSVP here.

The latest designs by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra, Artek, nanimarquina, and Axor will be on display with a special design installation on three levels. Ronan Bouroullec will be present to celebrate these new designs.


  • Alessi Mutants Event
    6-8 PM, Monday, May 16
    Alessi SoHo, 130 Greene Street
    RSVP here.

Highlights from the Alessi Mutants exhibition at WantedDesign will be shown in the SoHo showroom, featuring the futuristic ideas of students from the Institute of Architecture at the University of Applied Arts Vienna & RMIT University.

Be Original Americas Design Auction

Bidding has begun in the Be Original Americas Design Auction to support our inaugural Summer Fellowship Program! More than 30 authentic designs including furniture, lighting, tabletop, accessories, and unique experiences are available, all generously donated by members and friends of Be Original Americas. Winning bids will help to fund two students in the first-ever Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship as they travel throughout North America to learn from the best and most innovative brands producing authentic design today.


Rare prototypes like an Alessi Bandung teapot by Richard Sapper and special edition designs like Emeco’s Navy Chair collaboration with Coca-Cola are among the line-up of exceptional items. Design icons, like a Vitra Grand Repos lounge chair signed by its designer Antonio Citterio, a Le Corbusier LC1 Chair for Cassina and a FLOS Snoopy lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni appear beside new masterpieces such as Lara Knutson’s Nebula necklace to complete a varied and accessible range of items. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to take home the best in design while supporting the future of creativity. Explore the auction in full:


Fostering the Future of Creativity

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Aiming to empower tomorrow’s design leaders to effect positive change in the fight for original design, Be Original Americas has developed a unique fellowship opportunity for two students to gain hands-on experience in all it takes to make, distribute, and market great design from leading companies across the United States. As Be Original Americas President and Global Brand Director for Herman Miller Sam Grawe says, “The Fellowship is an investment in the future of design through education, and one that celebrates innovation and original design thinking through the work of industry leaders.”

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Many students learn in their courses that good design is driven by ethical problem solving – the understanding of a need or problem, and the development of creative solutions that address that issue in the most elegant way possible. By inviting fellows to see this process in action at Herman Miller, Emeco, Ligne Roset, Vitra, Design Within Reach, Chilewich, Carnegie, and Bernhardt Design, Be Original America’s hopes to make clear that thoughtless copies can never contribute to communities, support craftsmanship, or deepen our understanding of our environment like authentic products do. Over the course of 7 weeks, these two fellows will also develop relationships that will help them contribute to the industry in earnest after graduation, whether through the design process, marketing, or distribution.

As Jan Vingerhoets, CEO of FLOS told DWR in an interview, “We feel an educated public is the best offense and defense against the proliferation of copies. That’s the approach Be Original Americas is taking – to educate, to inform and to influence consumers, designers, retailers and students on what original design means.”

Three of the groups Vingerhoets mentions – consumers, designers, and retailers – make up the design community of the present, but it’s the students currently pursuing degrees in industrial or interior design, architecture, and other applied arts who represent the future of the industry. If the movement to reverse the current trend of knockoffs is to succeed, the design industry’s next generation must be one that is fundamentally original. Reaching these young creatives in and out of the classroom, and instilling in them a commitment to integrity is essential to building a better future for creativity. Similarly, young people studying the business side of design must understand how their choices in marketing and development will affect the design marketplace. In this way, students become professionals and leaders who serve as ambassadors of authenticity to the trade and public over the entirety of their careers.

The Be Original Americas Summer Design Fellowship will be supported by an online auction featuring one-of-a-kind designs and experiences from Be Original America’s members and friends of the organization. Check in here on the blog for more on how to participate, or become a member to stay up-to-date on this developing story.

The Originals: Joe Doucet

joe headshot


What does “original” mean to you?
Original design, by definition, is a work which begins with a process and not another design as a reference.


In what ways do knockoffs affect the power of original and good design to improve our lives?
The creation of good and original design requires a substantial investment of time, resources and money from both the designer and company producing the work. When a company or designer chooses to simply copy an original design, it is intact stealing. Not just the “creative theft” often cited, but a material and substantial theft of time and money. If the hard work and financial support required to develop original design is systematically stolen by competitive companies, there is little incentive for companies to pursue original design. This would lead to a great reduction in original work, which would then lead to the same existing work self-perpetuating ad infinitum. A sad thought indeed.


 You design for such diverse companies. How do you insure your design is not compromised?
The fact that we design for such diverse companies and industries greatly increases the exposure to the risk of our work being copied. We are particularly vulnerable to copying as we are idea-led and less focused on a particular style. The truth is that legally there is very little protection for a new way of thinking about an object. We are reliant on companies to respect the intense work which necessitates original design, and begin their own process rather than begin with another design as a reference.


Don’t miss Joe’s takeover of the Be Original America’s Instagram during Salone del Mobile 2016.


President and Chief Creative Officer at Joe Doucet x Partners, Joe Doucet’s ability to fluidly cross the different disciplines of design have made him one of the most sought-after creative talents working in America. As a designer, inventor, and creative director, his work deftly hybridizes function and visual appeal while conveying layers of meaning and message.  His portfolio encompasses furniture, consumer electronics, corporate identity, jewelry, fashion, technology, children’s toys, environments and architecture delivering innovation for a variety of clients such as Bernhardt, BMW, Braun, Hugo Boss, Lexon, Moët & Chandon and Target. His work has been exhibited numerous places internationally, including the London Design Museum and awards include two Good Design Awards in 2012 and 2008. Surface Magazine named him the only ever AvantGuardian for Design, and he currently holds more that 50 patents for his designs and inventions.

The Originals: Michael Anastassiades

Portrait by Hélène Binet_reasonable size


What does “original” mean to you?

Original is something that is created from a place of freedom. Something that doesn’t  need to carry the weight of its predecessors to stand on its feet, where the historic references are only there  in confidence of what we’ve learned and not as an attempt to disguise in the face of the ignorant.


What unique perspective on design do you feel you’ve gained from your training as a civil engineer?

My civil engineering studies have provided me with the distance to view design differently. When I first entered this world, I felt I had a lot of catching up to do, most of my colleagues had already been exposed to at least four years of Design education. I graduated from the Royal College thinking that my path didn’t fit in any of the models that existed. It was only much later that I felt ‘what a great place to be!’


Your work has been included in leading museums such as the MoMA in New York. What can these institutions contribute to the fight against knockoffs?

It is important for these institutions to collect original works that have made a difference. A gesture to confirm the contribution a work of Design has made towards the bigger picture.


Michael Anastassiades launched his studio in 1994 to explore contemporary  notions of culture and aesthetics through a combination of product, furniture and environmental design. Positioned between fine art and design, his work aims to provoke dialogue, participation and interaction. Anastassiades’ work is featured in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Crafts Council in London, the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France and the MAK in Vienna. He has designed products with various leading manufacturers including FLOS, Puiforcat, Lobmeyr and Svenskt Tenn. In 2007 he set up MICHAEL ANASTASSIADES – the company to produce his signature pieces, a collection of lighting, furniture, jewellery and tabletop objects. The studio’s philosophy is a continuous search for eclecticism, individuality, and timeless qualities in design. Michael trained as a civil engineer at London’s Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine before taking a master’s degree in industrial design at the Royal College of Art. He lives and works in London.

Design Perspectives: Women’s History Month


Supporting diversity in design is essential to fostering creativity by bringing a variety of perspectives and experiences to the field that deepen the conversation rather than maintain the status quo. To celebrate Women’s History Month, Be Original Americas spoke with three design entrepreneurs to get their take on the state of the industry, what they’ve learned in their careers, and what the future of authenticity has in store.  Jaime Derringer (Design Milk), Sandy Chilewich (Chilewich), and Felicia Ferrone (fferrone) each offer their unique reflections:


What is most exciting to you about the design industry right now? 

Sandy Chilewich:

The growing appreciation of artisanal craftsmanship.

Jaime Derringer: 

I love the design that’s happening in Mexico right now. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest is a rising star in the design world. There’s some great architecture going on in Canada. I love that we’re starting to see more pockets of great design in North American places beyond New York and LA.

Felicia Ferrone: 

The most exciting thing right now is that the traditional business of design is loosening up and that’s allowing people to shape their own destinies. It’s no longer only about traditional channels that are hard to break into, if not nearly impossible. Today you can create your own channel. It’s very exciting and limitless in terms of the possibilities.


Felicia, how has blurring boundaries created new possibilities in your work?

Felicia Ferrone_HEADSHOT

Felicia Ferrone: This blurring has allowed me to do a wide range of design work from architecture to exhibitions, to graphic identities to products in addition to being an educator and entrepreneur. I have been able to curate every aspect of my work from the designs themselves to the image of them and how they are portrayed to the intended use in a client’s home. While designing I am always considering the architecture in which they will reside. Each of these aspects support the design intent of an individual piece, like a stone thrown into water causing a ripple effect.


What do you wish you had known starting out?

Jaime Derringer: I don’t know! I suppose I wish I had more business training. Maybe there should be a mandatory business class for artists and designers in college that focuses on dealing with entrepreneurship, self-employment, startups, and social media.

Felicia Ferrone: That nothing is as it seems.

Sandy Chilewich: The importance of having an open mind to listen to well-meaning advice.


Sandy, in a career defined by exploration, has there been a touchstone that you find your work grounded by again and again? 


Sandy Chilewich: I speak often about how while I am very artistic, I am not an artist. A true artist never considers their audience when they create their own work, there is no compromise. I am always on the thin line between my own aesthetic and what people actually need and want… but this is where I like to hover. This is sometimes painful, but full of satisfaction and rewards.


What new opportunities do you see for women in design? 

Felicia Ferrone: There is a growing awareness of women in design which is fantastic for everyone, and not just women. I think with the opening up of channels, women can create their own opportunities that might not otherwise be there.

Jaime Derringer: I’ve noticed more dialogue happening around women in the design world and I’d like to see more women recognized for their contributions. I would like to see more outreach toward young women to go into the field of design and architecture. There isn’t enough knowledge or information about the educational or job opportunities in this industry.


Jaime, as someone with established careers in both art & design and design media, how do you think the two industries could better support each other to foster creativity? 


Jamie Derringer: I think women can do a better job of supporting each other, drawing attention to other women who are doing great things and sharing their work. We’re all fighting the same fight, so let’s remember what team we’re on and embrace a community spirit. In addition, I am a big fan of collaboration. So, celebration, collaboration, and community.


How do you stay original? 

Sandy Chilewich: When I look back at the 3 product categories that became the foundation of my businesses [shoes, legwear, textiles] I realize that with all three I was compelled to wake up a tired category. If something isn’t really new, then I’m not interested in making it.

Jaime Derringer: I keep one eye on what everyone else is doing, but keep my other eye and the rest of me focused on how I can stay fresh and ahead of the game. I appreciate trends, but prefer to spend more of my energy focused on what sets me apart. I look at everything and ask, how can I be different?

Felicia Ferrone: I can find inspiration in just about anything – from a manhole cover to an old fence – and it is that awareness and curiosity that keeps my work original. In questioning all assumptions about the function, form, and our interaction with the object or system, new designs develop. One last thought about “staying original”: It’s a choice! It’s a choice to get out of bed that morning and create something new.


About the Contributors: 

Felicia Ferrone

Felicia Ferrone graduated with a degree in architecture from Miami University, Ohio, after which she moved to Milan. Her international namesake brand fferrone was founded in 2010 and is based in Chicago. Along with producing and distributing her own design work under her brand, she also has created designs for Boffi and The Macallan. Ferrone’s expansive reach is informed by her early experience as an architect in Milan, where she was first taught to “blur boundaries.” Her award winning work is included in the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection, is a recipient of a GOOD DESIGN Award, and 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.


Jaime Derringer

Jaime Derringer is Founder and Executive Editor of modern design blog Design Milk, which quickly became the “go-to” site for unique modern interiors, home furnishings, art & architecture and is now one of the most popular design blogs reaching millions of readers across the globe. Inspired by her love for dogs, Jaime founded modern design blog Dog Milk to expose dog lovers to pet design that fits their uniquely modern sense of style. Her most recent venture, Adorn Milk, is an online shop devoted to architectural and statement jewelry. In addition, Jaime has been noted as an expert on design trends, speaks on design, blogging and social media, and offers consulting.


Sandy Chilewich

The New York based designer Sandy Chilewich is founder and creative director of Chilewich | Sultan LLC, a company managed with her partner and husband Joe Sultan. For the last three decades and with two distinct businesses, Chilewich has reinterpreted underutilized and overlooked manufacturing practices. Since 2000, Chilewich has designed innovative textiles for numerous applications. Sandy launched placemats and floormats with her original signature textiles in 2000. Her designs have transformed the way tables are dressed in homes and in restaurants around the world. Her floormats provided a clean modern alternative underfoot.

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 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.

Authenticity as Intent at Pratt Institute


How do we define what is legitimate – what is real – in design?

That’s the question Be Original Americas aimed to answer at Pratt Institute last month in a live discussion between industrial designer Leon Ransmeier and Ben Watson, Executive Creative Director of charter member Herman Miller. After an introduction by Karin Tehve, Chair of Interior Design at Pratt Institute, moderator Felix Burrichter, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PIN-UP Magazine guided Ransmeier and Watson in their investigation of authenticity.

Ransmeier and Watson know each other well, having met when the designer was approached to create what would become the AGL Table Group for Herman Miller in 2011. Using this collaboration as a model, they began to point to the specific elements that contribute to the integrity of a design.

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AGL Table by Leon Ransmeier | Photo by Francois Dischinger used courtesy of Herman Miller

Authenticity begins with intent. Herman Miller undertakes every project with an interest in people, and solving a problem for the end user. In the case of AGL, this was updating the task table for a contemporary relationship with technology.  In every Herman Miller process, the objective for a design is honored, even under constraints, and guided by the core values of transparency, equality, voice, and design philosophy. Or, in the words of Ransmeier, “Authenticity is combined passion and work.” This is one of the core differences between knockoff designs and originals. Copycats want to imitate profits, but not the good intentions or disciplined production that lead to unique and effective design.

Burrichter noted that this extends beyond aesthetics or ergonomics to environmental factors, and Ransmeier agreed that ecological consideration is part of the designer’s responsibility to make things that support and enhance people’s lives. As sustainability and the product life-cycle climb to top of mind in the global marketplace, knockoffs produced cheaply through environmentally devastating methods are more dangerous than ever, serving to exacerbate pollution and “throw-away” culture. Legitimate design – real design – responds to the circumstances of the world that created a need for it in the first place.

Solving a problem is never easy – and Watson noted that most consumers don’t know the true cost of designing an effective product.  For example, a high performance task chair, perhaps created with the intent of supporting modern working postures to improve workplace wellbeing, can cost as much as $25 million to develop and take 3-4 years to come to market. Ransmeier’s AGL Table group took 2.5 years to be ready for launch at NeoCon 2013. Premium manufacturers aren’t interested in quick fixes – they seek to create solutions that last. This requires human resources (designers, researchers, support), tools of labor, capital expenses, 3D molds, prototypes, and more in order to truly test and refine the products that improve quality of life for their users. Without this significant investment – and without clear, honorable intentions – there would be no great design to be copied.


Felix Burrichter, Leon Ransmeier and Ben Watson at the packed Juliana Curran Terian Design Center

There may, of course, be other ways to define what “real” design is – and to be sure, this discussion is one Be Original Americas continues to explore. However, it seems likely that a process that doesn’t begin with authentic intentions – to create something useful, beautiful, unique – cannot become an authentic process halfway through the making.

Be Original Americas invests in the future of design with a series of talks, round tables, and panel discussions at universities, industry programs, and more. You can learn about upcoming events here, or become a supporter to stay in-the-know.