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.