Product designer and installation artist, Nika Zupanc, has always had a strong emotional reaction to furniture, both positive and negative. Born and raised in former Yugoslavia, she was attracted at a young age to books, cinema and art and that sense of drama and narrative shows up in her work. Her path to design is a pretty straight line; determined, focused and passionate, punctuated by a rebellious use of pink, and a fierce protectiveness of her creativity through time spent in nature and the gym.
Car designer Oliver Heilmer has known he wanted to go into auto design since he was a little kid fascinated by tractors on his grandmother’s farm. He grew up in Munich, Germany drawing machines and vehicles on any paper available, and then studied industrial and automobile design in school. Soon after graduation, he landed a job with BMW Group and has been there ever since. Now, as the head of MINI Design, he’s dedicated to designing for innovation and emotion. This is a long-term love affair, indeed.
Metalworker and designer Meyghan Hill tells Amy and Jaime how she opted to send herself to military boarding school and then stumbled into a modeling career before empowering herself after a bad break-up by learning to weld. She operates under the provocative and polarizing name of (wh)ORE HAüS Studios, and while it is a play on words, it is also a very powerful conversation-starter, which she then parlays into meaningful dialogue. This episode contains modeling and metal, yes, but no “blue steel” jokes.
Strategic designer Todd Bracher regales us with tales of a serendipitous ten-year journey, living, loving and learning through Europe, on the way to launching his namesake studio in Brooklyn. Plus, he walks us through what the hell “strategic design” even means, schools us on the concept of “irreducible complexity” and explains his creative approach which he refers to as “essentialism.” Early on, he showed up to a big pitch meeting way overdressed, and now he keeps a poet on standby.
Collector and high-design advocate, Lisa Roberts, reflects on a childhood spent in an architecturally significant home that discomfited her because it made her feel different from her peers, and also ignited her passion for design because it seeped into her very being. Now, having collected more than 400 “Antiques of the Future,” she uses her collection to educate, author books, and advocate for the game changing power of design. Not too shabby for ol’ Curtains Roberts, eh? Mr. Waffles approves. Meow!
Designer, illustrator and artist Timothy Goodman was labeled a “dead-end kid” in his youth until he did four years of hard labor with a mentor/father-figure in the home improvement industry, through which he found both discipline and a desire to study design. A degree and a few more mentors later he’s now known for his illustrations, viral social experiments, murals, books and even protests. Plus, he’s checking his white cis straight male privilege and championing inclusion in ways both meaningful and practical. Pretty rad.
Entrepreneur and internet pioneer, Jen Bekman, tells the story of how she founded 20x200 with a mission of making art collecting accessible to everyone. On the leading edge of ecommerce, 20x200 achieved enormous initial success and grew very quickly. Jen tells her powerful story of adapting her business on-the-fly as the internet landscape shifted dramatically under her feet—her perseverance fed by a deep belief that living with art is good for you, and the creation of art itself is an act of bravery. Bravo!
Designer, entrepreneur, and Airbnb co-founder, Joe Gebbia, was known as the “art guy” in grade school when he started his first business selling illustrations of Ninja Turtles. Then, while pursuing dual design degrees, he founded his first legit startup with RISD’s basketball team, The Balls. Now as the leader of innovation and ideation at Airbnb he’s focused on exploring new attitudes of sharing and trust. Oh, and don’t tell him he can’t do something. He will go to extremes to prove you wrong. Isn’t that so, Professor Jones?
Fashion designer Mary Ping was influenced at a young age by a stylish grandmother who taught her to sew. Always knowing she’d one day run her own label, she studied art at Vassar and worked in east London’s scene before founding her conceptual line, Slow and Steady Wins the Race, a living archive of wardrobe classics, reexamined. Not one to participate on the hamster wheel of trends, she prefers injecting social commentary and sartorial wit into her work. Plus, her photographic memory weirds people out.
We teamed up with Interface for this Clever Extra to dissect and reflect on the current office renaissance. It’s moving away from one-size-fits all toward addressing the needs, rhythms and health of the individual. But what are those needs? How do we address them through design? Is this also good for the brand? We talked to Interface’s Chief Design Officer, Chip DeGrace and corporate interior design specialist Beth Davis to tackle this subject from all angles. Here’s a tip - don’t forget about acoustics!
International design star, Marcel Wanders, grew up in the Netherlands taking things apart and making gifts from the pieces. After a rebellious and experimental adolescence, he discovered design in school and fell in love. Then he got kicked out. 20+ years later, with many global successes (products, furniture, lighting, and magical hospitality interiors) to his name, he is focussed on celebrating small victories, continually learning something new, and warning against the dangers of design fundamentalism.
MoMA’s senior curator of Architecture & Design, Paola Antonelli, grew up steeped in the design culture of Milan and developed a sense of fearlessness from frequent travels to foreign lands. After studying architecture in school she landed in the curatorial arts without even aiming for it. She talks to Amy and Jaime about how she views objects as lenses for understanding the complexity of the built world and her passionate belief that cultural institutions, like museums, are the R&D of society. *Swoon*
Product designer Ini Archibong grew up taking things apart with little success putting them back together, and cutting class to throw pottery. After a false-start in business school, he taught himself CAD, philosophy, and mathematics until he serendipitously found himself apprenticing an architect. That led to a degree from Art Center and discovering a love of designing furniture. Now he lives and works in Switzerland where he recently obtained a Master’s in Luxury (listen to find out what that means!).
The President of Rhode Island School of Design, furniture designer/maker Rosanne Somerson was considered a rabble rouser in her youth for attempting to take a woodshop class while being female. Undeterred, she found her way to a BA in Industrial Design from RISD and built her name as a leader in the studio furniture movement. Now the president of RISD, having also co-founded RISD’s Furniture Design department, is carving new ways forward for arts and design education and championing the power of boredom.
Interior designer and TV personality Nate Berkus reveals his favorite early 80’s fashion ensemble, his childhood obsession with hair product and how his youthful restlessness got him sent to boarding school and even landed him in jail for a night. He shares the big lessons he learned from his years working with Oprah and elaborates on his earnest mission to help people tell their own stories through their spaces. Oh and apparently he’s a “bad picker” of people, but he’s gotten help with that.
Designer, maker and jack-of-all-trades Tyler Hays confides he was a weird kid with a sewing machine, a pansy garden and raccoon-skinning skills in the small town where he grew up. After a brief stint as a Portland art star, he ventured to New York and earned his keep doing odd contractor jobs. Now, the proprietor of cult favorite furniture brand BDDW, and handmade sundries brand M. Crow is on a mission to make everything he uses while bridging the divide between rural and urban America. Plus, he’s got goats!
Legendary British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes tells Jaime and Amy how her early early textile designs were considered too extreme for the traditional purveyors, so she had to take manufacturing into her own hands. As a fashion designer, she pioneered the use of printed textiles as an intrinsic part of the garment’s composition. Now 50 years into her career, she attributes her extraordinary work ethic to her mother. Oh, and she has been known to frolic in the sea alongside Burt Bacharach.
Founder and CEO of design brand Kikkerland, Jan Van Der Lande, tells Jaime and Amy that when he started the business 25 years ago his houseboat was HQ, and delivery happened via his bicycle. Born and raised in the Netherlands, it was a lack of farming opportunities that compelled him to pursue greener pastures in New York City. And even though his lackluster academic performance in youth was no indicator of his future success and entrepreneurial prowess, you still can’t convince him that 1 + 1 = 2.
Architect and designer Daniel Germani took a circuitous route to get to his full-time practice. Along the way he’s worked in tech, media and got an MBA. He talks to Jaime and Amy about his childhood in Buenos Aires, grappling with his Catholic upbringing, and his passion for designing spaces that support clients living life to the fullest. Plus, he is fiercely (and hilariously) anti-tchotchke!
Graphic designer and entrepreneurial super-hero, Tina Roth Eisenberg aka swissmiss, has always been full of ideas. Luckily, she channels her powers for good: like the lecture series CreativeMornings, Tattly temporary tattoos, to-do app TeuxDeux and the popular design blog swissmiss. She shares with Jaime and Amy the magic of finding and building community through non-transactional giving, the positive side of divorce and the benefits of keeping a desk drawer stocked with confetti.
Graphic designer and Senior Creative Director of Facebook’s Building 8 team, Josh Higgins, spent his SoCal youth surfing, enduring a painful homelife, and harboring rebellious angst. He found therapeutic release and success in playing punk rock music, and also accidentally found the pathway to his calling. Now, he’s a champion of social causes and connecting the world through empathy. Oh and remember when Obama ran for re-election in 2012? Guess who design-directed that victorious campaign? Go Josh!
Architect Craig Steely grew up tinkering in a family whose motto was ‘custom anything’ so it’s not all that surprising that he’s scaled that idea up to the design of buildings. It’s refreshing to hear him talk about how that mentality has informed not only his work, but the very nature of his architecture practice; a small, personal, agile practice that focuses on meaning, relationships, and… hot lava!
Architect, digital designer, and design thinker extraordinaire Leslie Witt moved around a lot as a youth, which made her very adaptable, but sometimes resulted in fashion mishaps as a teenager. She grew up excelling at almost everything and therefore some of her toughest struggles didn’t arrive until adulthood. She breaks down those challenges with wit and wisdom and charms us with her optimism, humility and problem-solving prowess. Also, she explains techy stuff to us in a way that we can understand.
Furniture and product designer Brad Ascalon calls himself a rational designer and even though he initially wanted to work in the music industry, a heart to heart with his artistic father during a career setback started him on a path toward industrial design and he’s never looked back. He confesses that while he loves design work, the regular rejection that comes with the territory has sometimes felt like being dumped. He’s currently embroiled in a love/hate relationship with New York City, and his new hobbies include playing bluegrass music and whittling corn cob pipes.
Filmmaker, photographer and perpetual entrepreneur Gary Hustwit connects the dots of his DIY-driven path through independent music, independent publishing, and independent films, to his current preoccupation with non-fiction VR. Along the way he deconstructs the methods to his madness and expounds on the popularity of his trilogy of design documentaries: Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanized. Plus he teases a bit about his forthcoming doc about Dieter Rams, and confesses that an early disdain for avocados didn’t prevent him from capitalizing on their market-appeal.