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.
This Old House Master Carpenter Norm Abram charms Jaime and Amy with stories of a youth spent building pinewood derby cars and learning the trade from his father, who lives on in the walls of the house they built together as adults. He got his start in TV by accident, but thanks to an unfailing dedication to patience and safety, that’s about the only major accident he can speak of. These days, he’s on a mission to bring today’s youth into tomorrow’s trade labor force. Plus, he reveals the secrets of his famous wardrobe.
Brand strategist, OG podcaster and all-around badass, Debbie Millman, traces the genesis of her branding talent back to the Stayfree packaging at her father’s pharmacy, shares the poignant details of how a pair of lime green Levi’s helped her cope with a painful childhood and just generally oozes wisdom and deep thoughts with every word. Plus, she offers a revelatory distinction between courage and confidence and has an enduring fondness for potato chips.
Furniture designer, engineer and manufacturer Derek Chen identifies his childhood in the midwest as the origin of his love for American design, details how he transitioned from his first career as a management consultant to his second career as the CEO and Design Director of Council, a modern American furniture brand, and celebrates the merits of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as a model of ingenuity. Plus, he invented a technique for cleaning his room with a 2x4.
Interior designer and TV personality Taniya Nayak confesses to Jaime and Amy that she probably did some damage to the ozone layer in her youth, but it’s OK because she won first place in a high hair contest. With endearing candor, she opens up about childhood bullies, her struggles with fertility and how she defines success. Plus, while filming, she accidentally found a sex toy in a teenager’s bedroom, ew.
Fashion designer Mimi Plange talks to Amy and Jaime about being born in Ghana, growing up in California, and nurturing herself on a steady diet of fantasy movies. She's always known she’d become a fashion designer, but an invitation to the White House by Michelle Obama came as a total surprise. Plus, she's got cred with both Beyoncé and Jay Z.
World-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind inspires Jaime and Amy with his eternally optimistic world-view and powerfully uplifting story of being born into persecution, immigrating to “the promised land” of the U.S. and participating in the space race. As the architect responsible for the master plan of the World Trade Center site, he composes memory in order to heal the future. Oh and he’s got mad accordion skills.