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This Just In: American Design Needs a Band-Aid

The New York Times' Dearth of a Nation: Where Have All the Great American Designers Gone? by Brit Alice Rawsthorn is a column about what's wrong with American design. Ouch. Rawsthorn concedes that "the United States is home to many world-class designers," but furniture designers aren't among them. She writes that the States' "last furniture coup," the Aeron Chair, was in 1994. Yes, the same year Kurt Cobain died, Tonya Harding was banned from figure skating, and O.J. fled from the police in his Ford Bronco — long time ago. Despite thorough media coverage of design, top-notch design fairs and stores, and the mega furniture collection at the Museum of Modern Art, and history to boot, she says, the "companies that once championed the Eameses and their peers are now too big and too nervous about upsetting their shareholders to risk experimenting with design. Today there are few American versions of the small, gutsy European furniture manufacturers," and "being small, independent and daring isn’t valued" or profitable in American corporate culture anymore. This is a sad realization for our star-spangled nation, but I think my shopping list will survive without big-name American designers, and I can always make do with the small designers in the US who are crafting great pieces.


Join The Conversation
designergirl designergirl 9 years
I agree with the author. As a furniture designer, it's hard convincing people to buy handcrafted and unique pieces, instead of Ikea and West Elm. Large companies just don't produce very interesting stuff and play it safe. Americans have such a poor awareness of design and just seem to like blandness.
SkinnyMarie SkinnyMarie 9 years
Wow I couldn't disagree more. Part of my job is specifying commercial furniture. Herman Miller is going to be coming out with a new chair this spring for neocon. And has anyone seen the new OFS bench? Every year OFS has a design competition call Hot Seat and they actually put the winning chair into production. And BTW when was the last time a european designer designed a "classic"
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