American industrial designers are the secret heroes of the marketplace, finessing products to make them easier to use and help them sell better. Here's how five top firms have been busy shaping our world.
The inventor of Velcro ripped cockleburs from his dog's fur. Da Vinci and the Wright brothers studied birds in flight. And now a rising number of designers are looking to nature for inspiration. Companies as diverse as Boeing, Ford, General Electric, Herman Miller, HP, IBM, Kraft, Nike, and Patagonia are welcoming biologists to the design lab. Here's a sampling of Mother Nature at work.
John Maeda is a highly networked, Web-enabled thinker who also happens to be an artist, designer, and author -- probably the closest thing to a Renaissance man the digital world has produced. As the new president of the Rhode Island School of Design, can he help reconcile the design world's competing impulses: creativity and pragmatism, uniqueness and marketability?
House licensed the name of midcentury architect Richard Neutra for a typeface. Its success parallels a Neutra resurgence; his Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, California (above), sold in May for $16.8 million.
2. Sketch Artist
The three-dimensional lettering Neutra specified for his commercial buildings was the starting point for House.