As a concept, American design is very tangible. It’s unapologetic. It’s a roll-up-your-sleeves and get your hands dirty, “show me” sort of design. American designers, engineers, entrepreneurs and inventors alike feast off an American license to create what’s next. It’s the boldness of a Corvette or Mustang plus their afterlife hot rod modifications. It’s Jobs’ confidence to create Apple’s Mac, iPhone & iPod. It’s Jack O’Neill making his first wet suit so he could surf in cold NorCal waters. It’s the Yahoo! or Google boys living on air in college and then creating empires from their hard work.
For others, California is the “go west” personal freedom experiment gone off the rails. The land of nuts, dope smokers, protestors and speculators. Where movie stars reign and media moguls are responsible for developing our cultural ills. Where nature clashes with industry and where senseless trends and fads are sparked.
At ASTRO we live in and around San Francisco, California, at the epicenter of lifestyle, technology and design, on the edge of America. Bay Area design has become an international magnet for culturally-literate, youth-savvy designers, the kind of kids who were raised on sugary breakfast cereals, media-saturated pop culture and hardwired technology. The same things could describe many businesses here in the Golden State.
As we built the ASTRO design brand, we’ve embodied this “California license” and perspective. I’ve often been asked how we work with–and control the energies of–such creative, adventurous people. My response has been refined to the following: “You can’t control them, but you can give them a unique identity, then ask them to focus their talent like a laser for a time to accomplish the goal, typically making them quite lethal, then release them back into the wild until called on again.” (Sounds like a California answer, doesn’t it?)
What do you think? Are there companies you think epitomize American design or California style?
Brett Lovelady is the founder and driving force at ASTRO Studios of San Francisco, a company he launched in 1994. Brett created ASTRO to be a pure design culture, where he and his talented crew could blend design skills, innovative technologies and lifestyle influences into high impact, supercharged products and brands.
Within a short time, ASTRO has become an international design powerhouse by designing industry leading products and brands for companies like Nike, Microsoft, HP, Alienware, Herman Miller, Xbox, Virgin and many more. Also, Brett and ASTRO recently spun-off a new company called ASTRO Gaming, providing high performance video gaming equipment for pro gamers.
In the past decade, ASTRO has won numerous design and industry awards, including 2 prestigious BusinessWeek/IDSA Design of the Decade Awards, for both NIKE Triax Sportwatches and Kensington Smartsockets and was featured as one of Fast Company‘s Fast 50 in 2003. Prior to starting ASTRO, Brett did time as VP of Design at Lunar Design and before that VP of Design at Frog Design on the mean streets of the San Francisco bay area.