Straight Talk On American Design

We asked dozens of designers to critique U.S. design. They’re not a bashful bunch.

We may be the court jesters of design or the royal clowns or the nimble athletes or the lucky lottery winners of design.


America has always been great at crude innovation and bad at refinement.
Bjarke Ingels, Bjarke Ingels Group

Design is the oil in the machinery of capitalism. It drives our need for products and moves the economy forward.
Sean Adams, AdamsMorioka

We’re coming out of a sort of punch-drunk phase of American Design where an overzealous giddiness led us to believe that design could “solve” any problem.
Paddy Harrington, Bruce Mau Design


We lead the world in not taking ourselves so seriously. OMG, we are just designers. Enjoy it.
John Jay, Wieden+Kennedy

The ubiquity of American design makes it almost invisible.
Jerry Helling, Bernhardt Design

This is our moment. We have made every other factor of American business as efficient as possible. Now it’s about effectiveness. And this is where design comes in.
Sohrab Vossoughi, Ziba Design


At its best, American design is about independence and mastery, and taps into the archetypes of the explorer, hero, and outlaw.
Steve McCallion, Chrome Industries

The emerging problems facing society and industry in general (sustainability, complexity, etc.) will not be solved with traditional siloed approaches but instead require cross-functional systemic thinking. Is this America’s Design Moment? Only if we choose to take a leadership position in addressing today’s challenges.
Eric Ryan, Method Home

American design is consumer driven. What Americans want, they get. Unfortunately, they typically don’t want what we may call “good design,” perhaps because they don’t know what it is. so they get “splashy” or “feature-rich” design, because that is what they like. But this is changing fast.
Thomas Lockwood, DesignManagement Institute


Sometimes we prefer the quick fix over the long haul. Our culture isn’t necessarily disciplined
or long-suffering.
Laura Guido-Clark, LG-C Design

Nobody now does it out-and-out better. But the U.S. had better watch China. It has figured out that design matters. And little Singapore is investing hugely in design. Roger Martin, University of Toronto

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