50. Bradford Shellhammer

Cofounder of Chief Creative Officer of Fab, How To Compete In Online Retail

50. Bradford Shellhammer

When the flash-sale site Fab launched last summer, featured retailers scored about $10,000 in sales–a miracle in an uneasy economy. Then the site blew up: Now sellers can net $100,000, and the site itself raised $50 million in venture funding. Bradford Shellhammer attributes the success to simple principles:


1. Relax control of visuals.

Shellhammer almost always uses vendors’ product shots, which guarantees more diversity (and lower costs) than if everything were reshot in a studio. “The person who designed a product is also the best person to present it,” he says.

2. Tap into emotions.

Sure, you can find some cool, kitschy objects on eBay. But Fab pairs each item with the story behind it, making shoppers feel supportive of the seller. “People invest more in things they form emotional attachments to,” he says.

3. Re-create the real world.

Fab’s real-time feed shows what items other users are buying, mimicking the effect of watching shoppers at a store. “Most people need reinforcement from others before purchase,” he says, “so it helps when you can see what’s moving.”

4. Don’t distract users from the product.

Fab’s site is built with purposefully clean grid lines and a simple, three-color palette. “Eva Zeisel said good design is about getting out of the way,” Shellhammer says. “That has been the driving force in our own design.”


  • 1984

    Receives Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual from uncle for Christmas; discovers first style icon

  • 1994

    Sees the band Erasure in concert in the front row; falls in love with glitter and feathers

  • 1999

    Meets Fab cofounder Jason Goldberg on the dance floor at NYC’s Roxy

  • 2001

    Moves to San Francisco to start working at FIDM critiquing student portfolios

  • 2007

    Graduates from Parsons with a degree in fashion design; hates sewing and sketching and decides not to enter the fashion world

  • 2008

    Opens retail stores for Design Within Reach and Blu Dot

  • 2011

    Pivots old business idea for Fabulis, a social network for gay men; writes business plan for with Goldberg on a restaurant napkin

  • 2011

    Meets design gurus Milton Glaser and Dieter Rams in the same week

  • 2012 hits 3.5 million members and 1.2 million products sold