Design Entrepreneurs: The Next Generation

The Request for Proposals to design the Metropolis booth for the 2003 International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) went out four months before the show opened, on May 17 at New York’s Javits Center. We specified a design that would represent product development, from concept to rough prototype to finished object. We also needed the booth to be fully functional at the busy trade show and wanted to employ a designer who represents the generation about to make its mark on the twenty-first century. In addition, we wanted a physical representation of the idea behind Metropolis magazine’s new awards program: the Next Generation Design Prize of $10,000 for an entrepreneurial designer, announced at the Metropolis Conference at this year’s ICFF.

The budget for designing, building, shipping, and installing the booth was modest. The commission was awarded to architect, furniture maker, and graduate of the dynamic class of ‘94 from Columbia architecture school Doug Fanning of DYAD Studio. He set to work immediately. Surviving on macaroni and cheese, and his girlfriend’s goodwill, Doug committed himself totally to the booth’s design and fabrication, working on his winning scheme for a versatile shelving system. We liked its practicality, modularity, and simple lines. That is what we got and more: Doug gave us a booth that provided both a walk-through of the product’s development and reminded attendees to come to our conference. During the show he dropped by to see how his design was working whenever he could get free from his own small booth at the ICFF; this was his second year at the show. (The shelves are going into a New York store this fall and Doug says there’s been lots of interest in his work.) This is our report on the first “Design Entrepreneurs” conference, condensing the inspirational energy and creativity of the next generation.

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