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EXPO TALK: What Stephen Burks Would Say to His Younger Self Trying to Break Through

One of the most recognized industrial designers of his generation, Stephen Burks joined GRAY on IG LIVE to chat about his inspiring career.

Portrait of Stephen Burks industrial designer in studio with colorful ceramic vases

Excerpt from April 22, 2021 IG Live

Brandon Gaston chats with internationally lauded industrial designer Stephen Burks of Stephen Burks Man Made.

Was there a moment when you felt like "I’ve arrived, I’m at that tipping point that’s going to take me to that next level?

“Sure. I was having an exhibition with a French gallery here in New York and Giulio Cappellini, of the Italian brand Cappellini, came to my show with a couple of designers they looked at my work and the next thing I knew, the following year I was showing in Milan with Cappellini. It was like a dream come true. I think that those moments — it’s a different world today — those moments are probably less possible today and I think that young designers see that they have to take it upon themselves to do it for themselves, and I support that. I mean, the sooner you can find your own voice and your own means of expression the better.”

But let's talk about that... To the new designer, what would you say? How do you get your work out there, how do you break past what might seem like a barrier or as a difficulty to get in the door? What would you say to your younger self if you were a new designer right now?

“I remember struggling as a young designer, trying to find a visual vocabulary that I felt could be different from what existed, and this idea of design following difference is not always the point. I think today we’re less looking at objects that are representative of value — in terms of luxury, etc — and we’re more interested in objects that have meaning. And so in terms of things I'm looking to design today, I’m trying to communicate these bigger issues through something as simple as a mirror, or a lamp... it’s tough but the sooner we get in that head space the better. I think the objects that have meaning for the next generation are objects that are doing something for the greater good, not just being about flash, and labels, and brand, etc., but more kind of deeper speaking to what they believe in.”


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