written by:
illustrated by:
August 12, 2009
Originally published in The City Life

We asked three product designers from three different fields what the future holds. Oddly, none of them mentioned crystal balls.

Bike illustration by Andrew Holder


Stephen Burks is the principal of the New York studio Readymade Projects, whose works range from consumer products to lighting, furniture, home accessories, and more. He is considered one of the leading lights of American design, with clients ranging from B&B Italia to Calvin Klein.

“The future of furniture design is bridging industrial production with artisanal handmade craftsmanship. There is a growing interest in having character in a piece, a story. People with a $10,000 sofa or a $5,000 lounge chair now want to fill in the blank with some piece of authenticity that goes beyond just branding. This is where artisanally made furniture fits in. To do this, I see a move toward working more with the developing world. I have clients—– Cappellini, B&B Italia, Moroso—– that are looking to create a bridge from handcrafted production from places like India, Peru, and Senegal into first-world distribution. Even though a lot of these companies may not be espousing the mantra “Save the planet,” they are acting in that direction. When a company like Cappellini says they want to make a brand of handcrafted, eco-conscious furniture, that has huge implications. More companies will follow.”


Grant Petersen is the owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works, the Walnut Creek, California, bike manufacturer that for the last decade has spearheaded a back-to-basics retro-future revolution in biking.

“Bike makers are searching for less costly, more consistent ways to make bikes, with the ultimate goal of being able to outsource the labor to any country in the world. The future is injection-molded thermoplastic frames, with integral batteries and rechargers. The bikes will be disposable and recyclable, and they’ll have a Wall-E look about them. But if the goal is to get more people on bikes, I don’t think ‘a better urban bike’ will do it. We need infrastructures—–cities and laws and support—–for the bicycle and against the car. Take away parking spaces for cars, give bikes the right of way at intersections, put car-parking garages a quarter mile from shopping centers, shorten commutes, and create light-rail systems with free bike parking, and people will ride bikes more. City planners, not bike designers, are the ones with influence.”

Consumer Electronics

Iain Roberts coleads the Chicago studio of Ideo, one of the most innovative design companies in the world. Ideo’s product designs range from the first computer mouse for Apple to the SmartGauge digital instrument cluster for Ford hybrid cars.

“We’re seeing a blurring of boundaries in consumer electronics: the physical and digital, the consumer and creator. In the case of products, increasingly everything has a chip inside of it, and that’s enabling us to create richer, more connected experi-ences. We’re seeing experiences that tie together multiple channels—–mobile, Internet, TV—–which allow us to do more with the same product. In some ways, products are becoming as much about service delivery and media consumption as anything else. From a design perspective, this provides us interesting challenges.The dominant element in a lot of the products we are designing is the screen: It’s changed the way we design and now we’re needing to build the product around it. We’re looking to tie the physical and graphical interaction together as closely as possible, paying new attention to materials, surface finishes, and details as well as focusing on sensory aspects such as touch and sound. We’re looking to products to engage all the senses.”

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Chalet in the French alps
An innovative glass addition adds contrast to a timber mountain lodge in France.
February 11, 2016
Aumas' assorted collectables.
Bright colors and vintage furniture are abound in these French homes.
February 11, 2016
Kogan designed a number of the built-in furnishings, including the headboard and cupboard in the master bedroom.The cupboard is deliberately reminiscent of a mid-century stereo speaker. The vintage lounge chairs are by Percival Lafer.
Need to relax? Make your bedroom an oasis from the rest of the house.
February 11, 2016
Modern Florida seaside home with corian island, dornbracht faucet, cees braakman combex chairs and marble knoll table in the kitchen
Read more about Knoll's impressive career here, but in the meantime, explore just a few of her works in these contemporary homes.
February 11, 2016
Modern small box home in Mexico
Letting the warm climate indoors is a common thread through these diverse dwellings.
February 11, 2016
Modern white cabinets under the stairs with skylight above
What could be better than a modest-sized house in a quaintly historic city?
February 11, 2016
dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016