10 Famous Designers Give Their Advice to Industry Up-and-Comers

10 Famous Designers Give Their Advice to Industry Up-and-Comers

By Dwell
We asked Patricia Urquiola, Gaetano Pesce, Hella Jongerius, and other heavyweights in the industry to share their wisdom for young designers.

We've gathered insights from 10 of the industry's seasoned pros, including Gaetano Pesce, the Italian architect and designer, as well as Sofie Christensen Egelund, co-owner of Danish design company Vipp. Scroll below for a quick rundown of everyone's best advice.

Patricia Urquiola

The Spanish architect and designer was recently awarded "Designer of the Decade" by numerous publications. Her new Gogan sofa for Moroso takes its name from a Japanese term for time-and water-worn stones.

"First‚ never listen too much. I have two daughters‚ and naturally I tell them my point of view‚ but as you grow‚ you don’t have to listen to Papa and Mama anymore. In life and in design it’s the same. I love the word ‘culture.’ It represents your connection to the place where you live and your place within society. You have to understand how to speak from that position‚ how to announce it. Our desires are influenced by the dystopias that surround us. Technology and craft give us tools to find more possibilities for the future."

Gaetano Pesce 

The Italian architect and pioneer in design shares his ideas on the future of design. Pesce recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his still-provocative Up5 chair & Up6 ottoman with a special edition by B&B Italia.

"I don’t see any other possibility but for designers to abandon the ‘decorativism’ with which they are currently concerned. The future of design will be content. When an object‚ in addition to practical values‚ expresses transcendental values‚ such as philosophical‚ religious‚ political ones‚ it then becomes art. Time constantly proposes new values that will be expressed through art‚ poetry‚ music‚ architecture‚ and so on. The use of different disciplines helps one avoid falling into a routine. Moreover‚ creativity has no barriers."

Lora Appleton 

Appleton is a founder of both the Female Design Council and the acclaimed New York City–based studio kinder MODERN, a gallery showcasing children's design of the 20th century and modern pieces. Here, she shares her thoughts on evolving as an artist and her memories of a favorite vintage find that she later sold to the Brooklyn Museum.

"I am going into my sixth year of kinder MODERN. In that time, I have had to keep shifting what we're doing, and how we're doing it because there's so much change in the industry. I think we should all try to come at design from different angles so that we can harness what we do best, and why we do it, even as the landscape changes. Learning more about ourselves and putting that back into the work—that's important. One vintage find was really special to me: a Ko Verzuu circular chalkboard from the 30s-era ADO workshop, a group that taught disadvantaged adults in The Netherlands. It was pretty incredible. I found that piece and then sold it to the Brooklyn Museum for their permanent collection. It was a really proud moment."

Hella Jongerius 

The Dutch industrial designer talks about authenticity and getting your voice heard. In her recent work, Jongerius used seven types of jacquard weaves to create the Vlinder sofa and Bovist pouf for Vitra‚ where she is the art director for colors and materials.

"I think it’s very important that your first body of work takes‚ let’s say‚ five years. It takes a while to build your own vocabulary and to find your own way. What are you addressing? Come up with a topic and build a collection of objects that shows the world what you stand for. Don’t just take it out of a book. It’s a matter of being authentic in your way of bringing the world something that we need—and not just another style. If you spend five years on a collection‚ and show it around‚ the industry will see you. You don’t have to reach out."

Marcel Wanders 

The Dutch designer and art director speaks about patience and persistence. Wanders’s latest work for Moooi‚ the company he cofounded‚ is the highly customizable—and presumably very friendly—BFF Sofa.

"Remember, beauty is never absolute. It’s always relative. Things are beautiful in relation to other things‚ so the study of beauty is the study of relationships. Work hard and be super honest. There’s no reason to hurry. You can’t have results now if you want results in the future. You don’t want to burn too fast. Don’t peak too early. Be slow. And don’t die. Then I can’t help you. You have to build‚ build‚ build‚ build. You have to become great. That takes time. There’s an endless amount of time in front of you‚ and you will be amazing!"

Egg Collective

The New York-based design firm Egg Collective was established in 2011 by Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie. Here, the trio offer wisdom for women trying to break into the industry and relate to the importance of community in their work.

"We were warned to think twice before going into business with our friends prior to starting the company. It was probably sound advice for most but hasn’t proven to be an issue for our partnership or friendship. We name every piece that we create after a family member or friend. It’s a small way of recognizing that we wouldn’t be where we are, or who we are, without the support of the people around us. One of our newest designs, the Emmy sofa for Design Within Reach, is named after Stephanie's cousin. For new women trying to break into the industry, trust in yourself, stand up for your ideas, vision and values. Also, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’—it is a powerful word."

Konstantin Grcic 

The German industrial designer speaks of endurance and finding ones place within the industry. Last spring Grcic introduced Noctambule (Night Owl)‚ a light for Flos made from customizable arrangements of handblown glass cylinders.

"Design is hard work. The idea sketched on a napkin that becomes a great product design? It doesn’t work like that. Design doesn’t come easy‚ but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to enjoy it. You need endurance. Don’t give in too quickly. I think I can say that now after so many years in practice. Also‚ it’s very important for designers to see themselves as part of an industry that has a culture—and not just as self-made entrepreneurs. Designers within the industry help companies develop smarter ways of doing things."

Sofie Christensen Egelund 

Below, Egelund spills her secret sauce for longevity in an industry of fading designs. She recently expanded Vipp‚ the company founded by her grandfather‚ into lighting‚ furnishings (including the VIPP451 chair)‚ and‚ with the new VippHotel in Denmark‚ architecture.

"Being a designer or a manufacturer comes with a responsibility. I dream of a world with fewer but better products‚ where people favor staying power over fading trends. In order to have longevity‚ you have to have vision and purpose. That is the secret sauce. Form follows function. We are believers‚ almost religiously‚ that utility can and should be elegant. Finally‚ please make sure you have read Dieter Rams’s ‘10 Principles of Good Design’ before you start your endeavor."


Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi draw on classic Danish craftsmanship and Italian architecture in their furniture designs. Here, the couple offer their philosophy for navigating the tough times early in a career.

"You must possess a lot of passion. Design is not a profession: you really need to love it because there’s frustration sometimes, especially in the beginning. It’s very much about experimenting with your own hands; this is also what we learned from the Scandinavian tradition—to start in the workshop with real materials, understanding the honesty of the construction. Other times it is about curiosity; not just contemporary images, but curiosity about history, too."

Piero Lissoni 

The Italian architect and designer of contemporary furniture discusses what it takes to be a designer. Lissoni recently designed the Grasshopper table‚ with its insect-like legs‚ as part of a 2019 collection for Knoll.

"To be a designer means you have to be an engineer‚ a chemist‚ a mathematician‚ a scientist‚ a painter‚ a poet‚ a worker‚ a carpenter. You need to know many different approaches. First‚ you need discipline. Second‚ you need the capacity to be a hard worker. When you draw‚ draw by yourself‚ by hand‚ and not with a computer. You need a lot of passion. It’s not a joke. Last but not least‚ it’s full of responsibilities. We are not artists‚ we are designers. That’s different."


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