— OR —
Read a bit about our selection...
For three years, we’ve been asking everyone featured in the Dwell 24, our annual roundup of exceptional emerging designers, to reply to a Proust Questionnaire–style survey about their lives and work. And this year, for the first time, none of them chose the dictum "less is more" as a personal credo. San Francisco designer Viviana Matsuda went so far as to call out minimalism generally: "I think it’s very arrogant and has notes of classism." At Dwell, we don’t wholly agree. Taken as a style signifying the privilege to have a fashionably empty space, it is certainly, well, hollow. But we like to believe subtraction has merits that transcend trends.
That said, we love the provocation in Matsuda’s statement. It has echoes in the work of many of the designers in this year’s group. Several told us about how they spent time during periods of lockdown and isolation by going deeper into their practice, honing ideas, and focusing on materials or craft rather than responding to external influences. That has resulted in work that feels personal—"That bench is me," says North Carolina designer Esi Hutchinson of one of her recent projects—and that short-circuits many of the cyclical design trends we usually see.
As always, we aim to spotlight designers from many different backgrounds working in a variety of media and in a multitude of locations and contexts, but as we put together the list, some common threads surfaced. Many are working with found or upcycled materials, or otherwise reckoning with waste in the furniture and textile industries. "We’re desire creators—and are probably very responsible for the amount of waste that society produces," says Brooklyn designer Sean Kim. Others have looked to textiles as a medium for experimentation. Take Singapore designer Tiffany Loy, whose pieces slink down walls and otherwise unravel the rectilinearity of the loom, or New Yorker Liam Lee’s surreal squiggles built up over unnaturally vivid piles, or Brazilian Alex Rocca, who, armed with a tufting gun and a repertoire of oblique film references, makes satisfyingly textured wall hangings.
Above all, as we put together the first Dwell 24 reflecting a transition from lockdowns toward cautiously venturing out, we saw a variety that defies pre-pandemic design trends in favor of individual obsessions. And if this period emboldens us to, like Matsuda, challenge orthodoxies about what our homes should look like—and to listen to designers who have spent this time refining their distinct voices—we can’t think of a better way for us all to emerge.
Get the Pro Newsletter
What’s new in the design world? Stay up to date with our essential dispatches for design professionals.