Decoding Design

Architecture and algorithms: the key characteristics of U.S. design

Posting in Architecture

What differentiates U.S. design from that of Europe or Japan? Are American designers more "serious," and others around the globe more "playful"?

Who better to ask about leading trends in American product design today than Brent Dzekcioriuss, director of retail for the respected auction house Phillips de Pury and former director of design at now-defunct design dealer Moss?

The site ArtInfo conducted a Q & A with Dzekcioriuss focused on a just-opened exhibition of design by Japan’s Nendo, London's Faye Toogood, and Stockholm's Humans Since 1982 at Phillips' New York sales boutique known as The Shop. But what I found most fascinating about the interview was his insight on what differentiates U.S. design from that of other nations.

Some nuggets:

- "the American design community is more spread out" than those of the U.K., Japan, or Sweden, he observes. In those nations, albeit much smaller than the U.S., design seems concentrated in larger cities such as London or Tokyo. In the U.S., talent seems to emerge from around the country.

- "I feel a lot of the designers I’m familiar with in the U.S. have an architectural practice as well. Architects always tend to be more serious in their approach — algorithmic," Dzekcioriuss told ArtInfo. "There’s a formula behind it, and some of the other work tends to be more conceptual but less narrative, I would say. I see a lot of mathematics in American work..." In other words, U.S. designers tend to be more serious and even nerdy. Perhaps it's the Silicon Valley influence?

- In terms of global trends, "You see a lot of people adapting casting techniques. They’re manufacturing in their studios. It’s this large interest in empowerment and making your own rather than outsourcing. You see a lot of people finding ways to fabricate in their studios." In other words, the Maker's Movement and craft are very strong and very real phenomena internationally.

- European and Japanese designers tend to be more "playful" and "witty" than American firms, according to Dzekcioriuss. But he lists Snarkitecture -- with an obviously playful and witty name -- as a good example of a U.S. design practice with a deep sense of humor.

Of course, this is all opinion. But it is a very informed and tasteful opinion, developed with a refined curatorial eye. Smart executives looking to recruit designers with certain types of design sensibilities might take his observations to mind when recruiting talent from various nations and firms.

Image: vpickering/Flickr

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure