I met American industrial designer Todd Bracher during Clerkenwell Design Week earlier this year. He was in town to promote his Trea Chair for Humanscale – designed for a younger more mobile workforce and inspired by exoskeleton of a lobster. “An exoskeleton moves in harmony with the living organism it protects,” he said. “By following the cues of this natural design, we arrived at a solution that perfectly responds to the body’s desire to move and recline.” I had to find out more…
We talked about nature, why form should follow function and why mauve is his favourite colour…
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
That’s a tough one for me to answer, it’s like asking me what is the best thing about me. I am sure my closest friends would have a different opinion!
What inspires your work?
Nature and mathematics. In the way that results are truthful, not a designer’s opinion. A tree has a beauty that is a result of the ecosystem and its response to survival, it is not arbitrary, not cosmetic, it is truthful. That for me is endlessly inspiring.
Talk me through your design and making process.
We work to define the ‘ecosystem’ around the project, defining all aspects from use to limitations, cost, and even psychology. Once the system is defined, the result is the solution. It is not drawn or the result of a designer’s opinion, it is evolved and derived from a series of tight parameters.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
The research. This enlightens us to the world around us. Each solution has a unique scenario that drives the results. When you consider the anthropology of what we do, it’s fascinating.
What’s your favourite tool and why?
Experts. I talk with physicists and scientists regularly. They can expose what is truthful about how a material, or how light behaves when designing a lamp. It educates me each time and allows me to see the world in a new way.
Tell me how you came to design the Trea chair for Humanscale.
It was about finding a natural solution for something so simple as sitting. We wanted a bit of a recline to a simple looking chair, as after all your body moves and the chair must accommodate that. Typically however, chairs that articulate are complex looking and visually dominating. I wanted to provide an alternative to that with a simple in appearance result, without however compromising any of the performance one would expect in a more complex chair.
What is special about the solution you came up with?
How simple it looks. It’s light, low cost and works perfectly. There is a lot of magic to make that happen, which is a credit to the engineering team. In the end, the user does not care how complex the chair is. They care about work, comfort and wellbeing. It is our job to provide all of that in a package that is invisible to the user.
Tell me about a really good day and a really bad day in the life or Todd Bracher.
Good days are when we are learning. Bad is when we are not.
What defines good design?
For me the best design is design that blindly follows a function – a function is also looking appropriate in a space, and design which is not about a designer’s opinion – opinions can be wrong, the truth cannot.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Find your voice and method. It will not be found on blogs or in the media. It will only be found with careful and considered exploration.
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?
Mauve – it is the rarest colour in the natural world.
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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