- Helen Armitage
The San Francisco Bay Area has a reputation for innovation and creativity. Its proximity to Silicon Valley gave the city a leading role in the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and several prominent new companies, including Twitter and Instagram, call San Francisco home. The following design firms embody the Bay’s visionary, inventive character with a varied scope of designs including a reimagined Polaroid camera and furniture made from salvaged fire hoses.
Mike and Maaike
A forward-thinking industrial design studio that works both independently and alongside clients, Mike and Maaike is owned by Californian Mike Simonian and Dutch-born Maaike Evers. Mike and Maaike create products across a wide range of disciplines – furniture, technology, packaging and transportation – and have worked with an impressive number of high-profile brands including Google, Xbox and luxury furniture designer Fritz Hansen. Mike and Maaike have achieved particular success with their furniture products, being awarded the 2008 Wallpaper Magazine Design Award for Best Armchair for their Mute chair, created for design collective Council. The company’s Windowseat Lounge is an especially impressive creation, blending furniture design with architectural disciplines. Produced for the Haworth Collection, the Windowseat Lounge features ‘walls’ and a ‘ceiling’, lending it a cosy, cocooned feel perfect for both home and public spaces.
Founded in 1999 by Swiss-born Yves Behar, fuseproject is an innovative company intent on creating new product markets while shaking up old ones. With an expert team experienced in all levels of product development, fuseproject designs technology, sports, furniture, lifestyle and fashion products. Behar, who has studied industrial design in Europe and the US and won over 150 awards, works around a specific ethos – products must effectively combine technology and design, be sustainable and have an element of human emotion. The Briggo Coffee Haus is a perfect example of this, combining the remote purchase of coffee with a personal, aesthetic experience. The brainchild of Charles Studor, founder and chief technology officer at coffee connoisseurs Briggo, fuseproject made this artisan coffee machine a reality, designing it to look and feel like a traditional coffeehouse, while ensuring the digital ordering system allowed for a customised cup of coffee.
A longstanding global design firm with headquarters in San Francisco, LUNAR was established in 1984 by CEO and senior product strategist Jeff Smith, a skilled designer with many awards under his belt and an active speaker at respected institutions including the Design Management Institute and Industrial Designers of America. LUNAR’s creative team of designers and engineers have created a diverse range of products including Piamo, which makes the perfect espresso in just 30 seconds, and a product range for Green Toys, who make children’s toys that are made from recycled materials and are recyclable themselves. Always looking for new ways to innovate existing products, LUNAR came up with the Belle-V ice cream scoop, backed by the vision of creating a select collection of outstanding kitchen tools. LUNAR designed, tested and refined dozens of ice cream scoop prototypes, eventually optimising the asymmetric handle and refining the geometry of the angled scoop head with a spade-shaped edge.
Pablo Designs, founded in 1993 by Venezuelan-born and American-educated industrial designer Pablo Pardo, is one of the USA’s leading contemporary lighting design companies. Led by a design principle centred on simplicity and utility, Pablo Designs aims to create lighting solutions that provide for a deeper connection between object, user and space resulting in a product range that is both timeless yet modern, stylish yet functional. The Circa range – available in table, wall and floor models – is a revolutionary new lighting system that combines the role of task lamp and traditional shaded lamp, while providing atmospheric, balanced lighting. Circa features a flat-panel moveable LED disc, which allows it to be placed in a number of positions, and a handy USB charging port for mobile devices.
Lenart Studios are a team of talented and dedicated designers and strategists with a passion for making products that make people happy. Overseen by Chris Lenart, a former associate partner at leading independent design consultancy Pentagram, the studio’s varied client list includes Nike, Samsung and Belkin. The company’s keen eye for inventive, state-of-the-art design has led to many award successes. In 2009 Lenart Studios achieved a double win at the Chicago Athenaeum Good Design Awards, which recognise and celebrate leading consumer design products from across the world. The studio was awarded in the technology category for the Motion J3400, a hard-wearing tablet PC for outdoor use, and in the furniture category for the Ring Coffee Table, a bright and eye-catching experimental design made using cutting-edge laser sintering technology.
Experts in physical and digital product design, Ammunition was set up in 2007 by partners Robert Brunner, Matt Rolandson and Brett Wickens. The company offers a range of services including brand identity, user experience and graphic design, always seeking to create products and experiences that establish an emotional connection with users. Ammunition recently designed the Polaroid C3, a new take on the traditional Polaroid camera designed for a young, active consumer. The 35mm cube-shaped cameras can be stacked on surfaces like helmets and skateboards by attached magnets for multi-angle HD videos and photos and was named by men’s magazine GQ as one of the most beautiful tech designs at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show held annually in Las Vegas. Ammunition are also behind the Beats HeartBeats headphones, designed in collaboration with Lady Gaga, which blend audio product and fashion accessory.
One & Co
One & Co is made up of a talented team of international designers and engineers overseen by company principals Jonah Becker, Claude Zellweger and Scott Croyle. United by a passion for design that combines functionality, creativity and beauty, One & Co look to current cultural trends to create lifestyle products across fashion, sports, technology and the medical industry. One of the company’s striking designs is the geometric, sculpture-like Sequence bowl, which was produced by rapid manufacturing pioneers MGX. Sequence debuted alongside another One & Co design – the Con_sequence lamp – as part of an MGX collection launched at the 2007 Milan Salone del Mobile, an international home furnishings expo, before going on to win a 2008 Chicago Athenaeum Good Design Award.
New Deal Design
Brains, bravery and magic. That is the ethos behind New Deal Design, a creative agency and the winner of the 2013 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards in Product Design, which recognises outstanding and exemplary design firms. The small but elite team are overseen by president and principal designer Gadi Amit, who in 2010 was pronounced a ‘master of design’ by business magazine Fast Company. The New Deal Design creatives teamed up with Lytro, founded by light-field photography researcher Ren Ng, to create the world’s first light-field camera. The Lytro, based on Ng’s doctoral thesis at Stanford University, allows users to focus images after a picture has been taken. The camera comes in a range of eye-catching colours and is compact, streamlined and easy to use, making it perfect for both professional photographers and snap-happy tourists.
Aidlin Darling Design
Aidlin Darling Design, a fellow 2013 winner of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards in Interior Design, are a multidisciplinary design firm overseen by founders and partners Joshua Aidlin and David Darling. Tailoring each project to the specific needs of the client and space in question, Aidlin Darling works across the disciplines of commercial and residential architecture and furniture, landscape and interior design. The company recently designed the interiors of San Francisco’s 355 11th Street, a formerly derelict industrial warehouse turned green building that now features a smart upstairs office space and a lower floor contemporary restaurant. Aidlin Darling’s furniture designs includes the Kaplan Table, a beautifully crafted table made of Honduran mahogany. The Kaplan Table was featured in the New West Coast Design 2 exhibition of Californian contemporary design at San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Design.
Oxgut Hose Co
Based in the small city of Emeryville just outside San Francisco is the Oxgut Hose Co, an up-and-coming artisan design firm using fire hoses salvaged from US fire departments to create an unusual yet beautiful range of luxury indoor and outdoor furniture and accessories. Upon finding a mass of retired fire hoses destined for landfill, company founder LauraLe Wunsch had the ingenious idea of transforming the versatile and hardy material into exclusive products with the help of a collective of local designers. The Shanes Lounger is just one of these charming, recycled products. Made from one continuous roll of fire hose, the comfortable lounger is handcrafted in the US and features a bronze frame and two wheels for easy movability. The eclectic Oxgut Hose Co product range also includes everything from rugs and doormats to chairs and iPad sleeves, and even wine carriers and slippers.