Talent-Scouting Design Guru Jerry Helling Picks the Most Promising New Faces at ICFF
Photographer Matthu Placek took to the streets of Manhattan to shoot design authority Jerry Hellings’s selection of bright young things and their carefully crafted prototypes at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF). President of cutting-edge design firm Bernhardt Design, Helling has been fostering the talents of recent graduates of US design schools for nearly half a decade as part of his ICFF Studio initiative. "Young designers need a voice and a platform," explains Helling. “There’s so much noise in the world that you really do need to draw attention to talented individuals.” Helling’s protégés cover a wide range of disciplines, from Taylor Pemberton’s leather goods company Cavalier, to the bold colors and cutting lines of recent Art College Center of Design, Pasadena, graduate Ini Archibong. While some are still students, like Steve Oh, who presented his table and chair combo A Collection, others such as Chris Adamick now teach and pass on the expertise they have learned from their mentor. Here Helling explains why the program is so crucial, and what he looks for when building his team.
Where did the idea for your ICFF Studio come from?
There is no support for designers in the USA. We don’t have the British Design Council; we don’t have 100% Norway or Design Helsinki. There is no network in the USA for graduates or to connect people in the industry. When you graduate you are totally alone. ICFF Studio aims to build that network and introduce young designers to each other and to the rest of the world.
How do you select designers to be part of ICFF Studio?
There obviously has to be talent, but it is also completely about the individual. The attitude of a designer is really important, their want to explore and develop.
How much guidance do you give?
We work together through the whole process to create something. I encourage the designers to really expand their ideas; something may start life as a table, but in actual fact the design is more suited to a chair. It’s about the evolution of something.
What advice would you give to anyone considering going to design school?
Focus just as much on one’s thinking as one’s work. These days you need to be a storyteller. Design isn’t like art, which people acquire because they like. Design is intended for a function, and the user needs to understand that function.