how do "name" designers become famous?

insert your own “designer”

of course a good designer is not a necessarily a famous designer and vice versa, but…

what do these people do that gets them publicity? self promotional skills? is it the one big break of a project where they get to go all out? pretentious designs in art galleries? careful image control and PR? an unusual name seems to help. why are yves behar, karim rashid, philip starck etc. being interviewed in magazines when that apple guy is quiet as a mouse and everyone thinks that jobs draws up the designs?

I do think the work has to be somewhat decent first and then there’s a lot of promotion and PR releases and entering competitions. Spending money at PR, making connections with editors and publications helps too. Paying for ads, etc…Yes odd names do seem to help. I do think these guys spend money on advertising though. Wonder how they afford it and still remain profitable…maybe they’re not really that profitable?

I think if you look at most of the well known designers, a common thread of simplicity, iconic form work (mostly ripped from modern sculptors), clean silhouettes and bold use of color and/or material runs through a lot of their work.

Not that those things will make you famous, but it seems like a pretty big commonality.

Like in sports, being ‘signed’ to a brand name makes a big difference. Another key is innovating in terms of process or design criticism (ie. get published!)

One thing I’ve noticed is that there are few to no celebrity designers who are generalists (ie. User Experience Designers.) Perhaps this is where Steve Jobs shines over Johnny Ives.

I might not understand (translate) your argument correctly.

But I for one think, that Phillippe Starck started off with creation of “experiences” i.e. shops and restaurants and that these origines
still show in his creations for home interiours foremost bathroom, showers etc.

The aspect of iconic form and colour holds true for his works as well. Even for himself, like it does with so mony others.

How can Colani wear a white woolen pullover during summer? I don´t know.
But he is obliged too.

All the best

Yours mo-i

Starck spends at least 50% of his work time on PR - if he didn’t he probably wouldn’t be as famous as he is.

Excellent design plays a role but still there needs to be some sort of promotion. One of my college professors participates in many competitions, usually wins them, but since he doesn’t really cared about making himself famous, well, that’s where he is. Big magazines don’t keep going after him, he doesn’t get exposed on websites nor anything. He is a simple person who just enjoys designing.

Philippe Starck started off with big contracts sent to him by the French government and French design association. They all then promoted the hell out of him. He learned well though and now doesn’t need anyone’s help staying where he is.

Karim Rashid promoted himself. From what I’ve seen, he is full of ideas, optimism and drive. He gets his clients excited and tosses enough ideas at them that something will usually stick. After he got his contract with Umbra, the media embraced him too. He’s interesting to look at and talk to. Never vanilla.

As others suggested, you can’t be star designing anything complicated (unless you work for Apple). All of the “big names” are in furniture and housewares. Simple stuff that a good design should be able to bang out a fast pace.

PR skills aside (not to belittle them clearly it’s vital) look at the product categories the ‘names’ work in.
High fashion, trendy - splashy.
Easy for the press to write about and put on the cover, makes self-promotion all the easier.
Also, all of these these are possible to do (starting off) as a one-man operation, not that it’s easy, $hitloads of competition - look at Designboom.

A huge factor. The press needs new things to write about or they won’t have jobs. Again, look at the apparel business. Every season designers flood the runways with outrageous, and often totally impractical, looks. They also do lines that are more mainstream, but what fills the pages of the fashion magazines?

Similarly, the design, business and popular press focus on the most obviously different, whether good or questionable. (I’m being charitable here.) For a recent example, look at Chris Bangle. He’s probably had more press than all other current car designers combined. Do or direct controversial (charity again) work, talk ad nauseam about how you’re changing a company, and perhaps the whole world of car design and be a showman. Whether or not you like his work, Bangle gives good interview.

Most other designers have been politely quiet, though a few comments like the Z4 “looks like it was designed with a machete.” and describing the new One-series, “God, what a shit-ugly car!” have been quoted. Meanwhile, Henrik Fisker designed Aston Martins that receive almost universal accolades from his peers as being perhaps the most beautiful cars on the market, yet is virtually unknown outside of the industry.

K-Rash looks like the public’s stereotype of an artsy-fartsy wacko designer and gets TV interviews and pages of press, not to mention a lucrative Target contract. Ives, for the most part, flies under the radar and just keeps doing outstanding work. BTW, he drives a DB9. Or take a guy like Syd Mead who’s about as normal looking and unpretentious as they come. Who, outside of the business, has heard of him?

To sum up, if you want to be a famous, or infamous, designer, be flamboyant, be controversial and be visible at every opportunity. If you do the press a favor by making their jobs easier, they’ll do you a favor by making you famous. And if you can afford it, hire a PR firm. Raymond Lowey hired Betty Reese on the condition that she get his face on the cover of Time magazine within one year. She succeeded. Of course the accent didn’t hurt. It seldom does.

I just came back from UX Week, and the keynotes were by CEO’s, critics and futurists like Don Norman and Bruce Sterling. That says something. These are the ‘names’ in my world.

Why do we know them and not other designers? I think it is a good question. I am sure the answer is complicated, but if one wants to become know in design I think that you have to start by contributing something on par with Newson’s 021, Rashid’s Arianna ice bucket, Starck’s Jim Nature portable TV, Behar’s mini-motion watch, Ive’s imac.

Maybe it is 50% design and 50% PR? However you decide to divide the percentages I believe that the hardest and most relevant part is making the contribution.

I don’t care how good you are at PR, you’ll never get your forklift design on the cover of anything that can launch you to ‘name’ status…

I dunno…a guitar made it to the cover of Business Week.

It’s all in the Name… your name just has to have that certain ring to it and people will immediately remember and yeah… just a guess :stuck_out_tongue:

While we’re at it, are we sure all those names are real? Or are they “artist names” similar to the entertainment industry? And could we “crack the code” to what name would increase the probability of fame? “Design” an ultimate designer alias if you will. 2 syllables in the last name seems to be common, with a french ring to it.

zippyflounder is de sntiz lol

Call me jaded, but I also think having a disposable income / financial backers (i.e. someone else is paying the bills) goes a LONG way in setting yourself up to do the work (or lack there of, keeping a studio afloat without substantial income coming in) that is needed to get to that point.

I also believe PR goes way beyond whatever they teach you in school. I found it interesting watching FuseProject explode in the design world without having ever produced something that was truly ubiquitous. As a matter of fact, when they first started hitting his stride, they had very little actually produced (a mini concept, a troublesome but attractive Birki project, a perfume bottle that I don’t believe was made…). Yet, if you went to his URL, it was fabulous. Looked like he was rocking out, the graphics were great - clean, minimal, magazine like.

I’ll point to a certain younger brother of a very attractive female celebrity from a Spanish speaking country that directly borders the USA. His work is heavy handed and derivative at best (being nice). Yet, his sister was able to connect him to celebrity’s that touted him as talented. He did a series of minor one-off’s, and now has a line at Target. How this happens… I have no idea.

I have had the good fortune to have worked with a number of big name designers in a variety of disciplines and have really had mixed experiences. I’m happy to say that the most successful of them (in terms of maintaining relevance to the field, overall financial compensation, respect in their industry) with whom I’m still working with is an incredibly down to earth guy who didn’t attain his success through an absurd level of PR like K.Rash, Stark or Behar has. He plugged along, producing quality, research / material driven products that have acted as benchmarks in their respective categories.

the old addage “its not what you know its who you know” is still a valid one, and perception of talent is more important than its reality. Lets face it, much of the time saying “its a XXXX” is more important than any real quality to some of the buying public.

You also need a script signature

Two things:

  1. Branding strategy
  2. Excellent publicist (well connected)