My top 5 designers of all time

My business partner recently asked me who were my five favorite designers of all time. We were arguing about the architecture of Shard and some other ‘so called’ great architectural buildings. He argued the egos of most architects or designers where often much greater than the true heritage of their work. Very little if any of design work stand the test of time and become truly iconic design pieces. This may be true.

However, I am not interested in the name-dropping when it comes to great design and architecture. The new chair or vase from which-ever-designer has very little value for me. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate beautiful design as much as any other visually conscious person, but for me design items without greater cultural or commercial context are not interesting.

I get really excited when a building changes the image of a city or reinvigorates an area, or when a piece of design changes the way people think about certain product or category. I love designers and architects that freely mix influences and create commercial spaces that start new trends and define new experiences. So here is my favorite five, in no particular order:

Philippe Stark ( )

The really famous always get mocked for being too commercial, but truth is he has actually created a lot of design that will not only live but be remembered for the right reasons, for changing a perception of an industry or a category. Starck designed Delano Hotel in Miami Beach ( ) and changed the expectations of what a luxury hotel should be. And that was in 1995! His design is on South Beach is still going strong. Or Sanderson Hotel in London (2000) ( ), after 12 years not much has changed, except the perception of a luxury hotel.

Coco Chanel

20th century fashion icon. She created modern and practical, yet luxurious designs for women. I admire a designer who can take influences from different categories and turn conventions into something new. She used jersey, typically used for men’s underwear, and created sporty casual clothes. She took inspiration from the nautical pursuits and other sporting activities and freed the female silhouette from corset. She redefined fashionable woman and invented suntan as a sign of affluence and privilege.

Sir Jonathan Ive

I trust everyone is familiar with his work for Apple. He, if anyone on this planet have helped to change a perception of a category and bring beauty and aesthetics where they were never even considered before, computing.

Frank Stephenson

He’s most known for his redesign of Mini in 2001. The rebirth of Mini has lead to many different versions of Mini and the total perception change of small cars. Most people want to show off with the car they drive. The convention was that if you were poor you’d drive a small car, thus everyone mildly successful would want a bigger car. Now you can happily drive a Mini and show off your good taste and success. Mini makes a different kind of lifestyle statement. Moreover, Stephenson has not only worked for BMW Mini but also designed some of those real show-off super cars such as the Maserati MC12 and Ferrari F430.

Herzog & de Meuron ( )

I love the iconic buildings created by the legendary architects. Bird’s Nest in Beijing is one of my favorites. The building proves how a nation or a city can use a building to put itself on the global map.  The building creates a lasting impression and a memory, even if you have never visited the place.

However, my most favorite Herzog & de Meuron building is in Miami. It is the 1111 Lincoln Road parking hall ( ). This spectacular design has become the go-to destination for weddings, fashion shots, high-end business meetings and parties for the jet set. And yes, it also functions as a parking space. If parking hall can have such a positive impact and even generate goodwill and tourist revenue for a city, then there is no excuse to design any unremarkable buildings ever again. Or to get married in a church.