Carl Magnusson | Industrial Designer, Inventor and Founder, CGM Design
How would you define a master of design?
It is a person who can assimilate various design disciplines into a cohesive result.
Who are some of the design icons that you have looked up to throughout your career?
Gilberto Colombo, the engineer of the Maserati chassis; Sven Markelius, an obscure Swedish architect known for his humanistic architecture; and Edward Tufte, the author of “Envisioning Information.”
People like to point out that in spite of Babe Ruth’s success, he also had 1,330 strikeouts in his career. What have you learned from your “strikeouts”?
If we can set aside sports analogies, failures are normal in design. Design is the exploration of the new, therefore there is always risk, and with that comes some failures. But you eventually learn to navigate these risks and increase your success rate.
What most excites you about design today?
Industrial design was founded in the industrial revolution and continues into the now-nascent digital revolution. What I find exciting is the digital ability to accumulate information or data to shape new understandings of the issues that need to be addressed by design. What are the next factors that need to be plugged into the formula of a good design solution? The formula of design is continually adding new factors, such as environmental and ergonomic considerations, which were not present 50 years ago.
What do you see as the future of design?
Design has an ever-increasing role in our society’s survival as it solves ever-more complicated problems that need the inductive and deductive disciplines of design thought. To mature, design needs to embrace science and social behavior further.
Designers today often struggle with making a “personal brand” for themselves. Do you have any advice for them?
A personal brand should be the result or byproduct of good work as you build up recognition, not a goal in itself. Hard work gets the best good work out of you.
Do you have any advice for fledgling designers?
Apprentice with the best. Learn to draw by hand before you draw through CAD. Make or repair things by hand so you understand how things work, and learn first-hand about materials and their properties so you can specify what works. Stay close to simple realities of the sciences.
What was the worst job you ever had?
Working in a city planning office in Southern Sweden. It was my fault, not theirs; a bad fit of ambitions. I quickly learned that industrial design was more to my calling.
Where’s your favorite place to work?
At home in New York, surrounded by books that know more than I will ever absorb. It is intimidating and inspiring at the same moment.
What stimulates your creativity?
Music by the Baroque masters and driving my old Porsche aimlessly. Both have a certain fluidity that allows the mind to wander around until some magnetic force moves one towards a natural direction.
What’s the one piece of furniture you can’t live without?
My Bantam folding chair/suitcase. I don't really use it but love to be reminded of its brilliance. It personifies my belief that design is function with cultural content.
What is an interior space that really wowed you and affected your perspectives on design?
An igloo. You were sheltered from the wind, surrounded by available light, cold but safe, and humbled by the material: frozen water carved and built by hand, lasting as long as the climate would decide.
What’s your favorite read?