Author Archives: Kaycee

Todd Bracher Explains His Design Philosophy at NeoCon

As the NeoCon 2014 keynote speaker, Todd Bracher explained reduction as being central to his design philosophy. “How can we take away everything except for what we need? Singularity is the way we communicate truth.”

Drawing on examples from martial arts, chess and soccer, Bracher explained how irreducible complexity reveals truthful solutions – an absolute result informed by the context.

His beautifully simple creations reflect his philosophy and design process. A lamp inspired by the phases of the moon. A vase inspired by the sensuality and beauty of the neck. A chandelier that takes cues from a butterfly, just gravity creating the shape.

Shaw Contract a Group collaborated with Bracher in 2011 to design a carpet tile that answers the question: What does music look like? Hear Bracher explain The Music Project during his keynote presentation.

Todd Bracher Keynote Speech at NeoCon 2014 from Shaw Contract Group on Vimeo.

With equal parts humility and humor, Bracher shared further examples
of his work:

On the Tod table, designed to live next to other furniture and complement it like a beauty mark does on the face, Bracher said, “Cindy Crawford, she is ok, but it’s her beauty mark makes her special.”


The Fulfillment Clock, a timepiece to be worn around the neck resting over the heart, features a transparent face which allows users to read the clock from either side. “You can watch time – winding down or winding up, depending on if you glass is half empty or half full.”

Fulfillment Clock TB

A cork jacket made for the Wallpaper Handmade Collaboration offered Bracher the opportunity to work with a fascinating new material that he described as unlike wood or fabric and with a life of its own. “The goal was to create upholstery for the body. And is incredibly hot to wear.”

Cork jacket TB

When asked to design a Munny, a child’s vinyl robot for a New York Based event, Bracher tied it to the back of a bicycle and rode with it dragging along the ground across Manhattan. “Let NYC make the design.”

Munny NYC TB

Two of Bracher’s designs (shown above) won 2014 Best of NeoCon awards which were announced at the same time as his keynote presentations: Gold for his work with 3M on VESSEL by 3M + Todd Bracher and Gold for his collaboration with HBF on The Triscape Collection.

3M and Todd Bracher

Best of NeoCon Gold for VESSEL by 3M + Todd Bracher

HBF and Todd Bracher

Best of NeoCon Gold for The Triscape Collection by Todd Bracher + HBF

But instead of ending with a nod to his newly acquired accolades, Bracher ended his presentation with a final thought the importance of reduction, sharing a story about Katsushika Hokusai, who spent a lifetime drawing images of Mount Fuji. In an interview, Hokusai explained that at 40 years old, it took him 36 lines to draw Mount Fuji, at 50 years old he drew it in 10 lines and by 60 years old, just 8 lines. When asked if he goal was to live to 100 and draw it in one line he responded, “no, it is to live to 120 and say it all in a single point.”

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Shaw Contract Group Design is…Award Global Judging

The ellipsis, signifying the omission from a sentence, holds an important significance to our award name. The 356 projects entered into the competition complete the meaning of what design is.

Last week, five industry leaders took this one step further.  Taking time from busy schedules and pressing deadlines, the global jurors reviewed our 41 market award winners and not only defined what design is, but what the best design is.


2014 Design is…Award Global Judges

Defining what “best” means, and selecting the projects that do this most successfully is a big task, and one taken quite seriously by our judges.  Through hours of discussion and contemplation it became clear that there is not just one way to define the best design, though a few themes came up repeatedly: consistency, risk and restraint, to name a few.


Good design can define a brand, it can create a culture, and define how people work and interact. The same design applied to two different spaces could be successful for one, and not for the other. Too much design can be overboard, not enough can be mundane, and the mix can be different depending on the project.



Pausing to think about these concepts and evaluate the work of others opens up opportunity improve one’s own work, to gain insight into how as a design community, we can improve lives around us. Taking a critical eye to the 41 amazing projects represented resulted in lessons learned for all, including the Shaw Contract Group team.



We look forward to announcing the global winners this fall. In the meantime, check out our 40 market award winners and vote for your favorite. A People’s Choice Award will be named along with our global winners this fall.

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Jason McLennan Celebrates Real Beauty at the International Living Future Institute Conference

Coming from an early mindset that humanity only creates ugliness, International Living Future Institute CEO, Jason McLennan, shared that dysfunctional beauty is seeing it as everything or nothing. Now, he believes that what that is essential manifests in true beauty. True beauty is that which supports life, and our guide is all around us. The 200 registered Living Building Challenge projects are not only beautiful, but are changing perceptions of what is possible.

Ensuring human safety and wellness, only Declare registered products that are red-list compliant can be specified in Living Building projects. Shaw Contract Group offers more than 100 products that fall into this category and are used in many of the world’s most sustainable buildings.

DPR Construction

DPR Construction’s Phoenix Regional Office by SmithGroup JJR is a Living Building Challenge-certified project and marked as the “net-zero energy workplace of the future.” It features Shaw Contract Group Overlay tile and Synthesis IV carpet.

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Hippo Sweat Makes Good Sunblock and Other Lessons from Biomimicry

ILFI_Sharks paitbrushAuthor and naturalist Jay Harmon explores biomimicry and how nature is inspiring radical innovation. Sharing ideas from his latest book, The Shark’s Paintbrush, at the International Living Future Institute conference, Harmon gives examples of how mimicking nature may provide solutions to the unsustainable actions of the industrial revolution.

A tiny bug that dehydrates to the point where they are 3% or less water, only to rehydrate, forage, and reproduce provides clues for a way to eliminate the need for refrigeration of vaccinations.

Glass with UV reflection properties similar to a spider web could prevent birds from an untimely demise from flying into buildings.

A film that mimics shark skin offers an antiseptic solution for healthcare environments.

ILFI_Sharks paitbrush 4

Sharklet Technologies (left) creates nontoxic, chemical-free surfaces that greatly inhibit the survival and transfer of bacteria that cause healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). ARNOLD GLAS has created products like ORNILUX glass (right), which uses inspiration from spiders’ UV reflective strands of silk in their webs to create glass that birds will not fly into.

Mimicking the biological cycle of nature, Shaw Contract Group cradle to cradle certified carpet is designed to be recycled in infinite loops, eliminating the concept of waste. We look forward to applying other lessons from nature in the continued innovation and sustainability of our products.

Images:,, Barnes&Noble

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David Rockwell Drew on Personal TedTalk Experience to Design the Next Chapter Theater for TED2014

TED celebrated its 30th anniversary by moving the annual TED Conference from Long Beach to a temporary theater installed within the Vancouver Convention Center.  Designed by David Rockwell of The Rockwell Group, The Next Chapter Theater is a portable 1,200-seat theater that was designed to enhance the speaker and audience experience, and will be reinstalled in the years ahead.

“I have spoken [at TED] and have had that experience of: your talk is influenced by how you feel in the room. The environment affects how the talk evolves,” says Rockwell.

David Rockwell’s talk at TED2002 on the memorial at Ground Zero influenced his design of The Next Chapter Theater.

The bowl of the theater is steeply raked to ensure that in a room of 1,200, the farthest distance from the speaker is a mere 80 feet, helping the speaker better see and feel the audience’s reactions and allowing audience members to immerse themselves more deeply in the talks.  By comparison, Hollywood’s Ford Amphitheater, which is lauded for its intimacy, has a 96-foot distance from the farthest seat to the stage.

“TED is a combination of theater and festival,” says Rockwell, “…we’re creating from scratch a theater designed around a talk. [It’s] like going back to the roots of theater. No one’s done a theater solely based on a talk.”

The intimate TED2014 theater was built in just under a week and was constructed from 600 modular boxes and flooring and furniture donations from Shaw Hospitality Group and Steelcase.  The carpet is from Shaw Hospitality Group’s Layered Luxe collection, which was also designed in collaboration from Rockwell.

Read more about the construction of the TED2014 Next Chapter Theater here.

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