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Best of Launch Pad at WantedDesign Manhattan 2023

Best of Launch Pad at WantedDesign Manhattan 2023

Design Milk, along with Clever, were the official media partners for the WantedDesign Manhattan Launch Pad 2023 platform, sponsored by American Standard, and we’re happy to share the winners: Good Growing for Furniture/Home Accessories and Studio Waah for Lighting. The winners were selected by a jury led by Clever podcast host Amy Devers that included: Giulio Cappellini, Founder, Cappellini; Andrea Cesarman, Co-founder, Design Week Mexico; Jerry Helling, President and Creative Director, Bernhardt Design; Jean-Jacque L’hénaff, Leader, LIXIL Global Designs AMERICAS; Jennifer Olshin, Founding Director and Partner, Friedman Benda; and Kia Weatherspoon, President and Founder, Determined by Design.

After Odile and Claire, co-founders of WantedDesign reviewed the 130 Launch Pad applications to only select about 60 designers to be part of the show in May, Amy and the industry pros reviewed a pre-selection of about 20 designers to finally pick the 6 finalists who would be on stage to present their projects live in from of an audience of over 100 designers, manufacturers, design lovers.

The Emerging Designers Showcase served as the final Launch Pad presentation. Amy Devers moderated the 75-min fast pace presentation. Each of the presenters, our 6 finalists got on stage and had 4 minutes each to present before the industry pros and the audience, before listening to the pros feedback, comments and answering questions.

The Emerging Designers Showcase is always the most attended session of our Talks program, standing room only! Amy pushes the jury, the industry pros, to be quick and keep their comments lively and entertaining. “This year’s Emerging Designers Showcase was alive and electric! The Emerging Designers presented exceptional projects and the Industry Pros were super lively and insightful with their feedback. It was so fun!“, recalls Amy.

Each of the Industry pros have a very different background and is looking for different qualities when it comes to fresh design or working with emerging talent. While Andrea Cesarman is interested in “Design that provokes thought or emotions, that challenges with a simple idea. Smart materials, and consideration of the impact it will have out in the world“, Kia Weatherspoon is curious about the “humanity” aspect of every project.

Perspectives that have been overlooked and marginalized or offer entirely new, cutting-edge paradigms” is what Jennifer Olshin is searching for, and Jean-Jacques L’henaff wants to see “Thought provoking ideas and fresh design. A sneak peak into what’s to come.

Giulio Cappellini has been part of the Launch Pad jury since we launched the program 10 years ago. His generosity and valuable constructive feedbacks are always straight to the point. This year Giulio was seduced by the creativity of our two winners because “it was not so much about the products but it was about ideas” and how to push them forward. “We don’t need a new chair, we need ideas that challenge us”, said Giulio during the jury deliberation.

When Amy asked Jerry Helling what is was looking for, he answered: “A person or product that has a new take on something – it usually isn’t reinventing the wheel, but rather doing a thing better or in a more interesting way.

It was very hard to select the 6 finalists who would be presenting on stage but after long conversations, the designers to be part of the Emerging Designers Showcase were: David Hwang, Ming-Li Chang, Cassandra Nozil (Cassie Builds It), Madeline Izakson, Shaunak Patel (Studio Waah) and Tori Deetz (Good Growing).

Best of Launch Pad, Furniture/Home Accessories: GUS by Good Growing

Gus is a planter for growing mushrooms at home. This ceramic vessel is modular and stackable catering to a variety of edible mushrooms. With Gus, mushroom grow blocks now have a home. Each vessel holds one grow block which can be ordered online or prepared from scratch and mixed with mushroom spawn. Mushrooms are nature’s meat alternative and so many delicious, nutrient-rich varieties are rarely found at the supermarket because of their brief shelf-life. Now you can grow them at home, with Gus.

We caught up with Good Growing’s New York-based founder Tori Deetz who shared more about her background, the importance of biophilic design, and where she’s sees the brand going in the future after winning Launch Pad.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

When I was young, I was back and forth on whether to pursue science or art. In the end I chose neither and went to business school, something I do not regret as an entrepreneur. I will never be a specialist; my skills and interests are all over the map. This was a truth about myself that I resisted for many years, but I’ve come to appreciate that it’s a disposition that keeps life interesting. I’ve spent the last ten years building my first business and being involved in a fun mix of side projects. One memorable chapter was during a Bio Art Residency at School of Visual Arts in New York. The residency took place within a state-of-the-art biotechnology lab. The faculty included leading biologists and artists who encouraged scientific inquiry through the open-ended approach of making art. It was such a special experience that has gone on to influence my process, specially when I started to work more in design.

Where does your design inspiration come from?

I am relieved that we are collectively recognizing the importance of biophilic design, as we’ve become so disconnected from nature’s rhythms in our daily lives. When you’re designing something that in any way involves another living organism, it’s not enough to let nature be the inspiration, it helps to understand it at a biological level. This is especially true for designing objects for the personal garden space, where you’re dealing with living things that will either thrive or fade under certain conditions. It seems like there is a tendency to turn everything into an app-controlled personal appliance these days, but I keep going back to the brilliance of natural materials and methods that have been successfully used to grow and preserve food for thousands of years. The capability of tech-integration and automation within this category is alluring but is often overkill at such a small scale. I tested a spectrum of designs but landed on an analog ceramic object that highlighted the mushroom’s weirdly beautiful forms and textures. The vessels provide an understated backdrop for the mushroom, from which it can be easily cared for and admired as it grows.

Where do you see your work being used in the world?

I see GUS being used in the homes and kitchens of curious people. Growing food at home might sound like a novelty, but it has the power to become a familiar and joyful ritual in our daily lives. Growing mushrooms specifically, places an emphasis on observation. From the moment you notice the primordia (baby mushrooms) begin to appear, watching them transform in form, size and, even color entirely over the course of just a few days – it’s captivating. I designed GUS to make the experience of growing mushrooms accessible, beautiful, and simple, but it can also be used as a tool for exploring mushroom cultivation and mycology at a deeper level. While GUS’s form is minimalist, the design needed to check a lot of boxes when it came to the science of mushroom cultivation, which makes it more than just a decorative planter. There are certain functionalities of GUS that have been considered specifically for the folks who’s list of family pets might include their sourdough starter or kombucha scoby. GUS and its accessories can be used as a toolkit for cultivating mushrooms from scratch or used with ready-to-grow fruiting blocks that can be ordered online.

Now that you’ve won WantedDesign Launch Pad, what do you plan on doing next?

I’ve been dreaming about the chance to fully develop GUS as product line since I made the initial prototypes early in the pandemic, but as a side project it was moving along slowly. Winning launchpad is such an incredible honor and being selected for the showcase was the final push I needed to get the line into production. Each GUS is handmade in New York and will be released as a limited first-run that will begin shipping this summer. My vision for the Good Growing brand is to develop a wide range of products for growing food at home, but for now I’m going to focus on fungi. Some people still cringe at the word fungus (funGUS, see what I did there?) and there will always be mycophobes among us, but the general consensus is that mushrooms have the potential to change the course we’re on, for the better.

For more on Good Growing, visit good-growing.com.

Best of Launch Pad, Lighting: Orb Lamp by Studio Waah

The Orb invites you to interact with a lamp that sparks wonder and curiosity. A calming presence in your space; the lamp is sleek, modern, and designed to leave an impression – of holding the source of light in your hand before it extinguishes. The Orb’s design is an attempt to row the boat against the stream of digital screens. To provide an enchanting tactile and visceral experience, the sphere gradually brightens as it comes closer to the tray, creating a truly magical moment.

We talked to Studio Waah’s Shaunak Patel to hear more about his “endless” journey, inspiration from hands-on activities, and the infinite ways to expand on his design after winning Launch Pad:

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I love this question. Habitually, it makes me want to talk about everything “established” and popularly acceptable as identities. But I’m not going to do that, sorry.

A Gujarati, Indian, Science Student, double degree Industrial Designer and so on, I believe are only but limiting tags. They’re unworthy of the limitless world I inhabit as a child of chaos. I’m a speaker of multiple languages, a student of boundless creations, a traveler of landscapes, an explorer of cultures, an unlearning brain and most of all, a seeker on an endless journey. I don’t know who I am yet, what I can do, and I’m relentlessly striving to explore that.

As someone with an untreated ADHD, I find myself in a constant “explore mode.” Ninety-nine percent of the time my mind looks like the Instagram explore page of 10 different accounts combined where I constantly push, pull, and connect ideas to come up with “waah!” moments. It’s one of the reasons why our design studio is called “Studio Waah!”

Where does your design inspiration come from?

I observe and absorb. Recently, I’ve been observing, the more I speak, the more I deviate from observing. But, every time I go silent, I find myself in this superorld where there are a million inspiring things all around me. I was having sour cream and chips, with hot sauce a few minutes back and thought, “How crazy of a dips business would it be if people could buy DIY kits of custom dip making condiments from all over the world to build their own sour cream dips every single time?” It’s almost like I’m on an idea train that never stops, even when I’m plucking weed from my mint plant.

Another major KEY source of inspiration is that I love hands-on activities, anything that involves making something tangible. Which is another reason why I’m so keen on design in general. I love visiting maker workshops, manufacturing units, homes of craftsmen in India and abroad, etc. I truly believe that the process of “making,” is the most epic way to “the journey of self-discovery.” It takes you into this mode of – where there’s nothing but you and your creation, taking shape in your mind and in front of you.

Where do you see your work being used in the world?

Anywhere, where there’s an opportunity to create a “waah!” moment. And that’s pretty much everywhere. At Studio Waah, our work is driven by a passion for crafting interactions that transcend the ordinary, creating time-stopping moments that leave a lasting impression. We believe in designing the intangible: the emotions, the experiences, the sheer brilliance of a feeling. Our product, “The Orb,” represents just one manifestation, one physical possibility of the lighting technology we’ve developed. Its true magic lies in the joy that sparks in your mind as you hold the orb in your hands – that’s the essence of our design.

With our technology behind The Orb, the possibilities are truly infinite. We are eager to collaborate with artists and designers from around the world to unlock new iterations and co-create more awe-inspiring moments. Picture installations and spaces where the orb comes alive, glowing up and captivating onlookers. By pushing the boundaries of imagination and craftsmanship, we aim to inspire wonder and curiosity in people of all walks of life.

As for myself, at 28 years old, I embrace my youth and the boundless opportunities it presents. I don’t believe in confining my work to a specific location on this vast, beautiful planet. My ambition is to traverse the globe, immersing myself in different cultures, observing the world with fresh eyes, and being able to design in response to the diverse contexts I encounter. By embracing a nomadic approach to design, I hope to explore creations with the richness of global perspectives and bring a touch of magic to every corner of this wondrous world.

Now that you’ve won WantedDesign Launch Pad, what do you plan on doing next?

WantedDesign Launch Pad was a great indicator for me personally. It showed me how much joy and wonder I can bring to the world through my work. I am thrilled about working with designers and manufacturers to bring the joy of “The Orb” into multiple homes across the globe. Along with the lamp, I want to work on my 10,000 ongoing projects at Studio Waah and look forward to meeting more great minds every time I showcase our experiments to the world at events like Launch Pad.

I met some super whooper talented creators at ICFF this year, and made wonderful connections with them during our interactions. I look forward to sharing my work with them and growing together, towards creating “waah!” moments for the world to experience!!

For more on Studio Waah!, visit studiowaah.com.