Scott Henderson is a Brooklyn-based designer, founder of design studio Scott Henderson, Inc., and co-founder of the design collective MINT. Scott’s work—from housewares to consumer electronics to furniture—has been shown in numerous exhibitions such as the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s National Design Triennial and is featured in more than 350 retailers and museums around the world. His work has also been included in The New York Times Magazine, I.D. Magazine’s Annual Design Review, and other prestigious publications.
Henderson’s Slat Chair, above, was prototyped by New Project and debuted at the ICFF in 2011. With ICFF returning to the Javits Center in 2 weeks, we decided to check in with Scott to see what he’s been up to lately.
NP: You’ve designed all sorts of products—from thermometers to furniture to yachts. What would be your dream design job?
SH: It would be fun to do something really big—like be on a team to figure out how to harness ocean waves to convert them into energy, or something like that. How about a huge terrarium that creates drinking water in arid developing countries?
NP: That does sound huge! Since you’re all about the “big idea,” what “big ideas” do you see changing or reshaping your industry?
SH: The Digital Revolution. Even though that kind of design work is different from my kind of design, the trend is all about the decimation of the physical. The biggest taxi company owns no taxis (Uber), the biggest movie house has no cinemas (Netflix), the biggest accommodations provider owns no real estate (Airbnb). There are also fewer real stores to buy things in, so instead of seeing and touching a real product, you are buying it based on an online thumbnail image. It’s hard to tell if a design is good or not with only that level of detail, so it makes sense that the importance of [physical] design is therefore diminished, and price competition once again becomes the sole driver of sales. This has reshaped my industry recently in that design now has to offer only what people deem as essential. Millennials don’t want things—they actually hate stuff. The age of the design knickknack is dead, and talking about emotion in design is yesterday’s pitch. Design now has to be about the essential. The trend is a return to problem solving and meaningful innovation.
NP: You run your own successful design studio and have developed your own brands, create your own artwork, have served as chairman of IDSA’s national conference…how do you make time to stay inspired and continue to generate new ideas?
SH: After a while it just becomes a part of who you are and no longer a job. As I tell my clients, Scott Henderson Inc. never closes.
NP: Does your design work come from a solitary or a collaborative process? Or a little of both? How do you like to work?
SH: A little of both. I involve my clients as my core team members. Or if I am doing a “Scott” product, I’ll reach out to buyers and consumers. I’m a sponge for input—I am always listening and watching. I even sleep with one eye open.
NP: Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
SH: I’m developing new “Scott” products: a consumer electronics gizmo, some cookware, and some baby gear.
Scott Henderson’s Slat Chair, designed using the forces of tension and compression, was fabricated from molded aircraft grade birch veneer and two simple polished stainless steel rods. Check out the images below to see how New Project created the prototype of Scott’s chair in our shop.