Thinking About Tomorrow *
Jeffrey Bernett focuses on the future—for his own company and its clients
Sheila Kim -- Interior Design, 12/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Part designer, part strategist, Jeffrey Bernett burst onto the scene seven years ago. After launching his products at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York, he won the best-in-show award and signed Cappellini as his first client. Since then, his client roster has grown to two dozen, including B&B Italia, Boffi, and Troy. And he's moved beyond umbrella stands and coatracks, to seating and cocktail tables—as well as a secondary business unit.
Consultants for Design Strategy, a concept built on Bernett's undergraduate studies and previous work experience in finance, consults on custom furnishings and fixtures for the likes of Northwest Airlines, Michael Kors, and Samsonite. What distinguishes CDS's services from those of branding companies and architectural firms is Bernett's design knowledge and manufacturing expertise.
How did your ICFF debut attract so much attention?
When I showed my projects, not only were the concepts strong, but I also knew all the mold and manufacturing costs and how the objects were made. My father is a chemist, my grandfather an engineer, so I've always been mechanically inclined.
Where did the idea for Consultants for Design Strategy come from?
I find that, for retail environments, branding consultants are good at identifying communications strategies and customer behavior patterns. With furniture and fixtures, though, it can become just a specifying job of picking this light fixture or that chair. Rather than working with what's already available in the market, there's an opportunity to design pieces that are closer to a brand's core values, that communicate more clearly what the brand is doing.
How does CDS operate?
At Michael Kors's New York flagship, for instance, we collaborated with Daniel Rowen Architect on the furniture. For Northwest Airlines, we helped design a functional and comfortable passenger seat.
What's your process?
We look at a company's goals and objectives, what the brand's values are. Then we go to the marketplace and research competitors. After these initial stages, we think about how the space is going to be used by customers and generate a mock-up that explores manufacturing processes and new materials. Once a concept has been approved, it goes to selected subcontractors and manufacturers.
CDS has been partnering with other companies recently. Why?
By working with the world's best manufacturers, we can come up with great solutions and intelligent outsourcing.
To what do you attribute your consulting success?
As a product designer, I know what's appropriate for a client and how to manage people, time, and materials. Then it's a question of looking at where a company could be in 10 years.
Where do you take CDS from here?
To bigger projects. In North America alone, there are countless opportunities to solve problems and articulate brands three-dimensionally through environments, furniture, and fixtures.
How did your passion for sports affect your professional path?
Sports teaches you about self-determination, discipline, and training, but you need talent, too. It's the same in the design world. You have to take calculated risks and believe in what you're doing.
The principal of Consultants for Design Strategy.
His Proggetto Oggetto PO/9901 umbrella stand for Cappellini, 1998.
The Metropolitan Collection sofa, 2002, and lounge chair, 2003, both for B&B Italia.
Samsonite's flagship in Milan, a 2002 collaboration with B&B Italia.
Jeffrey Bernett's Box sink cabinet and basin for Boffi, 2001.
His Landscape chaise for B&B Italia, 2001.