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Andrew Stone | February 14, 2012
Todd Bracher sat down with us to talk Danish design identity, family influences, and working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
ID: What were some of the earliest instances when you found yourself engaged by good design?
TB: [My father] was a carpenter who ran an architectural woodworking factory in Brooklyn for most of his life. I remember going to the workshops as a kid and seeing amazing executive offices before they shipped, and my father showing me how all of the drawers across the enormous pieces would lock simultaneously with one single key. That was really beautiful. Simple and elegant solutions, designed to take the experience of the piece higher for the customer.
ID: You hail from New York, and you’ve lived in some of the most stylish cities across the globe. What would you say is the most design-forward city in the world?
TB: For me, it’s Copenhagen. There’s a clear balance between design for use and design for life, and there they bring both together better than anywhere else I have been. There are subtle things... embracing their traditions in a modern, refreshing way, always with respect for the user and their experience paramount. They elegantly solve most problems of daily life directly around their culture and how they live. They accomplish this with a national design identity.
ID: What do you feel is your responsibility as a designer, with the industry’s eye trained upon you?
TB: There are the built-in, obvious aspects such as sustainability and ethics... This goes without saying. For me, probably the single most important responsibility is to show a client gracefully the way forward towards increased revenue. Design should be done strategically and with swift and precise intent in order to advance a brand towards not only capturing market share but also capturing the attention with appreciation from their customers. Design is far more than beauty... It’s about intelligence and soul, combined with market solutions.
ID: Are there any widely accepted rules that you love to dispense with?
TB: That’s a tough one. I don’t think too much about rules. I believe that you carve out your own rules when you collaborate with a brand... You don’t need to be predefined by predecessors or rumors. I am a certain believer in business that we can “be the change,” and no need to accept the status quo.
ID: What are some of spaces that have always visually inspired you, and continue to stand out for you today?
TB: Theater continues to do so. Spaces that are surreal and with specific purpose. I am constantly energized by the Museum of Natural History in New York as well as the National Air and Space Museum in DC. The spaces are a vehicle to communicate and share experiences that are beyond imagination. Almost 10 years later, I still daydream about Zumthor’s Vals Therme Baths in Switzerland. For me, this is the perfect balance between the surreal and design for specific purpose. Nothing could be more natural for me.
ID: How have your aesthetic choices changed since you began your career?
TB: No, for me aesthetic choices are not driven by my eye... They’re driven by my version of mathematics. I work to drive my solutions down a path of evolution so that they resolve themselves on their own... not controlled by my opinion. I like to think that very little can be changed visually and still get the same result for function-emotion-beauty-production-market. This is my work’s ecosystem.
ID: What qualities do you like to be present in your own residence?
TB: Light... I feel that light drives most every decision in my home. I literally let the light carve my space as it travels throughout the day. I try to plan in moments where the space interplays with the moving sun, allowing unique moments of discovery.
ID: What is it about your work that speaks to so many impressive commercial clients?
TB: We work hard to deliver a consistent message to my clients and their customers. Honestly. I want to connect to a user that step one finds the object or interior beautiful, however then there is the next step where they discover—perhaps subconsciously, and more importantly—that the design makes sense and connects to them emotionally. There are universal human conditions that appeal to us all and I work to connect to that.
ID: How is it working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard?
TB: Working in the Navy Yard is wonderful, as if working on a sailboat... Only the Hudson River between my desk and Manhattan. I appreciate its “void of civilization.” There’s something really beautiful to be in some ways at “the center of the known universe” and it be completely silent and non-invasive to the clean slate I prefer to work within. It’s an unusual paradox, being there.
ID: What are the most exciting projects on your plate these days?
TB: We are teaming up with some heavyweights in technology manufacturing and several influential brands. For me, 2012 is really about bringing it all together in a way where we’re fully interfacing with serious businesses and guiding them to their next steps... all while sharing, learning, and having fun. It doesn’t get much better than that.