ICFF Designers: Jerry Helling

ICFF Designers: Jerry Helling

The President of Bernhardt Design talks about new projects that feature young designers and design education.

Dan Gould
  • 14 may 2011

This week, PSFK will be interviewing a variety of designers — both established and up-and coming, to give a preview of what to look forward to at this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), taking place this Friday through Monday in New York. This year, the majority of designers will be displaying their work at the Jacob K. Javits center, and we’ve asked them to give us some insights into what they will be displaying, their design process, where to find them in the center, and which booths they’ll be checking out in their free time.

We asked Jerry Helling to share some thoughts and images about his work and the work of others with us.

What are you preparing to show at this year’s ICFF?

We are presenting three projects that feature young designers and design education. They actually represent three generations of young people, ranging in age from 13 to 35. The first is Tools at Schools, a pilot program illustrating how design can be integrated into early education. It is an example of how design can serve as a bridge between the silos of learning and help students understand in a very practical way, what they are learning in math, science, art and English. Forty five students from the eighth grade class at the School at Columbia have designed the ideal products for their school and we will be unveiling their classroom of the future. It is the fifth anniversary of our interdisciplinary design studio with Art Center College of Design and we are presenting a retrospective of the work of 25 five student designers, which we have introduced during the past five years. Included in the retrospective will be eight new design that are making their debut. The final program is ICFF Studio which was created to bring attention to the work of young practicing designers and there are 10 great new exhibitors this year from around the globe.

How would you briefly describe your design process?

It starts with a conversation with a designer and a very general idea of what might be interesting for both of us to pursue. From that point, it evolves and takes a life of it’s own. Sometimes we end up with a product in a completely different category from where we began. The central key idea or essence of a chair design may actually end up being a table or an aluminum chair may end up being a wood chair. We don’t usually go for rigid design briefs or a structured design process.

Have any recent design trends influenced your current work?

I believe trends occasionally effect our decisions on appropriate materials or technologies. Otherwise, absolutely not, what was really good 70 years ago or 40 years ago is still good today. We strive to do things that have a life far past a trend, things that don’t have to be explained.

Who is the one designer whose work you will definitely be checking out at the show?

The Los Angeles designer Reza Fiez. He does really nice and understated work. Also, although I have already seen it, but I’m excited for other people to see the new chaise that Shawn Littrell, another young LA designer, created for ICFF Studio. It is really cool and I hope he lands a great home for it with a good manufacturer..

Do you feel the ICFF show is evolving in a way which keeps pace with the design industry?

Yes, the show is doing a good job at creating meaningful programming and attracting work that most Americans would never have the chance to see. The exhibitions and shows outside the main event at the Javitz are also on the increase in number and quality.

Where will you be exhibiting during this year’s ICFF?

We are showing at the Javitz center at space 1604. Outside the fair we are sponsoring The Screening Room, in the NOHO district, which will feature a collection of interesting design related videos and films.



As the culmination of all our ICFF coverage, PSFK will be hosting a Salon on the Future of Design featuring the editors of top design websites. The event will take place this Friday the 13th from 8:30 to 11am at Soho House.

Click here for details.


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