Design Within Reach
2008 AIGA CORPORATE LEADERSHIP AWARD
Recognized for its commitment to making high-quality modern furnishings accessible and advancing the design conversation to new audiences.
Few contemporary furnishings are as iconic as the Aeron Chair, which first came to popularity in the dotcom era. But while many can identify it, how many also know that it was designed by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf for Herman Miller in 1994? Anyone who shops at Design Within Reach—through the San Francisco-based retailer's information-rich catalogs or website, or in one of its 69 Studios (as its showrooms are called) in the United States and Canada—might be the wiser, since authorship is one of the company's core values. As a result, every bed, table, cabinet, sofa and lighting fixture comes with a story—a fascinating one that not only describes the key functional elements of that product but the inspiration for how it came to be. With an unparalleled commitment to design education across all channels, Design Within Reach has not only served a niche in the marketplace but advanced the conversation about design to new audiences.
Design Within Reach was founded in 1998 by Rob Forbes, a ceramic designer with an MBA from Stanford, who had struggled to acquire the clean, modern designs of Eero Saarinen and Charles and Ray Eames for his home. The company, which went public in 2004 and is now run by CEO Ray Brunner, arose from that quest and specializes in making fully licensed classics easy to own.
The idea that everyone should have access to quality is part of a philosophy in which design does not belong on a pedestal; each of these beautiful pieces of furniture is a functional product created as a solution to an everyday problem, solved by an ordinary, though very talented, person. As the company states: “Authenticity is something we're proud to offer; elitism, however, is not.”
Design Within Reach's own identity was designed by Kit Hinrichs, of Pentagram San Francisco, who was instrumental in defining the early business. Jennifer Morla, San Francisco designer and principal of Morla Design, subsequently collaborated with Forbes on the original website, the visual vocabulary of the brand and its applications, as well as the design and execution of DWR Profile, a magazine for the architectural design community. Today, as the company's chief creative officer, Morla directs an in-house team, overseeing the visual language of Design Within Reach's retail and online environments and continually elevating its print catalogues into something intellectually and visually appealing—the opposite of junk mail.
As the company embarks on its next retail venture—two Tools for Living stores, which feature ready-to-take-home items for everyday use, in New York and Los Angeles—Design Within Reach builds on its founding concept and remains true to its name.