When he was 12, Jerome Caruso discovered industrial design when he heard about a General Motors contest for futuristic car concepts. “I worked every day after school for months,” Caruso remembers, “developing a clay model, transferring the design to a block of wood, carving it by hand. That was when I realized what I wanted to do.”
Caruso refined his sensibilities in Europe in the 1960s. While a graduate student at the University of Copenhagen, he worked at the city’s premier design office, where “a sensitive approach to European design made an indelible impression,” he recalls. He opened his own practice in Brussels at the age of 26, then headed back to the United States, where he again established a one-man studio. He spearheaded Motorola’s manufacture of LCD watch modules and designed and engineered the first machine-produced stacking chair for the U.S. contract market.
Caruso was notably Sub-Zero’s first and only designer for more than 20 years, responsible for the company’s sophisticated refrigeration icons and industry firsts, including wine storage units. He invented Sub-Zero’s revolutionary drawer-and-cabinet system, named one of the 10 best products of 1995 by Time magazine. For the 2002 debut of Wolf, Sub-Zero’s corporate companion, he designed 25 cooking appliances in 18 months.
With more than 75 patents to his credit, Caruso stays hands-on—concepts, drawings, prototypes, and engineering. “The bigger the challenge, the more fun it is,” he says. He’s especially intrigued by chairs and vividly recalls the challenge of the award-winning Reaction Chair for Herman Miller, designed with his son. But the Celle Chair for Herman Miller was the “Mt. Everest of fun. I imagined a highly engineered, ‘intelligent’ surface that could be the ultimate in seating comfort, with hundreds of tiny ‘cells’ supporting and responding to different anatomical areas.” Celle closely follows that original concept.
Today Caruso enjoys the design process as much as he did when he was a boy. “My goal has always been to bring function and art together in products that perform superbly and look great,” he says.