Growing up in Detroit, Dan Grabowski was influenced by not only his own father, a builder, but also by his friends’ fathers. “When my dad needed to create or repair something, he would design a solution and then we would build it. That’s how things were done in our house,” he recalls. Meanwhile, his best friend’s father was a car designer whose house was filled with modern art and contemporary furniture. “I wanted to combine my love of art and working with my hands. I considered becoming a sculptor, but when I studied the work of Harry Bertoia, it clicked for me, the connection between sculpture and industrial design.”
After graduating from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Grabowski worked on varied projects, including power tools for Sears Craftsman and baby products for Gerber. His focus, however, has been furniture design.
In everything he does, he strives for honesty: solving problems in smart ways using simple, uncluttered lines. “I like the challenge of making something that’s more than just a pretty object, incorporating intelligent details that people appreciate.” When working on Herman Miller’s Everywhere Table line, Grabowski considered every last detail, including one that wouldn’t show unless the table was turned upside down. “To me,” he says, “a Herman Miller product needs visual continuity—on the top, the bottom, inside or out.”
Grabowski is particularly proud of the Everywhere line because he feels it demonstrates everything he believes in as a designer. “The simplicity of the tables minimizes visual chaos, bringing a sense of calm and order to a room. They are very simple forms, but they evoke an emotional response.”
Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Grabowski has taught at Kendall College of Art and Design. His advice to his students: Learn the basics. “The fundamentals of design have to be there first. At the same time, you need to understand technology so you can communicate your ideas electronically. That way, nothing will be lost in translation.”