Todd Bracher, designer of the Distil Desk and Table for Herman Miller, had graduated from Pratt Institute and was working in New York when he found out he’d received a Fulbright grant to the Danish Design School in Copenhagen. The only problem? At the time he learned of the grant, school was starting in three weeks. Though studying abroad to get a global perspective had been part of his plan, hearing he’d actually won the grant was a surprise. “But that experience taught me you can get thrown into something and figure it out. You realize you have no limitations.”
That was in 1999. Over the next several years, Bracher lived in four European countries, learning something about design in each. In Denmark, it was honesty of materials; in Italy, the importance of story; in France, elegance of materials; in England, designer identity. He moved back to New York in 2006 and got to work “to bring these world experiences together,” he says.
Perhaps unexpectedly, Bracher names Charles Darwin as his biggest design influence. Darwin, too, had an appreciation for objects well suited to a task; after studying 15 species of Galapagos finches, he found that each has a beak perfectly adapted to its source of food.
Whether natural or manmade, “good design is about the series of parameters and requirements,” Bracher says, "and that drives the answer.” In the studio, he applies that philosophy to a wide body of work, from product design to creative direction and strategic design.