Todd Bracher is standing before a room full of admiring design enthusiasts and talking about fish. Well, not fish, but rather a fish. And not just any fish, an Anglerfish to be exact. It’s a brutish thing to behold, with sharp jutting teeth, spiny flesh and bulging eyes; yet to Bracher’s mind, this homely creature from the depths couldn’t be more perfect.
“It has this luminescent lure as part of its body that glows light, and attracts fish, which it then eats,” he explains.
The Anglerfish, he says, was part of the inspiration for one of his signature pieces. Called ‘Stick,’ (Designer, 2009) it’s a stunningly simple light fixture - a lamp for lack of a better word. But this is no ordinary lamp. Stick is “lamp” boiled down to its essence; it’s the square root of lamp.
The same could be said about any one of Bracher’s pieces. A student of Darwin, his process best resembles natural selection. His pieces don’t so much grow as evolve, shedding unnecessary parts along the way. If design were poetry (a comparison the artist is fond of making) Bracher, who turned 36 in October, would compose haiku.
“Reduction is a very important part for me…how can we take away everything and just leave what we need behind, and that reveals for us something new, something that’s genuine and truthful, that’s not trying to be anything but what it is,” he says. “That’s what I try to find in my designs.”A native of Long Island, after graduating from New York’s Pratt Institute, Bracher embarked on what he calls his real education, traveling first to Copenhagen, where he studied at the Danish Design School on a coveted Fulbright design fellowship. It was in Denmark that Bracher says he learned the “poetry of design.” And it shows. His pieces are refined and functional and it’s easy to see the influence of renowned Danish industrial designers like Arne Jacobsen, Verner Panton and Henning Koppel in his work.
From Denmark he traveled to Milan where he paid a cold call to the noted furniture company Zanotta, eventually becoming the first American to design a piece of furniture for the company -- proving that success is as much tenacity as it is talent. He ended his decade overseas as design director at Tom Dixon’s studio in London.
Since his return to the U.S. in 2007, Todd Bracher Studio in New York has been attracting a lot of attention. Bracher’s been called the “future of American design” by the New York Daily News and has won numerous awards. Interior Design named his T-No1 table -- designed for Fritz Hansen -- Product of the Year in 2008; and he’s twice been nominated for Designer of the Year by the Danish magazine Bolig. In 2008 he was named New Designer of the Year at New York's International Contemporary Furniture Fair. He was also the winner of the UNESCO design award and has been the three-time recipient of the ID award.
To the casual observer, Bracher’s work screams minimalism; but don’t call him a minimalist. He prefers to think of himself as a naturalist. “Is a butterfly minimalist? Is a tree?”
Bracher doesn’t take credit for creating a thing, but instead will tell you he coaxed it out by establishing the right set of circumstances for the object to reveal itself. To date, he’s helped everything from tables to kitchen utensils reveal themselves, mostly by paying attention to truth in nature.
“Singularity is the way that we communicate truth, it’s one idea, you can understand it you can evaluate it, it’s not hidden in complexity, it’s not over complicated, it’s not diluted,” he says. “And that’s the way I like to package or contain these ideas about design. How can I take everything out and leave behind just the essence?”
When I caught up with Bracher in October, during DesignPhiladelphia 2010, he was in his second year as a creative director of the Danish luxury brand Georg Jensen and was preparing to launch a new chair for Humanscale.