Todd Bracher Discusses Simplicity at NeoCon Keynote

Designer and strategist Todd Bracher, founder of New York-based Todd Bracher Studio LLC, kicked off the NeoCon 2014 keynote session on Monday, June 9 at 9 a.m. Bracher is best known for his design work in Tom Dixon’s design studio, as well as with Reims France and Georg Jenson.

Although a native New Yorker, Bracher credits his major influences from the time he spent abroad. His move to Copenhagen with a Fulbright to study furniture and interior design later spurred moves to Milan, Paris, and finally London before he returned to New York.

These five countries taught him five global lessons. In Copenhagen, Bracher drew from honesty in design because of Danish simplicity. Milan inspired poetic design, while France introduced him to elegance and London to individuality. His final move to New York taught him about the strength of the market and how companies like Nike and Coca-Cola bring their products to the customer. Having opened his own studio in Brooklyn, Bracher now focuses on exploring design strategies and how to best interpret the essence of a product.

“Reduction is very important to me,” Bracher said. “How can we take away everything and just leave what we need? That will reveal for us something new, something that’s genuine and truthful.” Bracher explained that he looks for unification for a product and particularly what he described as irreducible complexity.

Like the concept of a simple mousetrap, irreducible complexity describes an object that only needs a few essential parts to work. Any additional pieces would be useless, while taking away any of the essential pieces would cause the system to break. The designer noted inspirations like martial arts, which requires the minimum movement for the most efficiency.  “Motion has to be perfect to get the best results,” he said.

With this destination in mind, Bracher created products like the Alodia barstool, which uses the least amount of material as possible for a stackable, secure seating solution. His Tod table played on the idea of a beauty mark with its oval top and round bottom that curves inward so it can fit over another piece of furniture. “Beauty marks are adjacent to a mouth and a nose, so this table should work similarly with other pieces as well,” he explained. This goal of simplicity also sparked products like his rosary design, which uses thread and knots instead of beads, as well as the fulfillment clock’s translucent body and single hand.

Bracher additionally looks to nature for inspiration. “We do not critique nature,” Bracher said. “We understand and accept it, since we are all part of that same context.” He therefore works to make designs that can not be questioned as right or wrong but are accepted as essential. By looking at the bone structures of different animals, Bracher created the Fritz Hansen table, which is kept aloft by its spine alone. His opaque lamp design comes from the half phase of the moon and reflects light out from the bottom. A stick bug inspires his Lia floor lamp, and the angler fish’s odd form reappears in his Sticklight.

“We’re trying to streamline the ingredients,” said Bracher. “When we’ve reached irreducible complexity, that’s when we’ve reach our goal.”