Los Angeles-based designer Cory Grosser is fully committed to design. In 2002 he opened his own studio and has attracted the attention of internationally renowned companies such as MDF Italia, Walt Disney Signature, Bentley Motors, Ford, Samsonite and SpHaus. Grosser uses what he calls a “Creative Intelligence” approach, which aims to produce pieces that are both practical and appealing. According to the designer any object should be beautiful, poetic, useful and should tell a story. This is a philosophy that Grosser teaches to his students at the Art Center in Pasadena. Over the span of his 15-year career Grosser has been recognized for several outstanding achievements. These accolades include the ID Magazine Design Review Award, Best of Neocon, a Gold Award at IIDEX and an I.Dot selection for the best of Italian design.
In between his travels to Milan, where he attended the Salone del Mobile, and Los Angeles he found some time to sit down with us to answer a few questions.
What is your design process?
I don’t believe that we have a single process. A process suggests repeatability and if you do the same thing over and over, it will work out: but creativity can come from anywhere - it’s far less linear. Instead of concentrating on a single process, we focus on a set of tenets. Our principles include: design should be beautiful, design should tell a story, it should be simple and it should be commercially viable. Visual strategy, sketching, model-making, 3D printing and rendering are our most common techniques.
Could you explain what your “Creative Intelligence” approach is?
Creative Intelligence is short hand for our goal of creating design that is “smart." And by smart I mean design that it is both cultural and commercial. The cultural part is about creating objects and architecture that is beautiful, poetic and culturally relevant. The commercial part is about design work that creates value for our clients. With objects like furniture, value is often tied to sales; and for architectural projects, value is often about productivity or participation. For example, we recently completed a project for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles in which we created micro spaces within branches of the Los Angeles Public Library where kids can get help with their homework. In this case, value was created through a tremendous increase in student participation for the twenty branches with our student zones.
Could you tell us more about the Atelier or workshop model?
I teach part time at the Art Center in Pasadena. I really enjoy working with the students and the mutual benefit of sharing what I know in exchange for their youthful energy. For many years, the studio was an extension of my teaching practice where young designers, usually former students, would spend a year or so working and learning how to be professionals. This worked well for quite a while, but recently our projects have become larger and more complicated and we have embraced a different model. I now work with associates that have more experience and more responsibility managing projects and clients. That said, we have always maintained the fundamental idea that this is still a workshop and we are all still creating and exploring.
If you weren’t an architect/designer, what would you be doing?
I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was four years old. I’m really happy with my choice, but I also like sports and I think it would be cool to coach American Football.
Could you describe to us your aesthetic in few words?
Pure, graphic and insightful.
What are you working on right now?
We are designing a wood chair, a collection of stools, architectural lighting, a creative office space for Disney and a car design studio for Hyundai.
Who were and are your role models?
My parents. They pushed me to achieve my best, but with humility and kindness.
When you run out of inspiration, what do you do?
Like all people, some days I feel less motivated; but I don’t have too much trouble with inspiration. I don’t believe that inspiration is the real fuel for creativity. Inspiration seems precious, like a non-renewable resource; but creativity is fueled less by inspiration and more by observation. Opening our eyes to the world around us is less daunting. When in doubt, I create something - a drawing, writing, a scale model. Then I observe it and decide what to do next.
How has technology changed your job?
The worst part is that I spend too much time with email and not enough time thinking and drawing. The best part is that we have access to all of these advanced tools and techniques. We can 3D print a chair and then evaluate an actual object. For spaces, we can create very life-like environments in photo-realistic renderings and in virtual reality. These tools help us work more quickly and are a tremendous asset when communicating our vision to our clients.
What is your favorite piece you designed?
We did the corporate headquarters for a tech company based in Pasadena called Supplyframe. It’s a large project with a good budget and we were able to create an entire world aligned with our design principles. The client and the employees are happy with the project and I’m very proud of it.
What is your dream project?
I want to design a Hotel. It would be a dream to create it holistically - from the concept, to the lobby to the room experience, to the bar menu. We focus a lot on workplace design, but I think offices are becoming more like hotels and hotels are becoming places where work gets done. I’m interested in exploring this intersection.
What does design mean to you?
Design is the creation of things that are beautiful, a narrative, and is good for business. Everything man-made is designed on some level - why not try to make them as best we can?