Design pervades our lives, even if we aren’t aware of it, from the logos that litter our social media feeds to the buildings we pass by every day on our way to work. It’s impossible not to question who’s behind the shapes, colors, textures, and structures of the companies, media, and items that surround us in our daily lives once we start paying attention.
While architecture is the most visible form of design, graphic designers also have a significant impact on our daily lives. Many of today’s most prominent ones may even be found on Twitter. The influence of those who are no longer alive may be seen in everything from the New York subway map to the Coca-Cola label.
Apart from graphic and architectural design, which are on opposite ends of the design spectrum, our list also includes those who are responsible for some of the most useful products ever produced, from vehicles to chairs. Don’t think we forgot about Apple’s chief designer, Jonathan Ive. The fact that practically everyone has an impeccably designed thing in their bag or pocket demonstrates how powerful design can be. Take a look at our list of the world’s most influential designers.
The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is the greatest effort of Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaud. Half Neo-Gothic, part Naturalistic, and part hallucinogenic dream, the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is most likely a one-of-a-kind construction. It’s incredible that Gaud was thinking about and designing places like these so early in the twentieth century, so distinct from the Art Nouveau architecture of Victor Horta. Gaud also created interior spaces, doors, and furnishings that seemed to be part of the strangely enticing universe from which his building emerges. He even designed a Gossip Chair, which is made up of several seats linked at the armrests.
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In 2004, Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born architect, became the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Her Starchitect position and international prominence attest to her success and acclaim as space and structure designer. With her first New York City project, a boutique condo complex near New York City’s High Line park, Hadid showed the world, her prowess. She designed furniture installations and worked on the design of a three-wheeled automobile in addition to her geometric megastructures. In 2009, she experimented in footwear design, collaborating with clothing company Lacoste to create a boot.
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Charles and Ray Eames
When it appeared in the 1950s, the Eames’ molded plywood lounge chair was the first and best of its kind. The chair, as well as the ottoman that goes with it, has been in continuous production since then. It’s featured in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Apart from this outstanding contribution to furniture design, the Eames’ home in Pacific Palisades, remains as a fantasy interior that manages to stay fresh and unaffected by decades of fads.
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Richard Buckminster Fuller
Richard Buckminster Fuller defied categorization. He was an inventor and an architect, the builder of the geodesic dome, an automobile designer, a game developer, and a cultural theorist. In retrospect, his two expulsions from Harvard University appear to be a historical farce. Fuller’s creation of the geodesic dome earned him international acclaim. He even created the World Design Science Decade (from 1965 to 1975) to “use scientific concepts to address humanity’s issues.” He seemed to be decades ahead of his time, urging designers to use renewable energy sources and create affordable, long-lasting works to benefit the world’s population.
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In retrospect, Le Corbusier has been portrayed as a man who could make anything. He was a visionary for the future of urban space and a pioneer of modernist high design and architecture. From the infamous Villa Savoye (which summed up his five basic ideas of architecture) to the unfinished capital city complex of Chandigarh, India, his idealistic plans span the globe.