10 Designers Who Have Changed the Face of Business, Music and Art

“Design thinking” has become a popular concept in recent years. The world is increasingly appreciating how designers think through projects and how that thought process can be applied to other disciplines. Here are 10 examples of designers who exemplify using the creativity to make history.

1. Paul Rand

Paul Rand may be responsible for some of the most iconic logos in American business. He is best known for designing the logos of companies such as IBM, UPS, Morningstar, ABC and Steve Job’s company NeXT. Rand was educated at the Pratt Institute and in 1972 he was inducted into the New York Art Directors Hall of Fame.

Rand’s design ideology was driven by a modernist philosophy that embodied the influences of artists such as Paul Cezanne and Jan Tschichold.

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2. Markus Diebel and Joe Tan - moreles / Soma industrial designers (formerly VP of Design at Incase, Design Director at IDEO)

Coming from a long line of human-centric designers cultivated out of IDEO, Markus Diebel and his partner, Joe Tan have made it their mission to create products that not only fit human need, but predict it. From their work at Incase creating intuitive, user friendly cases, bags, and other hardware, to their design of the Soma water filter, Markus and Joe design with human habit in mind. In designing the Soma carafe, the two settled on the recognizable shape of a beaker: bridging science and function to create a truly striking product.

“We set out to create the best water drinking experience and brainstormed different ideas and scenarios. We then created a few concepts and prototypes to validate our ideas. Soma went with the most iconic which happened to be one of the more challenging designs to make into a real product.”

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3. Scott Hanson- Tycho/ISO50

Scott Hanson has somewhat of a dual identity. As Tycho, Hanson creates and produces ambient electronic music, while in the realm of photography and design, he is known as ISO50.

“Design, to me, is the search for efficiency. Efficiency in conveying a message, efficiency of form. In this way I see some of my own work falling into the category of design, while some of my other work falls under the umbrella of illustration.”

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4. Milton Glaser

In 1977, Milton Glaser designed the universally recognizable “I Love New York” logo. Yet Glaser’s work spans further than three letters set in a rounded slab serif. Glaser created posters for Bob Dylan, and logos for DC comics and Brooklyn Brewery, among other prominent work. Glaser was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2009.

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5. Storm Thorgeson

Storm Thorgerson was a graphic designer best known for his work with dozens of rock artists such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabath. Thorgeson founded the graphic art group Hipgnosis in 1968 and over the years they designed several famous single and album covers.
Perhaps his most famous work is the design of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon
Image of Dark Side of the Moon:

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6. Yves Behar

Swiss designer Yves Behar is founder of design and branding firm FuseProject, and Chief Creative officer of explosively popular company, Jawbone. Early in his career, Behar made his way through San Francisco-based design firms, frog design and Lunar Design, before developing brand identities for the likes of Apple and Hewlett-Packard. Perhaps most notable about Behar’s strategy is his commitment to the greater good. Alongside his incredibly unique design of cool-kid remote speakers and fitness bands for JawBone, Behar advocates for designers to pay attention to sustainability and the role that tech and design must play in development.

“Sustainability and notions of social good are the new values of the twenty-first century, and designers need to integrate them into every project they do, every relationship with industry that they have. We have a huge role to play in ensuring that these values are seen as assets; they must help create a product that is incredibly attractive, delightful, exciting, and commercially viable.”

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7. Tom Crabtree - Founder of Manual Creative

UK born, former Apple Creative director Tom Crabtree is the brainchild behind design and brand firm Manual Creative, and creator of the Nest brand identity. At Manual, Tom’s clients span from bakeries to kitchenware, to the likes of Nike and Apple. Tom’s focus comes down to finding the key element of a brand, and communicating that element visually across all types of products and media.

“Identity design is fascinating. it can also be laborious. part psychology, part design. It’s very different to designing an artifact, like a book, poster, or piece of packaging. With identity design, one needs to think about how a design concept plays out across system — how to balance variation with consistency, style with function, visual expression with timelessness.”

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8. Bryan Chesky + Joe Gebbia - Co-Founders at AirBnB (along with third Co-Founder Nathan Blecharczyk

Rhode Island School of Design grads Bryan Chesky and Joe Gebbia founded AirBnB when strapped for cash, they purchased three air mattresses and rented out floorspace in their apartment during an industrial design conference, when hotels were overbooked, calling it “Air Bed and Breakfast”. Says Gebbia, “Brian and I started Airbnb by solving a problem through design. We couldn’t afford the rent, so we opened up our home for guests to stay with us.” In 2008, Harvard Architecture graduate Nathan Blecharczyk joined Chesky and Gebbia in founding AirBnB.

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9. Evan Sharp-Pinterest

Evan Sharp began developing the idea for online visual communication when he was an architecture student at Columbia. This idea would later become Pinterest, which Sharp ultimately founded with Paul Sciarra Ben Silbermann. Pinterest, now valued at $3.8 billion, allows users to collect and curate images using grid-based pinboards.

“A lot of [the process] is about technique and spending the time designing, but there’s such a rich history of architecture and a great body of theory and knowledge, and an enjoyable part of [moving to web design] was learning to take abstract ideas and concepts and then solve them tangibly. The history of the process of architecture is really amazing in and of itself, and it’s been really helpful to me as a designer.”

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10. Charles Adler- Co-Founder at Kickstarter

In 2009, Charles Adler launched the ubiquitous crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, along with co-founders Perry Chen and Yancey Stricker. Adler was Head of Design at Kickstarter until last year, but his background in design is refreshingly non-traditional. Adler never received a formal education in design, and never finished his engineering degree from Purdue. Yet architectural design played a large part of Adlers vision for Kickstarter.

“For me, architecture is about shaping space around people based on either a specific or general function. The architects I admire tend to view the world in a similar light, or at least their work portrays that motivation. In the user interface world, making your work invisible is the ambition, and I expressed this ethos as a designer or architect for digital products.”

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  1. thurstonb

    Yes, Saul Bass; broke movie titles from just a list of names to become a dazzling introduction, a condensation of the main theme and stand alone works of art. (Google "saul bass title sequences"). Movie posters that disrupted the norm (Man with the Golden Arm, and many others). Plus, the corporate identities of AT&T, United Airlines, Exxon, Minolta, Girl Scouts, etc, etc.
    (Full disclosure: I worked at Bass/Yager & Associates for a time).

  2. FilterGrade

    Never knew that Tycho was also a photographer. Thanks for sharing that cool fact! Great post.

  3. Laura Jordan

    Disappointed there were no women on this list. While I appreciate the focus on awarding great art in all its forms, I hope the omission of women designers from this list wasn't intentional.

  4. bschildt

    I would have included
    - Jony Ive (Apple)
    - Raymond Loewy (Lucky Strike/Exxon)

    But then again, the article is "10 Designers Who Have Changed the Face of Business, Music and Art", so that's what it is. 10 names. :-)

  5. Jon Snellstrom

    So many great choices, but if I were to add one who's work inspired me personally it would be Richard Amsel.

  6. Gedy Leon

    To all of those mentioning that there weren't any women on the list - who would you have added? Unfortunately this industry is very much male-driven and it wasn't until recently that women started to filter through. Plus, there's only room for 10.

  7. Ryan Toyota

    For those looking for women who could have been added, Susan Kare would be a fantastic choice. As a designer for Apple when the Macintosh launched, she designed the arrow cursor which we all use every day, along with all the other classic black and white pixel icons of the first Macintosh OS.

    I also would have loved to see Saul Bass and Jony Ive on the list. Dieter Rams, anyone?

    As pretty as Soma is, I don’t see how it’s “changed the face of design.” I also don’t really see how AirBnB fits on the list. Interesting read for sure, but the title is a bit of a stretch.

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