The Power of the Remix: How Breaking Boundaries Breeds Innovation for Designer Scott Klinker
"I think remixing categories is central to every kind of innovation in the design world.” -Scott Klinker
Principal of Scott Klinker Design Studio and Designer-in-Residence at the renowned Cranbrook Academy of
Art’s 3D Design Program, Scott Klinker explores the intersections and spaces between design,
architecture, art and craft. This fluid, interdisciplinary approach, which Klinker describes as
“remixing,” has become a hallmark of his work, creating furniture and lighting that inspire new
behaviors and encourage new ways of conceptualizing space.
Furniture designer, artist, and educator Scott Klinker heads the
graduate 3D design program at the renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art as Designer-in-Residence.
According to Klinker, this breadth of focus and inspiration was largely motivated by the design ethos he
encountered at Cranbrook. “The Cranbrook campus is widely known for its architectural significance—it's a
historic landmark and considered by many as an architectural masterpiece of Eliel Saarinen,” he describes.
"So for twenty years now I’ve been surrounded by amazing architecture—not only the buildings, but also the
grounds as a whole. Saarinen had a vision for architecture which he described as ‘the integration of the
Arts,’ and so his vision for Cranbrook included many details that span a variety of disciplines. Eliel
Saarinen's approach has informed my own philosophy, probably more than I even realize,” says the designer.
This “remix” of different creative disciplines is immediately evident in the design of Disc, Peak and
Stretch, a line of three sun shades Klinker created for Landscape Forms. Disc, Peak and Stretch reimagine
the traditional sun shade by drawing from the unique and the familiar, the abstract and the traditional.
Built solely from cast and extruded aluminum, their strong, confidence-inspiring forms are complemented by
clean, open interiors unobstructed by any visible hardware, creating a beautifully simple and intuitive
Inspired by the simple elegance of post and beam construction, Disc,
Peak and Stretch reimagine the traditional sun shade by drawing from the unique and the familiar, the
abstract and the traditional.
"The sun shade defines space and provides
shelter—the two most fundamental expectations we have from architecture,” says Klinker, "So the first
and central creative impulse for this project was to shift the frame of reference away from object or
product and more towards architecture.”
From this architectural lens, which in this case
Klinker jokingly refers to as “architecture on a stick," arose one of Disc, Peak and Stretch’s defining
characteristics: The shades’ simple yet elegant post-and-beam construction. "In the case of Disc, Peak and
Stretch, we had to design a platform to rethink the sun shade and simplify it,” says Klinker. "This was the
initial problem-solving phase of the project, and the solution we came up with was possibly the most minimal
expression of architecture, post-and-beam construction.”
A material translation of a traditional umbrella, Stretch evokes the
appearance of taut fabric stretched over fanned ribs.
Klinker makes it clear that while important,
problem-solving is only one arrow in his manifold design quiver. "Many designers describe their work as
‘human centered problem-solving,’ but I want to do more than solve problems,” says Klinker. "I want to
create things that inspire the imagination, and I try to bring a sculptural expression to everything that I
With the elegant post-and-beam solution down, he then shifted his focus more toward
the art aspect of the shades’ design—the second “remix” of the project. "I have a tendency toward
minimalism—I like things that are formally simple and bold. So that was the next layer of interpretation in
the design of Disc, Peak and Stretch,” says Klinker. "Once we had come up with this post-and-beam idea for
the structure, the focus was then on creating bold forms each with a different poetic and sculptural
A contemporary nod to vernacular architecture, Peak is an abstracted
expression of home.
The three different forms Klinker created for the shades
are perfectly encapsulated by the designer’s self-described affinity for the simple and the bold.
Reminiscent of a floating plane, Disc is the most abstract and geometric of the trio. The canted circular
shade lends Disc a directional quality, offering increased visual intrigue both when standing alone or
working in conjunction with other shades. A contemporary nod to vernacular architecture, Peak is an
abstracted expression of home. The gabled shade is familiar and inviting, while the clean lines and elegant
silhouette offer a distinct sense of modernity. The most classic of the silhouettes, Stretch is a material
translation of a traditional umbrella. It evokes the appearance of fabric stretched over fanned ribs, with a
uniquely strong, sculptural aesthetic.
The final consideration for Klinker in the design of Disc, Peak and Stretch was the dimension of
experience—both from afar and from within. "On the approach, we wanted people to experience forms and
configurations that were new and unfamiliar," he describes. “It was important that we made the forms
directional as to create gestures and dynamic compositions that you can’t achieve with the radial symmetry
of a traditional umbrella.”
The elegant, minimalist form of Disc reimagines the sun shade to offer
landscape architects new opportunities to define space and provide shelter in an artful, modern way.
As for the design of the shades’ interiors, nothing but
streamlined simplicity would suffice. “As the user gets up close, we wanted the forms to be appear totally
clean,” says Klinker. "Most traditional umbrella designs can look like a hardware store on the underside, so
we intentionally designed Disc, Peak and Stretch to be as minimal as possible to enhance the beauty and
experience of being on the inside."
For Scott Klinker, reinventing something so ubiquitous, something so relatively mundane yet so iconic as the
umbrella is exactly the type of challenge he seeks out. "One of my central creative processes is to think
about categories and to remix them. It’s something I teach to my students and have practiced for over two
decades, but I think remixing categories is central to every kind of innovation in the design world,” he
says. "So specifically for Disc, Peak and Stretch, it was about reframing expectations for the project from
product, to architecture, and then to art. When you do that, you open up space for a lot of new ideas. I
think Landscape Forms truly gets this concept, and that’s why they’re such a rewarding company to work
Learn more at www.scottklinker.com
, and follow Scott
Klinker on instagram at scottklinkerdesign.