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The Power of the Remix

How Breaking Boundaries Breeds Innovation for Designer Scott Klinker

Furniture designer, artist, and educator Scott Klinker heads the graduate 3D design program at the renowned Cranbrook Academy of Art as Designer-in-Residence.

"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.

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 shelter experience.

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.
A material translation of a traditional umbrella, Stretch evokes the appearance of taut fabric stretched over fanned ribs.

"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.”

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 create.”

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 expression.”

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.”

A contemporary nod to vernacular architecture, Peak is an abstracted expression of home.
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 with."

Learn more at, and follow Scott Klinker on instagram at scottklinkerdesign.