Meet Designer of the Week Gabriel Stromberg of Seattle design firm Civilization, where (when they’re not creating award-winning client work) the team produces the Design Lecture Series, which brings world-class designers to Seattle to inspire conversation on creativity and innovation, and Beyond This Point, a podcast in which they engage artists, business owners, designers and leaders of all types to share new ways of seeing, thinking and making.
Stromberg is a firm believer in “less is more,” not only in design but in all parts of life. Get to know—and get inspired by—him and his work below.
Name: Gabriel Stromberg
Name of Firm/Studio: Civilization
Location: Seattle, WA
Design school attended: SCAD in Atlanta, Seattle Central Creative Academy in Seattle
How would you describe your work?
My visual vocabulary is a mixup of all the things I love—the structure and human centeredness of modernism, the displacement of post-modernism, the visual delight of pop art and the poetry of minimalism. If there is a philosophy or principle that runs throughout my work and process, it’s a belief in “less is more,” which I attempt to apply in all parts of my life.
Where do you find inspiration?
The inspiration for design comes from our clients. Almost always we are working with individuals or organizations who are embarking on a bold new project or in the process of taking a huge leap forward with their existing endeavors. It’s very exciting working with people in the midst of such transformation. There is an energy they bring to the project that is extremely dynamic and inspirational. And ultimately we are, through design, telling their stories—and it’s these stories, experiences, and points of view that become the heart of the design solutions we create.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
I have so many —Otl Aicher, Sol Lewitt, Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Wim Crouwel, Experimental Jetset, Paula Scher, Bjork, Hans Hollein, Lance Wyman, Eddie Opara, April Greiman, Oki Sato, Marcel Breuer, Kenya Hara, Jonathan Anderson, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Karel Martens—just to name a few.
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Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
My favorite projects are always the most recent —in this case an identity for the Los Angeles-based furniture designer Eric Trine, which we just completed in March. I also just finished a series of prints for the West Coast Design Showcase curated by Join Design which is currently on view at Poketo in Los Angeles.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Last summer I began moderating a podcast called Beyond This Point, which I also co-created. The podcast features creative thinkers from all fields—design, business, art, performance—and engages them in a conversation about process, inspiration, and design. The podcast currently includes fifteen episodes and has featured such amazing guests as Paula Scher, Lance Wyman, and Paloma Strelitz and Lewis Jones of Assemble.
Being involved in this project has challenged me in so many different ways, not the least of which is forcing me to tackle my fear of public speaking, as the podcasts are often recorded live in front of a studio audience and quite a large one at that. The role of moderator isn’t one of design per se—yet it does involve designing a conversation and has made me a more nimble and engaged thinker and a better listener—which has, in turn, made me a better designer. Also, interviewing my heroes from various creative fields has been an absolute dream come true.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
More design work, more podcasts, more personal projects. I am also currently working on my first essay on design. I am such a slow writer so who knows when that will be finished.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
Fight for design. Designers are often operating within circumstances dominated by commerce and technology—it’s easy for design to be delegated to the back seat when design should be driving the conversation. In our current culture—so focused on digital marketing and social media, design is more important than ever before. Business and technology would be invisible, formless and inaccessible without design as a vehicle of manifestation and expression.
A defining characteristic of the business mindset is to negotiate, manipulate, lie, cheat—do whatever it takes to put business first. As designers and design ambassadors we have to apply similar tactics. Understand that by taking on the role of designer you have power and authority—use it. When design is paramount, everyone wins.
[Want to see more from Seattle design firms? Check out these 9 app designs from Seattle creatives.]