Brian Kane was first introduced to the world of industrial design by a secondary school guidance counsellor. "He pointed at his office chair, his phone, the clock, and said, 'These were all designed by somebody'", recalls Kane.
After graduating from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and spending a year in New York working on designing appliances, Kane and his wife headed for Milan, Italy, where he literally knocked on doors. One opened – architect Silvio Coppola's – and it changed his life. "Seeing his passion for design was a real head turner for me", says Kane, who decided that furniture design was what he wanted to pursue.
He returned to New York after a year and took a position with Atelier International (ai). In 1977 he joined the Metropolitan Furniture Corporation (Metro), later becoming one of the owning partners. While at Metro, he became involved in manufacturing, another key learning experience. "It's such an integral part of what we do", he explains.
In 1989 Kane established the Kane Design Studio in San Francisco, where he focused on what he loves most of all: seating. "It's all about comfort and innovation", he says. "I have always attempted to explore materials and processes and use them in ways that add an element of detail that is unique. I'd call myself a minimalist; I strive for simplification in both form and manufacturing".
When developing Herman Miller's Swoop lounge furniture line, Kane drew on his experience as a teacher at the California College of Art, where he observed how students interact with furniture. "They don't really sit in a chair; they sprawl, they lie, they perch. With their iPods and computers, they can be totally tuned out in a busy environment as long as they're comfortable".
"I tried to respond to that form-wise, with 'swooping' curves that people can throw their arms or legs over and still be comfortable and well-supported", he says.
Although Kane is probably best known for his lounge and office seating, his benches can be found all over the country, from New York City to San Francisco. "My relatives are always sending pictures of themselves sitting on one of my benches in New York", he laughs.
His designs have won over 80 awards and have been exhibited at the Whitney and Brooklyn Museums in New York and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. He says he is especially proud to now have his products sitting alongside those of Charles Eames and George Nelson in Herman Miller showrooms. "For me, that's as good as it gets".
Kane Design Studio
San Francisco, California
Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) IDEA Awards
-Rubber Chair Collection, 1984
-Manhattan Collection (Metro), 1988
-Pacifica Lounge Collection (Metro), 1990
-Showroom (Wieland), 1994
-Exhibit (Landscapeforms), 1995
-Xorel Chair (Carnegie Textiles), 1997
ID Magazine Design Review
-Sonoma Bench (Landscapeforms), 2003