5 Questions with Brian Graham, Furniture Designer

Brian Graham

Tell us a little about who you are, your background and experience with CAD:

I’m an interior designer that morphed into a furniture designer, and that informs everything that I do. Understanding the context of how various pieces of furniture come together in a space and how they work together are fundamental to what I do. I’m a native of Southern California that moved to San Francisco about 30 years ago, originally as an interior designer with Gensler. I broke off on my own in 1999 and have been running my own design studio since then. I work as an independent consultant, partnering with manufacturers to design, develop and market new designs under their brand. I’m fortunate to be associated with some of the best companies in the business, including Decca, Geiger, Halcon, Knoll, Martin Brattrud and OFS. At any one time I have 4-5 products that either are in schematic design, engineering development or about to be launched, so my days are pretty varied. I don’t fabricate anything and I don’t have a shop…although sometimes I wish I did. My computer set up consists of a 2017 15” MacBook Pro with a 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. That’s hooked up to a 27” LG Ultra HD Display with a nice built in USB-C powered hub so I can power my computer and get closer to my goal of being dongle-less…if that’s even a term.

What kind of products do you design?

My focus is primarily on the contract furniture market, which means I’m knee deep into everything from systems to casegoods, tables and seating. Recently I introduced a number of new designs at our industry’s annual trade show, NeoCon, which is held every June in Chicago. And I’m already and work on new designs for 2019 and 2020.

graham design room design  Graham design martin  Graham Design OFS Rowe   Graham Design Office Chair  graham Design book case  Graham Design Chair

How long have you used Shark?

I’ve been using Shark since before it was called Shark! (So would that time stamping be BS and AS?) I was an Ashlar guy and the VAR I was connected to, Robert Hagemeister out of Saybrook, Connecticut, suggested I look at this newly launched product called Concepts Unlimited. That was somewhere around the Winter of 2001, I think. It was a really good platform, and I liked the direct connection with Tim and Todd and all of the knowledge of the users in the Forum. I’ve never looked back.

How does Shark fit into your work flow?

My work flow is very unique to me, because I came into this profession drawing by hand. For me, everything starts with a sketch. Once I have the germ of something in that sketch, I immediately take it into Shark and scale it up so I’m working with real dimensions. I’ll take that as far as I can, and then I’ll print out some views and sketch over those to refine the gesture, then back onto Shark. It’s kind of reading and reacting and working in iterations until I arrive at what I’m after…or I’m at my deadline! Whichever comes first!

Graham Design work place sketch   Graham Design Chair   Graham Design Credenza Sketch

What is a piece of advice you’d like to impart on an aspiring designer?

I’d say it’s all about finding your voice in the market that you’ve chosen to pursue. Once you’ve staked out your turf, so to speak, I think you need to come to a design problem with curiosity, empathy and a point of view. You should have a well developed sense of how things should work, how they should feel and of course how they should look.

Is there anything else you want to share?

At it’s essence, design is an optimistic act, and so with all of the turmoil in the world I think we as designers need to remember that we have a unique set of skills to adapt and shape things for the better.

If you are interested in seeing more of Brian's designs, visit him at Graham Design or on Instagram @grahamdesignsf