Hero Worship
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

McKenna: My first job before I graduated from college (Industrial Design, University of Illinois, 1997) was for the German lighting designer Ingo Maurer. I studied abroad in England for a year and was casting about for an internship when I met Maurer  and his crew at one of the Milan fairs. I started out there as an intern, and I really loved it. I learned German and ended up staying for about a year and a half. It was a very formative time for me.

    I struck out on my own as an industrial designer about five years ago. On the whole, it has been a very positive experience. But there has been, as there is in every young designer’s life, some self-doubt. That’s what these kits are really about: They acknowledge my own desire to be one of the great designers, as ridiculous as that is. Actually, these

kits are a way for anybody and everybody to effectively become one of the great designers. You pick up the kit, pop out the pieces, put them together, and in less than a minute, you have “created” your very own instant design classic.

    The Designer Emulation Kits are made out of green, printed circuit board, a product that basically controls our lives. It’s the same stuff that’s in your TV, your cell phone, your thermostat. Conceptually, it’s straightforward, but to get the tolerances right is actually a fairly difficult process. We’ve got the dimensions down to 2/1,000 of an inch, so they fit together properly.
Mark McKenna's Designer Emulation Kits.
Industrial designer and Ingo Maurer protégé Mark McKenna says his Designer Emulation Kits are a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that he may never live up to the design

giants of our era.

    The first designer we emulated was Ingo Maurer and the Lucellino. Then we went straight to Achille Castiglioni, who I think is probably the greatest of all time. In general, we tried to go for the most recognizable of all the lamps ever designed, like Castiglioni’s Arco, a ubiquitous symbol of good taste. After that was Richard Sapper and his Tizio lamp, which some people say is the greatest-selling lamp of all time. Number four was another Castiglioni, the Toio lamp, and my personal favorite. Our final one is a Philippe Starck design for Flos called Miss K.


    The response has been fantastic—more than I ever imagined or hoped. It has actually been so great that I have had to stop making more of these for fear of being typecast. They are being

sold through museum shops and a lot of high-end furniture stores. I think people who go into these stores would like to buy something, and often our products are the only thing in there under $300. In fact, they are actually under $30, and they are all made here in the U.S.

    The Museum of Modern Art [in New York] is our biggest customer. I don’t know how many they sell, but we’ve sold close to 20,000 of these things. I consider it just as amazing as you do.

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