Stephen Burks is a designer, educator, and traveler. He studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology and received his Bachelor of Science in Product Design from IIT’s Institute of Design, as well as his Master of Architecture from Columbia GSAPP. After years spent traveling between New York and Europe, as well as living abroad in Tokyo and Milan, Stephen became an independent designer at the turn of the millennium, when the famed Italian manufacturer Cappellini put his first furniture pieces into production.
Today, Stephen is one of the most recognized American industrial designers of his generation. Through association with the non-profits Aid To Artisans, Artesanias de Colombia, the Clinton Global Initiative, Design Network Africa, and the Nature Conservancy, Stephen has worked as a product development consultant in close collaboration with hundreds of artisans/craftspeople in countries including Australia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, South Africa, the US, and the UK.
Stephen believes in a pluralistic vision of design that is inclusive of all cultural perspectives. His studio Stephen Burks Man Made develops projects that attempt to bridge the gap between authentic developing world production, industrial manufacturing, and contemporary design. He has been commissioned by many of the world’s leading design-driven brands to develop collections that engage hand production as a strategy for innovation including Berea College (Crafting Diversity, 2020), BD Barcelona (Grasso, 2018), Bolon (Grasso Textiles, 2018), Cappellini (Cappellini Love, 2008), Calligaris (Variations, 2013), Dedar (Roping, 2011, Finger Painting, 2017), Dedon (Dala, 2012, Dala Accessories, 2013, Ahnda, 2014, The Others, 2017, Kida, 2021), Estee Lauder (Missoni Profumi, 2006), Harry Winston (Hidden Gem, 2013), Missoni (Patchwork, 2004), Moroso (M’Afrique, 2009), Parachilna (Anwar, 2013, Babel, 2016), and Roche Bobois (The Traveler, 2014, The Traveler Outdoor, 2016, Planete, 2018).
Stephen’s work has been exhibited internationally including the Armory Show, Art Basel/Design Miami, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, DX Design Exchange, Dwell On Design, Kotrijk, IMM Cologne, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, MAD Museum of Art & Design, Philadelphia Art Museum, Neocon, Salone del Mobile, Hong Kong Shenzhen Biennale, and the Stockholm Furniture Fair, as well as the first solo exhibition of product design ever shown at the Studio Museum Harlem (Stephen Burks Man Made, 2011).
Stephen’s work is now included in the collections of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum (Dedar Roping), the Philadelphia Art Museum (Roche Bobois The Traveler), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Dedon Kida), and the Victoria & Albert Museum (Estee Lauder Missoni Profumi).