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Ask the Readers: Who is a current household name in design?

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name a famous designer

LeBron James, Barack Obama, Terrell Owens, Britney Spears – names you all recognize I assume? For better or worse, I think that just about everybody in the United States would know these people by name.

So I wonder: Who are some current, active, living designers that you (or your younger sister) would know by name? At first glance it may seem that designers are under-appreciated by popular media, but I’m sure you can think of at least a few current headliners. I’m leaving this completely open, and I’m really curious. So don’t let me down – leave a comment!

About the Author, Adam Wagner

I'm a marketer, designer, armchair singer/songwriter, wannabe theoretical physicist/philosopher and recent college grad trying to pack as much living as possible into each day. Working at Go Media makes this pretty easy. Catch me on Twitter!!
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We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • oliverbarrett

    paula scher

  • Edward McIntyre

    Well that depends on the household, and what you mean by designer.

  • mug25

    Josh Smith (Hydro74)

    Peter Jaworowski (the hejz)

    Justin Maller

  • lucas albrecht

    Saul Bass is a legend… : Currently though I would say James White. Interesting topic

  • funkymagee

    Jonathan Ive

  • cynicdesign

    Shephard Fairey is the only truly household name I can think of in design. Non-designers know him.

  • Edward McIntyre

    The only “Designer” I can think of that can think of that would be a true household name, most would not even think of as a designer. Although his furniture design is top notch.

    TY Pennington

  • Andrew Crocker

    Yeah, I'm with Cynic. Shephard Fairey is the only one non designers would know.

    If you're just talking about my non-designer friends you can add Scott Hanson (iso50 / tychomusic) to the list but it's mostly for his music.

  • Adam_Wagner

    Ding ding ding… that rings true for me. Good responses everyone!

  • jeff_finley

    Yeah, I would have to agree. Any more like him?

  • jeff_finley

    Oh yeah, there are lots of “stars” on TV that are not exactly graphic designers, but like you said furniture, interior design, home design, architecture. Do they even have an illustration/graphic design show?

  • Paul Rowzee

    Hydro 74, Troy White, David Walker (Pushing Pictures)

  • jeff_finley

    Yeah, more from the “Depthcore” group or KDU would be pretty good answers. David Gensler maybe.

  • cynicdesign

    Yeah, I was going to try and slip Hydro74 in there, but I think he's just well known inside the community. My friends wouldn't know who he is. Josh is the man when it comes to pure individual graphic styling.

  • cynicdesign

    I was just telling a friend that they should have a design show. Something like all of these reality cooking shows would be pretty cool to watch.

  • SheamusCrowley

    Definitely. Especially after his HOPE artwork for Obama's campaign.

  • Kathryn

    nope. not in Florida anyway. Everytime I mention him I get blank stares, then “wait… its a guy and his name is fairy??”

  • Nate Maggio

    What about fashion… does that count? Paul Frank?

  • saraelizabeth22

    One of the first guys I ever really knew about was Joshua Davis. Or what about David Carson? I would consider him a legend at this point. And of course Ellen Lupton but only because we use her books in design school.

  • Ryan Murphy

    Milton Glaser

    I Love New York… everyone knows that even if they dont know glaser

  • saraelizabeth22

    Yeah he is one of the only guys I can think of that even non-designers would know. My picks were more just the most common I could think of among my design college. It's hard to say what other people would know outside the design community since most of us on here are apart of it.

  • saraelizabeth22

    Yeah why exactly has no one thought of that yet? Plus I think having a show like that may lead people to look at graphic type design more and in a different, better, way.

  • saraelizabeth22

    good point everyone knows that logo, but I highly doubt most people know the name behind it sadly.

  • tim_hammond

    Yeah, definitely David Carson and Shepard Fairey. Those are probably the only two designers that people I know who aren't designers recognize. Unfortunately good designers are very much the unsung heroes of everyday life. Your average household probably contains things made by hundreds of different designers, yet no one who isn't a designer would really consider finding out who designed their furniture, books, cd covers, appliances, or clothing.

  • owenvideo

    Vera Wang.

    A) She designs some nice wedding dresses and such according to my wife

    B) Her name is Wang. I may be 27, but that's always going to be as funny to me as it would be to any 12 year old boy. I apologize for wasting the internet with this post.

  • Overithiswire

    Hmm, Rob dobie was the first i heard of who had a pretty big buzz in the t-shirt design scene, because of my connections with merch direct. He had his webstore with them.

    Honestly, and i mean honestly,
    when other designers ask me who i am into right now i tell them

    Bill Beachy
    Jeff finley
    Oliver Barrett
    Adam wagner

    I think you guys are making big noise in the design world.

    Oliver's art work is incredible.
    So is jeff's, bill's, and adam's.

    Other then you guys – My good close buddy who was one of merch directs T-shirt designers

    Jon Boulier

    Check his stuff out, hes really great. Did stuff for a lot of cool bands. (brand new, Envy on the coast ect)

  • Jack Mueth

    given the right crowd (of non-designers) I would say Dan Mumford for sure.

  • Courtny Cotten

    Peter Jawarowski hands down.

    I know some skeptics say his work is always the same old thing but his usage and creation of visual metaphors is unparalleled.

  • tribalime


  • Landon

    Paul Rand
    Shepard Fairey
    David Carson
    Stefan Sagmeister

  • cynicdesign

    That's an excellent point. We sure could use some more respect from the average Joe.

  • joey z

    I teach design and almost all my kids know who Shepard Fairey, Banksy and now they know Jeff Finley :)

  • Jesse

    I don't know if it has already been mentioned but a household name (for me at least), are the Invisible Creature brothers, Don and Ryan Clark.

  • Patrick

    I know Jon from when he used to be in the Don Quixotic. He does some rad stuff. I actually have a few of the tees he did.

  • jeff_finley

    There was this show on MTV called Engine Room that was a reality/talent competition with designers and animators. I only saw one episode and they made it seem like creating a 30 second mograph commercial was a piece of cake. David Carson was a judge. Lots of fluff.

  • Overithiswire

    Patrick, if you see this. Tha'ts crazy. What a small world- I'm pretty sure i know who you are. I was in the band stradlatter, i think we would play with your band out in greenport!! I'm guessing you do design as well? Hit me up with some contact info dude!

  • jeff_finley

    Yeah David Carson I would consider a household name.

  • jeff_finley

    good ones

  • Devlin

    Chipp Kidd

  • Burak

    Stefan Sagmeister

  • Ken Reynolds

    I'd say Neville Brody would be up there as a graphic designer that a lot of people would know.

    The most famous product designer I can think of would probably be James Dyson.

    And Terrance Conran is synonymous with furniture/interior design.

  • andymarshall


  • PG

    I think design firms or ad agencies might be more well known than the actual designers who work at or own them. For instance, Saatchi & Saatchi, but do people actually know who the key players behind that company are? Probably not.

    And you know it's the end of the design world when a NON-designer/hack like Shepard Fairey gets more attention than a lot of the other great designers with real skills.

  • adam

    I agree with the ISO50 comment

  • Adam_Wagner

    Yea, I'd have to agree with Paul Rand. I could see him being the receiving end of a design joke in a mainstream movie. But do you consider him current & active? If he's still working I didn't know about it…

  • Jean-Yves Bonzon

    What about Banksy, though he choses to remain incognito…?

  • nuno_tuna

    Don't forget Neville Brody on minimalist type design and editorial like The Face Magazine.

  • whacko

    I myself know many designers by name. But that is because I am a designer myself. For someone to be a “household name” people outside of the field would have to know the person and that they are in fact a designer.

    If we are talking about Graphic Design, the only true answer is Shephard Fairey. He is the only Graphic Designer to gain significant notoriety to be featured in just about every newspaper in this country either for his Obama HOPE Posters, or else his court case against the AP or his several arrests for hanging posters.

    Milton Glaser is still working and he is fairly famous, but I don't know if he really counts as a household name. He is well respected in Design circles, but he doesn't end up in the newspaper every week and he is rarely on television.

    If we are talking about interior design, Martha Stewart is a name that is still well known. I don't know if she still has TV shows, but he does still have her magazine and non-designers recognize her as a “Designer.”

    The problem with being a designer is that the majority of the work you do has to go “unsigned” because it is work for a client. Also as a Graphic Designer your work for clients tends to vary wildly from one job to the next so it is hard to build up a cohesive portfolio thatis recognieable as belonging to one person. Even if you were able to sign your work how many non-designers would be struck by the nice desgin you created for a make-up advertisement and bother to google to find out who you are?

    The sad fact is the the talentless degenerates that make up the majority of MTVs Reality television programs pool of 'stars' is more socially visible than any designer is likely to be.

  • dudouz

    David Carson

    Fábio Sasso (abduzeedo)

  • Anne

    I don't know if “household name” is exactly an accurate description (I don't tend to walk around and throw designer names around when I'm talking to my family or friends) but I do appreciate David Airey and Graham Smith. ;)

  • tj_ripp

    I agree with everyone saying Banksy for sure. Fairey and Carson are definitely up there also, but “household names”, I'm not sure. Oh and Chip Kidd b/c of attention from the books he wrote (which are great by the way).

  • ccdesign

    I think Michael Graves has become a well known designer because of good old Target……

  • TJ Rippelmeyer

    I agree, “household name among designers” is where most of these people fall into.

  • Pedro

    I've read almost all the comments here and from all the names I recognize maybe 4 or 5, this from a designer… I'm guessing nondesigners wouldn't recognize any unless they would be some intellectual read about everything kind of person.

    The only name I could think of being more of an household name would be: Andy Warhol

  • Bdejulia

    Simone Legno – Tokidoki

  • geoffmay

    If we're strictly talking household names, meaning non-designers would recognize them, I'd say Shep Fairey for sure.

    Todd Oldham is probably up there too.

  • dan Gullotti

    shephard fairey is an artist, not a designer… but i am not sure where that line is drawn (pun intended)…

    Paul Rand is the first person i thought of

  • borris

    I heard that good design should rarely be noticed by non designers- its skill to be able to do that- its their job. Only designers know designers- just like football fans. Thats what makes design what it is.

  • dunlapstudios

    I don't know many that could ever be household names, as most designers are known by their work and not by themselves. I would say Shepard Fairey and Hydro 74, only because of the impact they've made on their market and the media.

    Still, I think people only know of Obey and the guy that does the sport illustrations.

    Alberto Seveso is also getting more well known because of his unique style, he's been featured on a lot of huge publications recently. His photo manipulation of Michael Phelps on the cover of ESPN made some big waves.

  • Wilson Revehl

    ED HARDY! Sure he is rooted in all the cliche tattoo but really Audigier has made Don the most famous name in graphic t's as far as “household names” go. wah

  • Devin (creativeintentions)

    What about James Victore, Steven Heller, Scott McCloud? Classics are always great as well: George Lois, Milton Glaser, etc. Paul Rand's teachings are apt but he passed in '91 unfortunately. Also the ladies: Li Edelkoort and Valerie Casey get into other areas of design. The list continues…

  • ngassmann

    Paul Rand was my first. I would agree with Dan, but I would say Fairey is both designer and artist. Are poster designers artists? The Andre the Giant thing was an inside joke at RISD, was he an artist then? I don't think so, but that's just my opinion.

  • gmhdesign

    I'm a big fan of Adam Haynes of (Nike 6.0) If Nike 6.0 is a household name, does that make Adam Haynes a household name??? The man Draws up a killer 6 wheel ATV Woody and Nike decides to build one.

  • Elio

    If we talk strictly about a “household” name, the only name that comes to my mind is Alejandro Paul, the typeface designer behind
    The second name is definitely Cameron Moll and if we blur the line a bit, the illustrator Derek Lea.

  • arymega

    Pauly Shore — the great designer of bad acting.

  • Jp

    I'm really diggin on Neville Brody and Research Studios lately. They designed the type face, New Deal, for Johnny Depp's new movie Public Enemies.

    For any interested in seeing a visual:

    Solid stuff.

  • duncancarroll

    Ed Hardy and Marc Ecko

  • jglovier


    Saul Bass

    Milton Glaser


    Justin Maller

    Peter Jawarowski

    Chuck Anderson

  • Jaz

    Simone Legno – Tokidoki

    I reckon it'd be pretty hard to be a famous (graphic) designer outside of the design community… general community may appreciate the design but don't really care who made it happen.

  • Fitz

    Si Scott

  • liquidsky

    Chad Michael Ward. Nuff' Said.

  • David Airey

    Active today:

    Michael Bierut
    Steff Geissbuhler
    Ivan Chermayeff
    Michael Johnson
    Paula Scher
    Jerry Kuyper

  • David Airey

    Thanks, Anne!

  • Adam_Wagner

    Yea, I was thinking about him too after looking over the list so far.

  • thrice11rc

    You can't be a designer without being an artist. One does not exclude the other. Designers are a type of artist, just as a painter or a sculpter are types of artists. He owns his own design company, has designed various shirts and clothing for bands and his own clothing line, he's design album covers for Flogging Molly, 311, The Black Eyed Peas, etc etc etc. Not to mention all the posters he's created and installations he's done at places like the Virgin Megastore.

    Shepard Fairey is most definitely a designer and an artist.

  • dinamin

    karim rashid -not rlly a fan but everybody knows him

  • ivancruz

    Storm Thorgerson is the man hands down! Creater of mostly all pink floyds cover art and also doing stuff for current artist such as the mars volta and anthranx to name a few, i mean he did led zeppelin and black sabbath back in the day.

    but also a big fan of munk one!

  • Caleb

    Here is a couple off the top of my head. I know at least a handful of people who would know who i am talking about if i mentioned these names.

    Aaron Turner

    Mark Weaver


    Dan Mumford

    if YOU havent heard of them. definitely check them out. :)

  • Fitz

    peter saville???

  • msivokram

    nicolo nimor
    christian san jose
    aj dimarucot

  • agregorie

    I was defiantly thinking Shepard Farey. Since his Obey campaign he has also done President Obamas campaign posters as well as become a popular branding clothes.

    hmm who ever invented that font Bleeding Cowboys font on That thing is everywhere. It is getting ridiculous.

  • Adam_Wagner

    Nice list David!

  • ac_jc

    Geoff McFetridge

  • Joran

    James White, for his retrofuturistic style.

  • chadengle

    Chip Foose most of the others I would say are repeats.

  • brianisrighthere

    Ed Hardy has become a total tool. All he does now is take great tattoo designs and use them to cover bigger tools that are too afraid to get a real tattoo. Making a S-Load of money on it though.

    All that aside, you're right. Pretty much anyone from age 18-65 knows who he is and can recognize his work. Too bad only people 50-65 think he is actually cool.

  • bungodesign

    milton glaser – classic

    jasper goodall – contemporary (illustrator)

  • distresscloths

    tristan gadrinab
    brandon heart

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