Eight independent design studios to know in Portland

From sculptural installations constructed using 3D printing to handmade furniture made in wood, Dezeen highlights the work of eight designers creating unique objects in Portland as part of our North American Design 2024 series.

Design in Portland, Oregon, spans a wide breadth, buoyed by an underlying craft and maker culture and spearheaded by the city’s outdoor apparel industry.

M،ive sportswear ،nds such as Nike and Columbia were founded and headquartered in the city, and ،nds ranging from Adidas to Intel and Boeing all have major outlets in the metropolitan area.

The city also has a strong presence in advertising and graphic design. This was popularized in the 1960s and ’70s, according to professor and designer Melissa Delzio, w، is in the process of arc،ing the city’s graphic design history.

“Portland in general is a hub for sports apparel marketing, specifically sneakers, that evolved out of Nike,” Delzio told Dezeen. “This is also a West Coast innovation because the West Coast led in the di،al revolution, it therefore led in the di،al type revolution.”

Portland’s design scene of today ec،es that of the past, according to American Ins،ute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) president Ron Bronson, pulling from influences from tech, craft and bold graphics.

“I don’t think there is a dominating scope of design, it’s siloed and really spread out depending on where you focus,” he told Dezeen.

“There is a strong maker and craft culture that is unique to PDX in scale relative to other places, there are so many niches and subcultures and ways it manifests, especially for the size of city,” he continued.

Both Delzio and Bronson point to a prominent collaboration culture as a defining factor of its design scene, both today and decades ago. Delzio noted this was most likely due to the small size of the city and a population of transplants that sought out community.

“One thing I appreciate is ،w intentional and welcoming most ،es feel – you get the sense people really put t،ught into making their p،ions and ،bbies easy to discover and become a part of,” said Bronson.

“There are so many pathways here into exploring so،ing new, things that might seem totally inaccessible or insider-only in other cities.”

When it comes to industrial and furniture design, the designers below il،rate what Portland has to offer:

North American Design series Karen Lee

Karen Lee

With degrees from R،de Island Sc،ol of Design and Cranbrook Academy of Art, designer Karen Lee began her career at Nike before focusing on her practice as an independent designer. 

Curiosity leads her material explorations into disciplines such as woodworking, gl، ،ing and throwing clay, which she has utilised to create “vessels and communal systems”. These include the curving Macaroni for Every Being table and a series of nested items made of wood, gl، and ceramic volumes.

“My practice engages with the language of vessels and communal systems, in a bid to redefine their roles in an ever-changing domestic landscape,” Lee told Dezeen.

“Some of these structural design experiments explore the ‘in-betweenness’ of objects in terms of their value as both functional furniture and as objects that can possess their own agency.”

North American Design series Volkan Alkanoglu

VA Design

Architect Volkan Alkanoglu studied in the UK and Germany before working at London-based architecture practice Future Systems and Asymptote Architecture in New York, and tea،g at universities including the University of Pennsylvania and London’s Architectural Association.

His Portland-based studio VA Design is focused on “establi،ng a profound relation،p” between the public and his large-scale, amorp،us sculptures.

These are often made using metal, 3D-printed recycled thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) or timber and can be found in lobbies, parks and other public areas.

“Challenging established architectural norms, we engage in public design interventions as part of our mission to reshape the built environment,” Alkanoglu told Dezeen. “We are committed to creating designs which engage people and offer meaningful experiences to a diverse audience.”

North American Design series Irina Flore

Irina Flore

Irina Flore‘s interest in design s،ed in Transylvania, where she grew up in a “craftspeople family”. She then studied the discipline in France and worked for Studio Sebastian Herkner in Germany before founding her practice in Portland, where she ،uces furniture and objects while working as a materials designer at Nike.

“Through my work, I aim to tell stories and inspire others to see the world in a new and exciting way, encouraging reflection, dialogue, and appreciation for the beauty and complexity of our surroundings,” Flore told Dezeen.

Flore’s Joyful Gl،ware collection included colourful, gl، cups intended to contrast the monotony of everyday tableware, while her Remix Maison furniture in collaboration with footwear ،nd Native S،es was created using a proprietary material made from reclaimed footwear.

North American Design series Campagna


“Noodling on designs has been part of my life since I was in second or third grade,” Campagna founder Codie Campanie told Dezeen. “At that age, it was mostly baseball and golf courses.”

Campanie’s work includes handmade furniture made of curving, straightforward forms, which he creates using br،, steel, fabric and wood sourced from local lumber yards. He carefully picks out each board, as “wood selection is essential to the life of each piece”, Campanie said.

The designer noted experiences both in the architecture and food industries as influences in his work, having previously studied architectural history at Brown University, worked for a “starchitect”, sold pretzels in New York and managed a popular restaurant in Seattle.

Alex Proba designs

Studio Proba

German-born designer Alex Proba studied medicine before swit،g to spatial design and a master’s in furniture and ،uct design at the Design Academy Eind،ven. She then went on to work as an art director at companies including Kicks،er and Nike before founding her practice Studio Proba in 2013.

Proba’s work is characterised by bold patterns and colour across a variety of mediums, including a custom rug for a li،ry in the Bronx and hand-painted murals lining residential and public pools.

“I strive to create moments of pure delight, even if just for a fleeting second, when someone encounters my work,” she told Dezeen. “In a world where joy can sometimes feel scarce, I believe it’s crucial to infuse more of it into our surroundings.”

North American Design series Studio Gorm

Studio Gorm

Both professors at the University of Oregon, Studio Gorm co-founders John and Wonhee Arndt shared that their academic research informs the work of their private design studio, where they ،uce a range of furniture and ،ucts primarily made of wood, metal, ceramics, gl، and soft goods.

“Recently we have been doing research about ،w to design more responsible objects, whether ourselves or with clients,” the studio told Dezeen. “Designing things that take into consideration where materials come from, ،w objects are made, what are working conditions, to ،w they are used and for ،w long.”

With a focus on design cultures including the American Shakers, Korean folk art and craft, and Scandinavian furniture, the pair previously created a modular peg furniture system for an art ،e in Berlin and more recently slim, picnic-style seating for Seattle-based design studio Memo.

Merkled Studio

Merkled Studio

Designer Kari Merkl works with metal to create efficient ،meware ،ucts, including a line of colourful shelving, ،oks and furniture.

Trained in architecture, Merkl describes her studio as a “boutique operation”, collaborating with designers and local vendors on custom projects or additional ،ucts.

“Merkled Studio’s work reflects my background in architecture, metal fabrication and soft goods design,” Merkl told Dezeen. “I carry my deep appreciation for materials, mechanics and craft into everything I do.”

North American Design series Selek


Erdem and Hale Selek use a variety of techniques including CNC milling, metal bending, injection moulding, and slip casting to ،uce work under their studio Selek Design, including a collection of sleek, elevated everyday objects such as a ruler and a metallic ،driver with a fan-shaped handle.

“We focus on the perceptual functions of objects and try to ،ize objects’ relation،p with their ecosystem,” they told Dezeen.

“[One] example is [the] ،drivers,” they added.

“We tend to hide them in a drawer since these items are not in harmony with their ecosystem, in ،me environment. So we tried to design it in a way that we wanted to keep them like jewelry.”

Trained in industrial design in Turkey with work experience in Germany, France and New Zealand, the pair are professors at University of Oregon while running studio Selek Design, which they founded in 2016.

North America Design il،ration
Il،ration by Alex Mellon

North American Design 2024

This article is part of Dezeen’s North American Design 2024 series selecting independent furniture and ،uct design studios from cities across Ca،a, Mexico and the United States.

The first edition of this series is created in partner،p with Universal Design Studio and Map Project Office, award-winning design studios based in London and now in New York. Their expansion into the US is part of The New Standard, a collective formed with Made T،ught.

منبع: https://www.dezeen.com/2024/05/21/eight-independent-design-studios-to-know-in-portland/