Stephen Burks is a designer, educator, and traveler based in Brooklyn, New York. Burks believes in a pluralistic vision of design that is inclusive of all cultural perspectives. Man Made – his design practice – bridges the gap between authentic developing world production, industrial manufacturing, and contemporary design. His projects often embrace hand production as a strategy for innovation. Burks’ career as an independent designer began when, after years spent traveling and living abroad, Italian manufacturer Cappellini put his first pieces into production. He has since become one of the most recognized American industrial designers of his generation. He works independently, with artists and non-profits worldwide, and is frequently commissioned to develop collections for design-driven brands. His work has been exhibited internationally including at the Armory Show, Art Basel/Design Miami, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, 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.
Burks studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Product Design at IIT’S Institute of Design, as well as Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture. He is a recipient of several awards including the Illinois Institute of Technology Alumni Professional Achievement Award, the Brooklyn Museum Modernism Young Designer Award, and he was the first African-American to win the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design. In addition to his work with Berea College, Burks works with Harvard University as a Design Critic in the Harvard Graduate School of Design Engineering program and as an Expert-In-Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab.