Designer Genes

In a Garfield Park studio, brothers Christopher and Daniel Streng are redesigning the world—one object at a time.

Photo: Dane Tashima

Streng theory: Daniel (right) and Christopher with one of their chairs
Nobility. Enlightenment. Ritual. These are lofty words for industrial designers to be throwing around. But they’re part of the regular vocabulary of the brothers Christopher and Daniel Streng and their seven-person firm Streng Design (www.strengdesign.net), located in Garfield Park. Companies hire them to rethink and redesign everything from appliances to vehicles to personal care products and food packaging. And, their sleek furniture line has made them the darlings of international design circles.

Born and raised in Chilton, Wisconsin, Daniel, now 37, and Christopher, 34, both graduated from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, and about 12 years ago each set up his own design studio. But their work kept being selected for the same shows, and they found themselves constantly fielding calls for each other. So in 2002 they joined forces and the accolades have been rolling in ever since.

For Whirlpool, the Strengs came up with an ultracompact washer/dryer combination with a mod orange door, and a small refrigerator on wheels that can move from dorm room to urban apartment to back porch. The pair have also designed a number of objects for the kitchen-and-bath behemoth Kohler, the most covetable of which is the Sok bathtub-within-a-tub: a bather can fill it to the very rim because the water overflows into a second catch basin. The Strengs are currently at work on a line of furniture for the spring season, which culminates at the NeoCon interior design trade fair here in June.

How can two people work in so many areas? By stripping away ingrained thinking about objects and getting down to pure function, says Daniel. “When you walk into a car dealership you expect certain things,” he says.

“But why is the steering wheel the way it is? Does it have to have four wheels?” Christopher asks. “I’m working on a new urban vehicle using fuel cell technology. We all have prejudices about what we expect from a motorcycle or a bicycle or a car. But this will say, ‘I’m not any of those things. I am my own thing.’”

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