Stephen Burks is one of the most recognised American industrial designers of his generation. Of African origin, he was born and raised in Chicago where he studied architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology and product design at IIT Institute of Design. He then went on to study at the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia University in New York.
He has worked closely with artisans and artists in over ten countries and six continents as product development consultant, both in an independent capacity and in association with non-profit bodies including Aid To Artisans, the Nature Conservancy and the Foundation, creating sustainable products to support local craftspeople.
His origins are reflected in his work, and he has always been a fierce proponent of African American civil rights. He believes in a pluralistic vision of design that is inclusive of all cultural perspectives.
He hosts design workshops and has been appointed as a critic in a number of design schools in various parts of the world. His studio, named Stephen Burks Man Made, designs store interiors, events, packaging, consumer products, lighting, furniture and home accessories. Together with his team, 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 Dedon, Luceplan and Missoni.
His work has been exhibited internationally and awards include the Illinois Institute of Technology Alumni Personal Achievement Award, Brooklyn Museum Young Modernist Award, the Architektur & Wohnen Audio Mentor Prize and the 2008 United States Artists, Architecture & Design Target Fellowship Grant.
He is the only African American to have won the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design.