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Preferring to stroll busy city streets to hailing cabs, Carl Gustav Magnusson never misses an opportunity to draw inspiration from the world around him. “I make a point of observing how people and things work,” says principal of design consulting firm, CGM Design (New York). From jewelry to car tires, Magnusson uses fashion and his longtime fascination with automobiles to solve problems in the industry.

“Design is the resulting solution based on analyzing the situation or problem,” he says, “then synthesizing the various elements of ergonomics, materials and aesthetics.”

The changing landscape of the modern workplace articulates Magnusson’s philosophy to turn away from private offices to open, large spaces to create a sense of comfort and informality. Considering proportions and visual attributes prompt him to refer to his education in architecture as a “blessing.”

Magnusson graduated from the University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho) with degrees in engineering and architecture, and then attended the Chalmers Institute of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden) to study architecture and design.

He then spent 30 years at workplace and residential design company Knoll (East Greenville, Pa.), and in the process founded the Knoll Design Symposium at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, as well as co-founded the Knoll Museum (East Greenville, Pa.). In 2005, he retired from Knoll as executive vp of design to open his own namesake firm, Carl Gustav Magnusson Design (CGM), based in New York.

Concepts in architecture, Magnusson says, apply to nearly every one of his products, from lighting to furniture, and most recently, to the Lyss chair, a product born of collaboration with design and manufacturing company, Allseating (Toronto).

An oak base, a cut-out in the chair’s lower back, poly shells and upholstery made of leather or textile are just some features that make the Lyss chair – and most of Magnusson’s furnishings – silhouettes of modern functionality paired with mid-century style.

“I’m convinced to make something of enduring value to the customer,” explains Magnusson. “[We take] design elements and their meanings and work [them] together to make something incredible.”

Magnusson regularly lectures to large audiences and high profile clients, such as BMW, Waterworks and Teknion. He has also co-designed upscale products for MoMA (New York) with his wife, who is also an architect, Emanuela Frattini. He has penned contributions to two books and often judges international design competitions.

Magnusson looks to the future in hopes that his products maintain a quality of timelessness. “This includes taking on a classic approach [using] attributes of proportions and individuality to secure attention and retain it,” says Magnusson. “But only time will judge that.”

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