George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg make up one of the most recognized design firms in the world, Yabu Pushelberg. On the eve of the launch of Yabu Pushelberg’s collaboration with Henge during Art Basel Miami Beach, Cultured caught up with the Canadian designer-duo on the art of design, their expansion to New York City and how they first crossed each other’s paths.
How did your relationship in business and in life begin? Everything was by accident. We went to school in Ryerson University in Toronto. We were in the same year but in separate studios. Three years after we graduated we ran into each other on the street. We were both looking for a studio space and all of the studios were too big and too expensive. So we decided to share one. We started by helping each other design simple things. During this time there were many coffee shops and printing shops, we would design these places and make them cool. Glenn even designed a veterinary that specialized in cats. We would design everything we could possibly get our hands on which was a lot of volume and we would often make a lot of mistakes. The message is sometimes things that you don’t really plan work really well. That’s certainly it in our case.
Why did you choose New York City to be the location for your second studio? We decided to open our studio in New York because New York is the center of the world. During this time, we were doing 40% of our work outside of Canada and when you have an office in New York, your at the center of it all. Now we have no work in Canada even though we have 90 employees there and 50 employees in our New York studio. With a location that has 10 times the market of Canada it made sense to open our second studio in such an exciting city. When we first moved to New York, we designed Carolina Herrera’s first store on Madison Ave. and the cosmetic section in Bergdorf’s. It is interesting because these places are still there after 18 years. In retail you have a five-year lease and then the store is replaced, so it is nice to walk around and still see our designs.
How would you describe your creative process? We make sure every project has its own voice. Let’s say you are designing a hotel, you have to create a little bit of magic so people want to visit. Especially in a place where there are so many rooms available. Good hotels are emotional experiences. The Edition Miami was a historical building so we had to keep the floors and the gold tower columns. But it all worked together with the insertion of our work, so it was a nice restoration. In Miami there is so much design. We did the W seven years ago and now were working on the SLS Lux in Brickell. The development is booming so it is great to be part of it.
What would your advice be for aspiring designers? Believe in yourself. Everything that you do, you have to ask yourself why. And if you have the right reasons then you should stick with it. Another thing is you should always ask why are other designers doing it? Are they doing it for themselves? For the mass market? Or something more exclusive? You have to own it.