New York and Washington, D.C., jumbo.nyc
In our experience, architects tend to take themselves rather seriously, which makes it all the more surprising that Justin Donnelly and Monling Lee of JUMBO — possibly the most joyful design studio to launch in years — met in architecture school. The two specialize in a kind of conceptual but unexpectedly lovable aesthetic that’s made them darlings of the design world since their launch almost two years ago.

What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?

When we decided to start a studio together, we celebrated by taking a trip to the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennale. That weekend, we discovered that we share a love for McDonalds, Mickey Mouse, and Michael Jackson. For us, these are the hallmarks of American design — each of them is pure pop perfection. We want to make work like that. We want to make designs that are reductive, synthetic, and emotionally engaging.

What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?

This is a really exciting year for us. Here is what we are doing:

1. We are designing ANTHOM’s new Chelsea retail space off the Highline on West 22nd.
2. We are designing and curating an exhibition and conference at A/D/O, entitled Neotenic Design.
3. We are writing an article about childlike furniture for Disegno Magazine’s Spring Edition.
4. We are designing our very first standalone building for an institutional client.
5. We are participating in Greenhouse at the Stockholm Furniture Fair
6. We are introducing a new furniture collection at Salone in Milan.

What inspires or informs your work in general?

We want to make things that are sort of dumb — objects that are so reductive, they couldn’t be any simpler. We use basic, prismatic shapes, and build them without visible seams, fasteners, or transitions. It’s actually quite hard to do. But by suppressing the constructive aspect of our designs, the resulting objects become abstracted, like a drawing or a cartoon. And as a result, they are so much more pleasurable. This idea — the dematerialization of form — is a core principle for our studio.

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