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Cinde W. Ingram

Spotting and reacting to trends drives Zac Bryant

Zac Bryant's interest in sketching and drafting started long before his current job overseeing product design for Laneventure. His early interest in designing houses led him to work alongside his grandfather as new homes were being built.

Formal training in art and drafting during high school and college opened doors for him to work in product development and engineering, starting in 1983. Just over 10 years later, Bryant began working in furniture design.

Zac Bryant, with Spinnaker sectional.

Bryant, above, with Spinnaker sectional. Below, Chandler Bay collection.

Chandler Bay collection

"There are a lot of stages a product goes through that require creative thinking beyond the end aesthetic visual," Bryant said. "I've also had the privilege to work under some great designers and engineers in the past who took the time to work with me to develop skills and to try my ideas. Hands-on experience has played the biggest role in my training."

Bryant finds inspiration for designs in a variety of places. "I think exposure to what's going on in many parts of the world is key to fresh design," he said. "Our company has the adage that 'you can't create in a vacuum.' I travel constantly it seems and I'm exposed to many things, both old and new, which get put into my memory bank, notes or sketches and are then drawn upon down the road. Being current on what trends are going on in fashion, interior design, music, etc., is a huge inspiration to create for me. There is always a backlog of ideas or concepts that I would like to get implemented."

When asked which designers have provided the strongest influence on him, Bryant said, "Charles-Edouard Jeanneret and the Le Corbusier design group simply for their works, but more importantly for their risks in what they did 'back-in-the-day.' To have designed something in 1928 that is still considered forward-thinking today is remarkable to me. Also, Philippe Starck, while current today, is way out there.

"Within the casual industry, I think Richard Frinier has done more to set the pace and standards of design than anyone over the course of his career, both at Brown Jordan and after," Bryant said. "Also, there are a lot of industry designers that are out there under the radar making things happen like Bob White, Darrell Lowman and my mentor Bud Caywood."

Bryant knows scale and elegance are key elements for great casual furniture designs and that price considerations can always prompt changes. "I think truly well-designed casual product has a scale and elegance that doesn't overpower the eye," he said. "After all, this is to accent your home. Too often things look great on a showroom floor, but look out of place in their environment."

Designs in wicker and woven materials, whether natural or synthetic, allow Bryant more freedom because there are fewer restrictions in sizes or shapes.

"Being the VP of Merchandising, I have the ability to set the design direction as I see it, however I have a staff of very talented and creative people that are merchants for their own categories so there is a synergy there that comes from the two of us working together on an idea," Bryant said. "Also, at times if needed, I'll assign the project to other outside designers when we need a fresh look at something.

"The one thing that continues to recharge me is to get out and be exposed to as many trends as I can, such as fashion, furniture/home decor and retail presentations," he said. "Being aware of what's out there and being able to see or identify an upcoming trend is exciting knowing that you need to act on it and make product direction decisions based on those trends — that's the exciting part."

When asked which designs and accomplishments he feels most proud of, Bryant spoke of Laneventure's Spinnaker Collection, introduced in 2006 after at least two years in the making.

"Having dealers react positively to it, winning a design award for one of the items, and having retail success during the season probably makes this the most satisfying design that I've worked on," he said.

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