A design by Dutch fashion designer Iris Van Herpen.

Ben Watson, the executive creative director of Herman Miller, is bringing in young talent to rethink how offices should work and look.

The work of Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn, cofounders of Field, range from massive, immersive interactive installations to striking data-art experiments.

Berg’s recently released Little Printer.

PPR’s emphasis on social and environmental responsibility could have ripple effects across the luxury sector.

50 Designers Shaping The Future: Part 5

The future is being designed. That is one funny idea. But that’s precisely what the 50 designers, educators, and exec­utives in this year’s Co.Design 50 are doing. The Co.Design editors have chosen a group of people who are pushing the boundaries of their discipline into promising new directions. They are experimenting with new ideas about business, sustainability, and usability. Some work with brands that are familiar today; others, we expect, will become household names in the future. Significantly, they’re all masterful collaborators. And what unites all of them is that their projects will affect not only how we live today but also what life might look like just a few years down the line. Click here for an infographic overview and here part 1, 2, 3, 4.

Iris Van Herpen Fashion The Dutch fashion designer and former Alexander McQueen intern uses 3-D printing and rapid-prototyping technology to nudge high fashion into the realm of sculpture. Lady Gaga is a fan. So is Björk. Last year, van Herpen became a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, the guardian of Parisian high fashion.

Wang Shi
Founder, Vanke Group

Executives and patrons
Architecture

In 1982, Wang, a lowly bureaucrat, moved to Shenzhen. There, he built Vanke, now China’s largest real-estate firm. He has also become a top patron of progressive architecture, hiring stars such as Steven Holl and Urbanus, and a rare champion of merging modern building with historic Chinese forms.

Ben Watson
Executive creative director, Herman Miller

Product design
Interiors

Herman Miller has done a steady trade in office cubicles, but it’s now busy bringing in young talent to rethink how offices should work. The fruits of that labor are starting to appear, thanks to Watson, the company’s creative chief and former CEO of haute Italian furniture house Moroso.

Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn
Cofounders, Field

Interactive design
Field’s work ranges from massive, immersive interactive installations to striking data-art experiments. They’ll soon release one of their most ambitious projects to date: a film inspired by the legendary movie Koyaanisqatsi that presents a series of digital landscapes and stories, which transform every time they’re watched.

Photo by Timo Arnall (Webb)

Matt Webb, Jack Schulze, and Matt Jones
Founders, Berg

Interactive design
Product design

Berg recently released the Little Printer, a simple gadget that turns web feeds into a custom, printed-on-demand newspaper. It’s an indication of the firm’s real ambition: to create a new generation of smart, networked gadgets that enable real-world sociability.

Jochen Zeitz
Chief Sustainability Officer, PPR

Executives and patrons
Product design

Zeitz heads PPR’s sport and lifestyle group (Tretorn, Puma). More important, he’s the luxury behemoth’s chief sustainability officer. PPR’s emphasis on social and environmental responsibility could have ripple effects across the luxury sector—not to mention PPR’s own brands, which include Gucci, YSL, and Stella McCartney.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tadashi Yanai
Founder and CEO, Uniqlo

Executives and patrons
Fashion

The father of Japan’s Fast Retailing, which owns Uniqlo, bucked conventional wisdom on middle-market retail strategy, heavily staffing his stores and investing in big-budget displays. Sales have exploded, Uniqlo is expanding rapidly, and it’s be-coming a design ambassador in the way Gap once was.

The Innovation By Design Awards on October 16 will celebrate the controversial ideas, new products, business ventures, and wild ideas highlighted everyday on Co.Design. Award Winners in nine categories will be unveiled at the event. Register today.

A version of this article appears in the October 2012 issue of Fast Company.

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