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Within the field of design, Bruce Burdick (1933 – 2021) is recognized as a true innovator. He and his firm, The Burdick Group, pioneered the incorporation of new technologies into the design of everything from office furniture to museum exhibitions. SEGD is sad to report on Bruce’s recent passing. Read on to learn more about Bruce’s life and design legacy.
Bruce Burdick passed away on July 4 of complications due to pneumonia—somewhat suddenly, but peacefully—according to his wife and design partner of 38 years, Susan Burdick.
Bruce was a product of Southern California. He grew up in Los Angeles, graduating from the University of Southern California and the ArtCenter College of Design. While attending ArtCenter, Bruce interned with Charles and Ray Eames, icons of American post-war design. He then worked for John Follis—one of the founders of the Environmental Graphic Design movement and a founder of SEGD.
In 1970 Bruce opened his own studio, The Burdick Group, which became well-known for its range of design projects—everything from office furniture to museum exhibitions. According to the Herman Miller website, Bruce’s first product designed for HM was the “Burdick Group system,” a highly configurable office desk which integrated electronics for office equipment and early computers.
But Bruce and his studio also became well-known for the design of museum exhibitions, again incorporating the latest technology and anticipating what we now call Experiential Graphic Design (EGD). Ground-breaking exhibitions include those for:
- Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
- Standard Oil of California (traveling exhibition: “Creativity: The Human Resource”)
- Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
- Kentucky Derby Museum, Louisville
Many people admired and respected Bruce. Here are a few personal testimonies celebrating Bruce’s life and professional legacies:
“Bruce Burdick was creative, curious, inspirational and fun. I had the benefit of knowing and working with him during my time at Herman Miller. While he will be missed, his innovative products and experiential environments will endure.”
— John Berry, FSEDG
“Bruce was a design innovator and a challenger of ideas in the most creative way. He always talked about the art of design and the confluence of the subjective and the objective, meaning it’s not just objective which is science, and it’s not just subjective which is art, but it’s the confluence of the two that come together. I think that is embodied in everything he looked at and challenged as a designer.”
— Susan Burdick
Bruce was an immensely talented and versatile designer who believed in the transcendent power of thoughtful and beautiful design. He applied his unique vision to everything from a small hand held product to furniture systems to thousands of square feet of exhibits—and each result was a joyful expression of his love for smart design.
— Bruce Lightbody