and president of Totem
Shearer is the founder and president of Totem Design Group, totemdesign.com and DSGN, an innovative design journal. Born from a mission that
is nothing less than the aestheticization of daily life through
education and promotion of good design, Shearer has created a
design institution that is known worldwide. To this end, Shearer
has innovated and invigorated the world of design, especially
in the US where design has not been easily accessible to the
general market. After studying architecture and design at the
University of Minnesota, Shearer established Geometrie in 1985;
a Minneapolis gallery dedicated to twentieth century design.
Shearer then came to New York in 1990 to manage Modern Age, a
contemporary European design store in Manhattan. In 1995 the
idea for Totem came about and a conversation that Shearer had
with the late Ray Eames provided the name. Ray and Charles Eames
traveled the world and collected objects from the people and
places they visited. Ray described these objects as meaningful
symbols of a particular person or place, in essence a Totem.
Thus Totem (the objects that evoke meaning) was born.
started as a designer representative and wholesaler for select
furniture manufacturers. In 1997 Totem, the store opened in
the Tribeca area of New York City, to much critical acclaim
as a showcase for new talent from the US and Europe.
approaches his showroom as a curator and arbiter as opposed
to just purveyor, selecting designs like components of an exhibit,
as part of an over reaching vision. The showroom as museum
concept is also present in Totem's educational projects; the
public seminars, design competitions and special exhibitions
that Totem sponsors and organizes are part of Shearer's effort
to widen the appreciation and appeal of good design. Shearer
has furthered his mission to promote good design with the launch
in 1998 of DSGN (a publication dedicated to good design) and
Totem's e-commerce, content filled website (www.totemdesign.com).
addition to promoting good design, Shearer also has a strong
interest in cultivating American design, especially young,
up and coming designers, a goal that has been part of Totem
from its inception. Alongside imports from the United Kingdom,
France, Italy and Scandinavia, Totem has sought out American
designers, pairing them with domestic manufacturers and then
marketing their lines, or manufacturing their products as part
of Totem's in-house production. Shearer laments that young
American designers, unlike their European counterparts, have
experienced difficulty finding manufacturers: "They have
to do it all on their own, from designing to production." Shearer
hopes that Totem's efforts can bridge the gap that exists between
designers and manufacturers and allow American Design to flourish.