Brooklyn-based designers Chen Chen (born in Shanghai, China in 1985) and Kai Williams (born in New York in 1984) met in the early 2000s while earning their industrial design degrees at Pratt Institute in New York. They founded their collaborative design studio in 2011. Their often very playful work places an emphasis on materiality and nuanced processes, and is marked by a shared interest in displacing everyday materials from their familiar environments. The pair’s work has been presented at some of the world’s most esteemed galleries and stores.
Chen Chen emigrated to Laramie, Wyoming from China at age six. His family moved to Toronto, Canada before settling down in the suburbs of New York City. Chen studied at Pratt from 2003-2007. During the 2006 school year, he spent a semester studying design at Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietveld Academie, where he was exposed to an experimental design culture that continues to influence his work. Upon graduating from Pratt in 2007, Chen began working for Moss, eventually rising to the rank of Display Director in 2010. In 2011, he left Moss to collaborate with Williams.
Kai Williams grew up in one of the storied studios of New York City’s Carnegie Hall. He credits his fascination with design and structure to the fact that he is the son of two architects; Williams has stated that he spent his childhood “sneaking into worksites and wandering through fascinating homes.” He studied at Pratt Institute between 2002 and 2006. During that period, he interned at the graphic design firm 2x4 and worked in high-end architectural metal fabrication. After Pratt, Williams worked for the artist Tom Sachs between 2007 and 2008 as a liaison between the artist and his studio, eventually overseeing installations for Sachs’ major international exhibitions. In 2008, he launched Three Phase Studios, a CNC fabrication company, before joining forces with Chen in 2011.