Stephen studied architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology and Product Design at IIT’S Institute of Design, as well as attending Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture. After years spent traveling between New York and Europe, as well as living abroad in Tokyo & Milan, Stephen became an independent designer at the turn of the millennium, when the famed Italian manufacturer Cappellini put his first pieces into production.
Today, Stephen is one of the most recognized American industrial designers of his generation. Independently and through association with the non-profits Aid To Artisans, Artesanias de Colombia, the Clinton Global Initiative, Design Network Africa, and the Nature Conservancy, Stephen has worked as a product development consultant in close collaboration with hundreds of artisans in Australia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, South Africa, the US, and the UK.
He believes in a pluralistic vision of design that is inclusive of all cultural perspectives. His Man Made project bridges the gap between authentic developing world production, industrial manufacturing, and contemporary design. He has been commissioned by many of the world’s leading design-driven brands to develop collections that engage hand production as a strategy for innovation.
He is a recipient of the Illinois Institute of Technology Alumni Professional Achievement Award, the Brooklyn Museum Modernism Young Designer Award, the A&W, Architektur & Wohnen Audi Mentor Prize and the United States Artists Architecture & Design Target Fellowship Grant, as well as being the only African-American to win the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design.
In 2019, Stephen became the first Harvard Loeb Fellow from the discipline of product design, served as Expert-In-Residence at the Harvard Innovation Lab, and taught as Design Critic in the Masters of Design Engineering program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
He is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, as well as co-host of Friedman Benda Gallery's popular conversation series Design In Dialogue.
In the fall of 2022, the work of Stephen Burks Man Made will be the focus of a mid-career survey at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.