Shane Pawluk and Jerad Mack are the design team behind Edmonton's Izm and Western Living’s 2010 Furniture Designers of the Year.

Furniture design duo Izm celebrates the art of smart design.

Furniture design is a discipline of two solitudes. On the one hand are the fanciful creations that spring from the dreams of artistes but have little practical function. On the other are pieces heavy in practical utility but often light on pleasing aesthetics. But once in a while along come those rare designers—like Edmonton’s Izm—whose work is visually stunning and also offers solutions to daily conundrums.

Take Izm’s lauded Visualizm AV unit. Its low-slung lines echo the duo’s appreciation for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style. But its genesis came from principals Shane Pawluk and Jerad Mack listening to friends complain about the myriad wires and cables that are part and parcel of a home theatre. “We find inspiration in architecture, art, even fashion,” says Pawluk. “But the first question we ask before we start designing is, ‘What do we need?’ And we go from there.”

Edmonton has a long history of great furniture designers—notables like Hothouse and Pure Design—but while most emerge from the University of Alberta’s industrial design program, Mack and Pawluk met on a construction project in Cuba—and realized they shared a passion for clean, no-BS design. By 2002 Izm was born.

Since then, reception to their sleek but masculine work has been overwhelming. In 2009 Izm beat out industry behemoths Poliform and BD Barcelona Design to win Interior Design’s Best of Year award for the Visualizm unit. Retail trendsetters in New York and San Francisco have picked up their work. And our judges were even more emphatic: Martha Sturdy loved the “quality and perceived simplicity of the finished product.”

And, while the fellas love the praise, one gets the distinct impression they’ll keep their noses down creating great furniture no matter which way the trends blow. “For us a piece has to work for the purpose it was designed for,” says Mack. “It’s just that simple.”