Behind the Design:
A Q&A with Ron Rezek
of The Modern Fan Company
An interest in the “under-designed” led entrepreneur Ron Rezek to revolutionize the ceiling fan for design aficionados.
Written by Sarah Chappell
Designer and entrepreneur Ron Rezek had never owned—or even used—a ceiling fan when he saw a void in the marketplace for one that was truly modern. Nonetheless, that didn't stop him from designing the Stratos, the first contemporary ceiling fan of its kind, in 1986.
Perhaps it was this fresh outlook that resulted in such a pure form of geometry and function, unadulterated by any previous knowledge or experience with that type of product. The success of the Stratos would eventually lead to an illustrious and prolific career, as Rezek founded The Modern Fan Company in 1997.
The popularity of the Stratos opened the floodgates for The Modern Fan Company, which now offers a large collection of contemporary fans with a sophisticated blend of mechanical precision, streamlined aesthetics and energy-efficient models.
Before The Modern Fan Company, the wheels of success were already in motion for Rezek, who had stumbled upon the design discipline almost by accident. Here, he tells us a little more about what led him to this new frontier in design.
You studied industrial design at UCLA. Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I had no awareness of the field of design in the mid-60s when I left high school and landed at UCLA. Like many young men, interest in cars and motorcycles led me to the art school and industrial design.
Your career really took off when you designed the now-famous orange floatation device in 1970. How did you move from that (rotationally molded plastic) to lighting and ceiling fans?
My design for the rescue really evolved from a class project. I was looking into a crack-proof motorcycle tank for desert racing bikes, and the seamless roto-molding technique I learned about for this project worked perfectly for the lifesaving can application. I waded through the fundamentals of entrepreneurship in developing this little business and learned lessons which would serve my whole career. This do-it-myself approach led me to paying attention to fields and products which had been overlooked and under-designed.
In 1986, you modernized a typically un-modern design with the Stratos ceiling fan. Had the concept of a “contemporary-styled” ceiling fan crossed your mind before?
This problem was presented by a client who wanted a modern ceiling fan to help his competitive position in the market. I had never owned or even used a fan at this point so it was a clean sheet of paper. At the time I was learning about Gaudi and Sottsass, and their geometries impressed me.
You’ve lived and worked all over the United States—from California beach towns to New York City and Miami. What influenced your decision to set up shop in Ashland, Oregon with The Modern Fan Co.?
I chose Ashland simple because it is a clean, beautiful place with a good airport where I could raise my children.
Do you have a favorite fan design of yours?
Anything you haven’t designed that you’d like to?
Sure, most anything. We live in a great time, however the number of un-designed products has shrunken. Its getting harder to find fields that have been overlooked by talented designers.
Now that your companies are well established, do you have any other design-related ventures in the works?
None other than enjoying the rest of my life.