Pity the fate of the prolific German composer Georg Philipp Telemann. Never heard of him? Here's why. During his heyday in the 1700s he was quite the pop star on the church-music scene, but according to the Columbia Encyclopedia, "his reputation later declined because he was not an innovator." He has fans today who think he got a bad rap, but it shows how history judges people. The reference work gives far more respect to anyone who really innovated, ranging from fashion guru Elsa Schiaparelli (for the use of shocking pink) to bridge engineer Robert Maillart (for the use of reinforced concrete slabs).
Every self-respecting person these days wants to be an innovator ("Hey, that was my idea!"), but it's the rare one who will really change the world in some way. Innovators have to be singularly bold and defiant for their ideas to survive the not-innovated-here syndrome. You will find that kind of passion among the 100 people we plan to profile in a new 18-part monthly series called Innovators that begins in this issue. Subtitled "TIME 100: The Next Wave," it carries forward the series in which we profiled the 100 leaders of the 20th century, but this time we will focus on people whose ideas are just beginning to be recognized as revolutionary. Are they the Picassos or Einsteins of the 21st century? Let the debate begin.
For the first installment we have chosen half a dozen designers--people who are literally showing us the outlines of the future. "These folks don't just think outside the box, they are reinventing the box: how it should look, what its material should be, what it should be used for," says our Arts editor Jan Simpson, who supervised the selections and edited the package. "It's exciting to watch them dream."
What impressed senior writer Richard Lacayo, who wrote the opening essay and profiled architect Greg Lynn, was the evangelical zeal of his subject, Lynn, who has a degree in philosophy as well as one in architecture. "He's a very animated talker, really a proselytizer." Senior editor Belinda Luscombe found herself fascinated with the social consciousness of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who has made ingenious use of cardboard to build elegant homes for refugees. Senior reporter Daniel S. Levy writes about landscape architect Julie Bargmann, who turns industrial wastelands into places of beauty while preserving their gritty heritage. Says he: "She fell in love with industrial America during drives down the New Jersey Turnpike, past the refineries."
That's the paradoxical thing about innovators. They show reverence for tradition but disdain for the status quo. Fashion designer Hussein Chalayan, profiled by staff writer Michele Orecklin, borrows ideas from literature and anthropology but animates them with materials provided by new technology. In that vein, Susan Casey, a TIME Inc. editor at large who designed our new sister publication eCompany Now, paid a visit to typeface designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, who take classical styles and put electricity into them to create the hieroglyphics of the cyber-era. Staff writer Joel Stein writes about industrial designer Ben Beck, whose back-to-basics approach brings a magical simplicity to everything from snowboards to bird feeders.