Stephen Burks believes in a pluralistic vision of design inclusive of all cultural perspectives. For his efforts with artisan groups around the world, he has been called a design activist. His ongoing Man Made project bridges the gap between authentic developing world production, industrial manufacturing, and contemporary design. Independently and through association with the nonprofits Aid To Artisans, Artesanias de Colombia, the Clinton Global Initiative, Design Network Africa, and the Nature Conservancy, Burks has consulted on product development with artisan communities throughout the world. In addition, leading, design-driven manufacturers have commissioned him to develop lifestyle collections that engage hand production as a strategy for innovation.
Burks received the Illinois Institute of Technology Alumni Professional Achievement Award, the Brooklyn Museum Modernism Young Designer Award, the Architektur and Wohnen Audi Mentor Prize, the 2008 United States Artists Target Fellowship, and the 2015 Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design.