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Interview with Kostas Metaxas

Home > Designer Interviews > Kostas Metaxas

Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Kostas Metaxas (KM) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Kostas Metaxas by clicking here.

Interview with Kostas Metaxas at Tuesday 18th of October 2016
Kostas Metaxas
FS: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
KM: My art/design background started in my teens when an uncle who was not that much older than me, showed me some art magazines with images from old master painters - I didn't know why, but I was drawn to the shapes, textures. Then he introduced me to a friend who was a crazy Hi Fi nutter - Luxman Valve amplifiers, horn speakers. That was it. I was lost in the art and more importantly, the music. Music is my core. I see art and design as "visual music".

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
KM: My "design" background started very early when I left university and set up my first company to produce very serious Hi Fi equipment. As a teenager, I couldn't afford to buy expensive Hi Fi, so I taught myself electrical engineering [you could do that in those days by just attending lectures at uni in the different campus]. So my hobby turned to my business. But even then, I felt that it was important not to be a "superficial" designer - to really know what goes on under the hood. So I pick things up very quickly. I do believe in form follows function, but within reason. The Hi Fi was a big success so I decided to start a magazine business as well - to be able to bother [with interviews] the heavyweights of art and design worldwide. To really learn by asking questions and exposing myself to great design. I've also consulted along the way, over the past 12 years, the magazine experience was converted into Broadcast. I like to think that I've absorbed the creative energy of a lot of very interesting people. Most of my clients are mid-sized to very large luxury companies.

FS: What is "design" for you?
KM: The late jeweller Stefan Hafner would say, design is the ability to make a straight line sing. Architect Glenn Murcutt would say that is is a process, a journey. Andre Putmann told me she was an explorer. I think it's a combination of those things.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
KM: I've designed a lot of things over the years, but what really tickles me the most are objects which are supposed to be design, but can easily be mistaken for art.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
KM: My favourite thing is always what I'm currently working on...

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
KM: Hi Fi equipment for my first company. I was lucky enough to win a BHP Design Award for it.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
KM: I love working with the latest technology and metals, whether casting them, CNC machining them, milling them. It's the precision and the longevity. Also, I love subverting technology - using dentistry to make jewellery or watches. I'm a real tech-head. I love 3D rapid prototyping. At my age, I'm old enough to know traditional forms of manufacturing [virtually anything] but also the absolute latest software. I applaud Frank Gehry's use of CATIA! Try telling today's photgraphers about film...

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
KM: After snorkelling through the shallow rocks of a beach on a Greek Island.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
KM: Big picture first, then the detail. The Italians say God is in the details. The Germans say the Devil is in the details.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
KM: Euphoria...like when you're listening to Sviatoslav Richter playing with the Chicago Symphony recorded by Lewis Leyton.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
KM: Like the birth of a child. You wonder how they will be received and interact in the real world.

FS: What makes a design successful?
KM: A combination of novelty, proportion and beauty. With a large dose of personality.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
KM: It's relevance. How it will be considered in 50 or 100 years.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
KM: It's like asking a musician to be a politician. It's enough if they make great music. Having said that, I do feel a designer has to be environmentally friendly.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
KM: The design field is changing similar to music, video and other creative fields where there are incredible pressures to innovate, but at the same time to be mindful of the divides between creative nations and manufacturing nations and the respect of a designer's IP. There will always be a need for great design to inspire.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
KM: This years exhibitions included the March 2016 in BASELWORLD Switzerland at the Watch & Jewellery fair where LEPEE [Clock company from Switzerland] was showing my latest collection - EDEN and HELIX, and the world premiere of my new range of Hi End Hi Fi amplifier sculptures at the May 2016 MOC in Munich.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
KM: Inspiration can come from anywhere. But mostly it's the mind slowly weaving through past ideas until they become interesting enough to become present ideas. I feed my creativity by talking to extremely creative people - like Romeo Gigli the fashion designer once told me, Every designer has peaks of creative energy, they pass this on to their peers, then wait to be re-energized when their peers come up with something even more spectacular. It's like intellectual ping-pong. Sources - art, music, movies...exhibitions. Fashion Week, Venice Biennale, Baselworld, 100% Design, Salon de Mobile, ARS Electronica...Maastricht TEFAF.

FS: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
KM: Despite my obvious Greek name, my ideas are far more "northern" [Strict Australian upbringing with a sprinkle of German education] - Bauhaus. I like it when there is an organic backbone to something which can then be upset by chaos. The fight between chaos and control [Get Smart??] There has to be substance - I hate "frou frou" or chicky-micky as the Germans say. Also, I like honesty and neutrality. Not too much theatre [the Greek], but not ultra- utility. It's always a balance with a twist.

FS: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
KM: I live in Europe. I spend as much of my time as I can on a Greek Island with my laptop, or in a Berlin Cafe. I've always felt like a stranger everywhere I go - which is not a bad thing. It helps me see the differences in things. Then I pick up things I like from one culture and ignore the things I don't like. My upbringing in Australia was very multicultural.

FS: How do you work with companies?
KM: Different ways. Many companies I work with are still family run - so you need to become part of the family. In larger companies, you work well with the artistic director, are on the same page. I always try to put myself in my clients shoes [but never lingerie!].

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
KM: They need to like the designer's style, give a simple brief to at least 3-4 designers and see what they come up with. Pick the designer with the best long-term direction - picking a designer is no different to adding to your family.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
KM: My design process is a constantly evolving one. I'm always mulling over 6-8 ideas at the same time in my mind, and as I have my little "eureka" moments with each idea, I add to the modelling. Once I reach a certain point with a project - the "tipping point", it then starts on the path to become "born". At this point, I start working with various ateliers, workshops or 3D printing houses to realize the first models.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
KM: 1. My writing instruments. 2. My Hi Fi equipment, 3. My various sculptures. 4. My favourite Chair, 5. My espresso machine.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
KM: It depends on what I'm working on - whether I'm travelling to cover a design/fashion week in Copenhagen, London or Paris[Broadcast TV Doco], editing in a cafe in Munich, mulling over production issues on a design object with a client , no two days are alike in my world.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
KM: Best advice is to study the Masters...I still get blown away when I see great work.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
KM: Positive - giving birth to a great idea. Negative - when you actually don't have a great idea right now...

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
KM: Do your absolute best.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
KM: Listen. listen. listen to the client. Then ignore the client to come up with something even better than what they had in mind.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
KM: Solidworks. Moleskin pad, Pen. Joni Mitchell, Puccini, Aussie contemporary Jazz.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
KM: I never work on only one project at a time - I allow the projects , light impetuous children, to make demands on me and I deal with them. There is no linear process.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
KM: The brief inspiration and basic idea is quite quick, but then it can take anything from a few months to a few years to realize.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
KM: What inspires you?

FS: What was your most important job experience?
KM: My first job. That at the age of 21, a kid tinkering in his parent's basement in Melbourne Australia could produce one of the best amplifiers in the world according to the German Press. Why this was important was that it made me realize that ANYONE can be the best of the best. Its just passion and a lot of hard work.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
KM: S.T. Dupont, Swiza [Lepee & Matthew Norman Clocks], Stuart & Sons Pianos, my own brand - Metaxas & Sins, Many broadcasters [Documentary & Films], to name a few.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
KM: Creating objects that "connect" with you and tickle more of your senses . Thats why I love creating writing instruments [very personal] and Hi Fi - allowing you to experience the full emotion of music.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
KM: Continue to create interesting objects. Meet and document interesting people. Have fun.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
KM: My sons help me - both are creative guys.

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
KM: Too many!

FS: How can people contact you?
KM: Email is best. Phone is a problem with the different time-zones.

FS: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
KM: Amen.


FS: Thank you for providing us with this opportunity to interview you.

A’ Design Award and Competitions grants rights to press members and bloggers to use parts of this interview. This interview is provided as it is; DesignPRWire and A' Design Award and Competitions cannot be held responsible for the answers given by participating designers.


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