Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Svoboda Tzekova (ST) for A’ Design Awards and Competition. You can access the full profile of Svoboda Tzekova by clicking here.
Interview with Svoboda Tzekova at Wednesday 30th of March 2016
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?
ST: I don’t remember clearly the moment I started drawing. Probably because I was drawing before I knew how to run or read. I was surrounded by art - many of my parents’ friends were painters. On the walls of my childhood bedroom there were neither butterflies nor cute rabbits, but expressionist paintings. Our house differed from the unified socialist interiors - instead of the popular wall storage units we had a rope shelves and library full of books. My educational background might be considered untraditional. On one hand, I am "old-fashioned" - I have studied the classical techneques taught in Bulgarian art schools before 1989. On the other hand, I have scenographic experience related to dramaturgy and theatric space combined with later studies in German-language context.
FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
ST: format.bg is a small design studio, based in Sofia, Bulgaria. The studio is focused on print design, corporate identity, illustration and animation. The main team members are Anton Staykov - artist, researching visual and mass culture, Svoboda Tzekova - graphic designer, illustrator and art director, and Vassil Tsintsev - web developer. On major projects the studio works with a network of translators, book editors, animators, and architects. Since 2004 the collective has realised both socially and commercially oriented projects for clients from Bulgaria, Switzerland, UK, Sweden, etc. Most recently the studio is working on visual heritage analysis. In 2014 the first research on bulgarian comic history was published under the title Outline of the Bulgarian Comics. The team has been awarded with a national literary prize for book design. Their last project Bulgarian ABC Book was out in 2015 and won the annual Golden Lion Prize of the Bulgarian Book Association.
FS: What is "design" for you?
ST: Design is a language. A visual conversation on a certain topic with both aesthetic and content messages. Design is an instrument for harmonising the environment or a contraposition. It is an artistic answer to functional questions.
FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
ST: I like creating or designing books and print materials. Possibly this passion is related to my childhood years when I used to produce my own magazines by cutting out newspapers and advertising materials. I grew up during the socialist period which was related to extremely low quality of print materials. My parents as journalists managed to bring some variegated western editions. The advertisements in those magazines amazed me, so I studied them carefully and even copied the images with the modifications I considered necessary. Illustration and design of children’s books is another thing I love. For many years my work was focused on corporate identity. I have designed many logos and corporate identities. It’s an important occupation that requires the knowledge and the expertise of copywriters, marketologists and even philosophers. Problems might occur if the clients themselves are not able to express clearly their concept or position especially in relation to design.
FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
ST: A series of juice bottle labels right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was studying in the National School of Applied Arts but had already started freelancing. I created this series by using fruit and vegetable catalogues found at an international fair. Because of the lack of a computer I had to stick with the “old school” techniques – collage and retouch. At the time only a few tech people owned computers – mainly engineers could have bought one. The painters designed the project manually and passed it to such an “operator” who had to convert the design into a digital form. It was considered a great achievement if the printed material was even close to the painter’s project. What was interesting about my first project was the scale – the compositions resembled illustrations for a science-fiction novel. The client had liked them, awarded me with a good sum of money, printed the labels, but the juices were too artificial and I didn’t consume them myself. At this moment I wished not to work in favour of low-quality products.
FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
ST: High-quality paper, printed book, relief print (unfortunately no longer common in Bulgaria)
FS: When do you feel the most creative?
ST: With a good idea and a clear purpose the creative solutions are generated during the work process.
FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
ST: I do my best to observe the framework of the particular project and to work with text and image simultaneously. I am trying to suppose myself in the place of the reader or the viewer without losing the vitality of my idea. Very often I know exactly where I have to get, although I dally over technical realisation. Then I just have to keep my work confined to the initial conception. I enjoy mixing styles and I am not afraid of using clichés, although I am aware of the risks of drifting along, so I search for a particular approach towards each project, trying to create a face of its own.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
ST: Doing something you love so much for work is pure luck. Of course, while working my emotions range from surprise and delight to frustration caused by different impediments.
FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
ST: It depends on the result. Of course it’s very moving to see a realised project of your own. Designers are like writers who must live with mistakes and omissions in their text. Once the project is submitted it no longer belongs to its author and has its own life. Often the author’s expectations differ from the effect of the design itself. I like to examine viewer’s reactions – sometimes a project acquires additional characteristics on account of its reception.
FS: What makes a design successful?
ST: Every project has its own story and context. The success factors are diverse. To me “effective communication” seems to be one definition. This communication may be emotional, related to a message, a certain moment (whether historical or social context), the qualities of a product, the topic, something in the design that triggers emotions in the recipient. It’s not always possible to understand the effect of a certain design. What I know for sure is that success has to do with the communicated message, fulfilled emotional connection and catered needs.
FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
ST: My works are inspired by other books, by cities and people who inhabit them, beautiful fabrics, architecture, romantic paintings, music, landscapes or some tiny details around me.
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?
ST: I live in Sofia, Bulgaria and i find myself privileged to work in a quite inspirational environment. Sofia is a city that hardly glares with sightworthy or eye-catching architecture. It’s multilayered, furtive, ordinary and rather tranquil. Being a designer in Bulgaria offers me the opportunity to work within pathless territories, to explore. Many things around here seem inspiring to me - there are brutal clashes of styles, DIY architecture, provisionary urbanistic solutions, completely chaotic movement of people and cars in the streets and unexpected oases of delightful people.
FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
ST: I don’t own a citrus squeezer by Philippe Starck... Generally I am not into interiors exhibiting designer items. I rather prefer utilitarian objects that can unintentionally be examples of good design. My favourite items at home are: two wooden mannequins my dad made when I was 5 years old; a Bauhaus lamp I bought at a Gipsy fair in Weggis, Switzerland; a wooden knife, bought from another Gipsy fair in Karlovo Bulgaria; a golden dinner set from the 1940s, manufactured in Bavaria; 1960s Chinese machine embroidery with silk thread representing urban landscape - chimneys, river, ships;
FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
ST: I am not used to sharing thoughts of general validity. There are few things an older colleague once told me and I consider them important - get to know your biggest talent, love your job, do not underestimate any project, do not be afraid, be concentrated, learn how to say “no”.
FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
ST: While being a designer allows you to create languages and worlds and to work wherever you are, sometimes you have to compromise in order to bring the project to life.
FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
ST: Think in advance, fine-tune every element without losing sight of the whole project.
FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
ST: Talent, proper education and curiosity.
FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
ST: I am coping, but teamwork is tends to be easier, either by lending a hand or controlling each other.
FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
ST: There are complicated tasks you can complete quickly and tasks that seem alluringly easy, but require a great deal of time. Designers have no office hours, they generate ideas and solutions even when sitting on a bench in the park.
FS: Who are some of your clients?
ST: PROSVETA Publishing House, Janet-45 Publishing House and "Animus Association" Foundation in Bulgaria, Haslerrail AG in Switzerland, Teater Giljotin in Sweden, Erlebnisplan Gmbh, Steiner Sarnen Schweiz, etc.
FS: How can people contact you?
ST: Via e-mail or at www.svobodatzekova.com; www.format.bg
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