Interview with Maria Eftychi

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Editor Frank Scott (FS) from DesignPRWire has interviewed designer Maria Eftychi (ME) for A’ Design Award and Competition. You can access the full profile of Maria Eftychi by clicking here.

Interview with Maria Eftychi at Wednesday 11th of May 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?
ME: Originally I am trained as an architect. I have studied architecture in Athens, Greece, and obtained my Master's Degree in Digital Fabrication in Barcelona, Spain. Ι have practiced architecture for more than seven years and I am still practicing it when possible. Entering the world of architecture, you are automatically exposed to the broader notion of Design. I would say you acquire the mindset and the attitude of a designer. At the same time I always had a passion about fashion, more as a constant quest of personal expression. I think that how we dress/accessorize ourselves is one of the most effortless ways to communicate with the world silently. And in a more general note I think that all design fields have this perspective of a silent communication eventually. So it is evident that somehow Design has been always there. Generally I can' t imagine myself doing something that excludes design or at least a design thinking approach.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
ME: Design m.e. is a small brand of jewelry currently having as its trademark the use of paper as main material, but not necessarily limited only to that . It started as a need to channel an overload of ideas that had to come into life, as the starting point for experimentation!! Although architecture is an extremely exciting field with a lot of creative rewards, it still has a lot of challenges when it comes to its practice. The projects last long, they require the involvement of a lot of people for their completion and an added energy in managing multiple data, people and communication. Design m.e. Jewelry started opposing this complicated architectural routine, with a more introvert and creative process. It has been really engaging to design and eventually craft a piece in such a small scale. The name Design m.e combines the initial letters of my name (Maria Eftychi) and the service which is in fact design. Reversing 'm.e design' to Design-m.e. creates the connotation that materials, ideas and objects are “asked” to be designed! In the case of the necklace collection that was awarded, paper both recycled and new was the material to be designed! Through the use of paper Design-m.e seeks to adopt a sustainable design approach in the long term. Paper is such an accessible material today but at the same time, very consumable, a single use material. We express so much of our lives today in paper: business cards, glamorous invitations, printed advertisement promotions or other events, packaging etc! There is an energy put there not only in terms of material resources but in terms of colors, quality of finishing, contextual patterns and a lot more. Design-m.e is not only recycling paper as such, it recycles all this energy that is projected in the paper 'events' of our lives. By collecting carefully paper 'incidents' and redesigning them in a new way, a lot of pieces are often unique and they can' t be reproduced easily. Paper has been present for a while in the contemporary scene of design and more specifically jewelry design. I think that its contradicting nature is one of the most intriguing characteristics. Being a cheap material, paper is transformed through design and crafting to become a valuable piece of jewel. Its unique properties can result to a lot of geometries and forms that are only possible with it.

FS: What is "design" for you?
ME: Design is such a rich term that trying to summarize it in an attempt to be precise, I would only be repetitive and lacking. I am inclined more towards a design that carries the responsibility to serve a function while simultaneously aims to trigger a series of aesthetic, social and cultural extensions that yield with the everyday life. I am strongly interested in a design that takes into account the 'morals' of the form, the rules of nature, the inner principles of materials and their interactions as we design to transform them in elements of culture.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
ME: Well I feel that more than a kind of work I enjoy to work in a specific framework around each project. In jewelery design, it would be more a contemporary design approach that allows my knowledge from a different discipline to be applied in a fresh manner. Specifically in women's jewelry, I give an hierarchy to elegance over experimentation. It doesn't speak to me to create something which is exceptional design-wise but lacks an air of elegance. Of course elegance can be subjective. In architecture or industrial design or web design, this framework includes a fascinating but cooperative client, a logical budget, a working environment with the right resources, great partners! I find that a design way of thinking allows you to shift between design fields given that you have the right professional team in each project.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
ME: As far as jewelery design is concerned I didn t yet designed something for a company since I consider this part of my work as more of my creative journey.I would like to design a series of necklaces for a retail shop in Cyprus. I find it interesting to to decode their brand essence and to design based on this. I think that the first thing I designed for a company was the website of some architects, friends which will be released soon and I am very excited about. In architecture it has always been individual clients or government projects that I have been involved while working in different office.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
ME: I love paper since I build my brand around it. Apart from that I am quiet classical in my choices as far as materials and I am obviously biased from architecture. I love metal, wood and stone as timeless materials for jewelry but I am open in new composite materials as well as ceramics, textiles, resins and any combinations of the above. As I have already experienced in architecture there is a great wave of new customized materials that I am interested to explore. I feel that there is a shift from adjusting fully a design in its material, to reverse this process. There is a tendency to optimize material properties or to experiment with composite materials with mixed properties to fulfill. This includes low and high tech solutions. Another technology that I am interested to develop is the CAD/CAM technologies along with 3d printing, something that links back to my masters in Digital Tectonics and Fabrication. Those are technologies that are changing the production process but they are so massively used those days that I would be interested to craft a strong identity of design in order to preserve quality and originality. This would contribute to a more targeted use of these technologies

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
ME: I didn't exactly truck a specific framework around the manners of my creativity. I feel that for me it is important to function in an environment that I can be myself, if it is a team, also to be respected as a creative individual. After I feel that the design process needs a variety of moments, both relaxed ones to wonder,explore and dream and moments with pressure that can activate sudden breakthroughs.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
ME: When beginning a design there is always this first idea that guides the process and its starting point can be anything, from a structure, to a color to a concept around a phrase. After there is a constant process to serve efficiently any function, without loosing that first spark. Often the idea evolves to something different than its starting point. I am from the designers that I welcome the surprise of the process and I am willing to change if I feel that something is better. There is a certain feeling of completion when you wrap up an idea. It is a feeling that you just know it when it is there, and you are missing it all the way long until you arrive there. Other aspects can include ergonomics, charm and desire, simplicity and preciseness, clarity, all the usual combinations of logical and emotional aspects.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
ME: I always experience the design process as a puzzling exciting one. It feels so in the sense that you try to combine a lot and often contradicting aspects of a project. Structure and playfulness, simplicity and complexity, the expected and the surprising are just a few. There is this sense of solving an enigma, with restrictions juxtaposing each other. A certain undefined feeling, as if the design is there but is hiding from you. It gradually reveals itself if you are there working long enough around it. When all the pieces fall together, the designer experiences a satisfying epiphany, where suddenly all is clear. In the beginning there is excitement to actualize what you have in mind! There is always a sort of disappointment in the process, because the multiple limits can lead the design somewhere different from what you have imagined initially. You can be happily surprised by the evolution. And finally fulfillment when the basics of the design idea are concrete, when you have all the pieces that make your design good and ready to be actualized.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
ME: There is a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment when a design finally reach its completion and of course is successful and reach your expectations. If the design is tangible I want it to be the first thing I see when I wake up if possible for a few days! Until of course the next idea pops up which usually is not long!

FS: What makes a design successful?
ME: Serving its function while triggering something deeper that speaks to the user in multiple levels: aesthetic, cultural, emotional, even political, is a successful design for me. After design becomes the extension of what it serves and it is linked with the audience which is using it. It is mirroring the needs, dreams and lifestyles of the people that are using it and as such is only natural to have multiple faces.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
ME: For me a design that is not serving its function efficiently is more of an art and a design which is only serving its function is more of a machine. Somewhere between the two I think is a good design. I always look for clarity and simplicity. And as I have already mentioned preserving the 'morals' of its form, plays a decisive role in it being a good or bad design. I define those morals as those internal rules that every form carries. It is difficult to explain it but when a certain form or design comes to life it implies a series of principles automatically. It feels like an endless quest to clarify those principles while being original and authentic. To fail in this process can often lead to an over-design effect. It can happen to us, designers, when we want to merge all our ideas, the outcome looks packed, suffocating, it is a bad design as I perceive it.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
ME: Designers are for me the contextual filters of their designs. They decide which audience to serve and shape, which morals and values they want to follow and how do they work to become inspirational leaders in the change they want to make. This change can relate to any issue and design can empower it because its core principles are global, anyone can relate to them, everyone needs them. This necessity is the power of design and through this, designers are responsible to shape a way of life in an equal, fair and sustainable approach. Today design forms our lifestyle and designers are responsible more than ever about the direction of this formation. Will it help to unfold sustainable possibilities, will it promote equal human treatment, will it shape contextual trends that promote justice, sharing and communication? These questions can all be answered through design and designers carry this responsibility.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
ME: I feel that design has been in a new fascinating phase where a lot of new disciplines and technologies are enriching its outcome. New materials, bio mimicry, robotics and digital fabrication are all changing dramatically the design world, the relationship with the craftsmen and the established manufacturing industries. Tools are always changing the final form but are they able to change its context. In the last few years I feel that we have started to be more critical towards new technologies, in a more mature manner. We have overcome the fear of their novelty, accepting their healthy incorporation. We have also overcome the first enthusiasm that comes with everything new, preventing in the name of it, unreal and useless design.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
ME: My last exhibition was in the industrial Biennial of Ljubliana, Slovenia BIO22 in 2010. It was part of the exposition of the awarded products and concepts of the Biennial at the museum of Architecture in Fuzine Castle. At that time we were awarded as a team of architects, for a concept on a series of variations of sustainable bricks. My next exhibition i hope it can be very soon! I am thinking of new collections constantly. I would like to extend the 'Degrade Lines' to a new collection and I have also started a new one dedicated to the work of a french painter. The last one will go very slowly but I am really excited about it. Of course the awarded piece will be exhibited in the A' Design Awards.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
ME: For me, inspiration comes as an accumulation of a lot of experiences, events and images of all my life. Of course there is this triggering point that gravitates everything together and makes you feel inspired. It can be anything: traveling, nature, different cultures, my greek-cypriot culture, dancing, theater, art, music, people, the streets, the ruins, a conversation, I have been inspired by all of these from time to time. I think that when you are passionate about something, in my case design, it becomes your lens to see the world around you, like a mathematician sees maths everywhere, I see possible designs everywhere! I never had difficulty in finding inspiration, the most difficult part is what do you do with it. I felt in the past not disciplined enough to get the most of it. As I grow older I try to keep notes and sketches for anything that attracts me, if it is not always possible to actualize an idea right away. After, there is some ideas coming back and insisting, they have a personality even before you realize them. The Degrade Lines was one of them.

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?
ME: Simplicity, clarity, concept, elegance, morality, sustainability, these are some of the characteristics I seek in my design style.

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?
ME: I live in Cyprus currently but I have lived in Athens and Barcelona in the past. I feel strongly connected with my culture and my identity so that gives me the freedom to feel detached when I need to. Living in an island i feel that the sea, the water and the light is something that i need more as a personality than as a direct expression in my designs.The market is often small in Cyprus and that is both an advantage and disadvantage for designers. On the one hand the small scale allows a rapid networking process on the other hand you can' t really expand. Often people have difficulty to acknowledge the importance of design and it is often the first one that they would skip to save money. Things are encouraging though, you see a lot of start-ups that dedicate energy for the overall design of their brand and there is a good useful trend towards sustainable and smart design.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
ME: I think that the relationship of designers with companies as clients should be creatively interactive. On the one hand the designer should have a good knowledge of the restrictions of the market and the industry and they should respect the budgets. On the other hand the companies should allow or even encourage the exploration of a range of ideas before the final result. It is in this process that designers can thrive and bring their best. After different brands suit different designers but if both sides feel equally excited about the process it really brings a very creative energy to the whole interaction.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
ME: see answer at 10

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
ME: My parents owed a series of 80's Breuer Chrome Metal Cane Chairs which i love and I have some. My house has more a mix of crafts and artisan pieces from around the world like hats from thailand, a sculptured elaborated drawer from local craftsmen. I also like a lot a bookcase designed by my mum to suit the exact needs of the period we have been using it. Another piece is a wooden coffee table with a very minimal boxy shape and some lines curved in the middle of it.

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
ME: I am not old enough to have pearls of wisdom:).

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
ME: I find it very exciting the way designers are shaping the various forms of everyday life. I feel often though that the rest of the world does not understand exactly what we are doing. That makes the process often a lonely one. But when they see the result, they certainly feel it and that comes to be the biggest satisfaction.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
ME: If you can sketch a 3-4 second drawing on your idea then you actually have one. I learned this from an architect mentor in my studies. It has been a guide for me to preserve clarity and concept. I have extended this to the oral description of any idea in 1-2 phrases.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
ME: I think a designer differentiates him/herself from others by having a passion, an inclination for creating the form of our everyday life. If form bores you, how can you come to explore it and experiment with it to give it context. It is a very exhaustive process to deliver contextual form, to funnel successfully meaning and function to a form. After that, I have encountered so many variations of skill sets in different designers that I don' t feel comfortable yet to define that.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
ME: For me sketching, putting something in the paper first and making quick draft 3d models is still irreplaceable. After that I use a lot of software to develop the idea such as Autocad, Photoshop, Rhinoceros and sometimes parametric design software such as grasshopper. For the design m.e jewellery specifically though my toolbox is still very low tech, with a very 'hands on' approach.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
ME: I think design has to do a lot with trials and errors so you have to train yourself in quick decisions and set a time limit and this is what I try to do. For me design is almost always an unfinished process and a process that needs speed. This is what differentiate practicing design rather than researching around it. By accepting this you can enter more easily the quick decision mentality and train yourself out of perfectionism. Ιn greek we use the word 'σχεδιασμός' to express the notion of design. The root of this word comes from 'σχεδόν' which means almost'. For me this definition illustrates clearly the design process than the design itself. You know that you will refine again and again in the process of actualizing your design anyway, this is unavoidable.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
ME: This it depends in a lot of parameters, the nature of the object, the framework of the project in general, how many other projects you are dealing with simultaneously. It also depends on where we consider that design stops. For my Design m.e jewellery it can be from an hour to a whole week, in very special cases in could take a month. For architecture it can be 2 weeks the basic design, but after the series of designing all the specifications can be much longer.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
ME: It is not a specific question but rather more a wonder by a lot of people, what is exactly that we do as designers. Maybe it is cultural but I have faced a lot this question!!People often identify the final result with the producer/builder/manufacturer in my country. They also consider designers as artists. It is changing of course to reach the rest of the world beliefs but you can still have this feeling that people believe designers offer more of a luxury than a necessity.

FS: What was your most important job experience?
ME: I feel that each job experience gave me very different things but they all compliment each other in very personal way. My first job near one of the most successful architects in Cyprus was for sure very important, I got to learn a lot from a confident designer that has achieved a lot in local architecture. Then I also had the chance to teach design which helped me to shape further my design views and attitudes.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
ME: As someone that has worked full time in architecture at some point I have a lot of architects that are interested about my work as jewellery designer. My clientele includes women from design fields as well as women that are looking elegant jewellery, out of the ordinary.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
ME: see answer in 4 please

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
ME: I am in a transitional period where although an architect initially i am catching myself strongly attracted from what is shaping around Design m.e, my jewellery designs from paper. I think I have accidentally started to explore jewellery from a totally different perspective than the obvious one . The of one of affordable luxury and elegance which derives more from the design value and less from the material value. I find this extremely intriguing and I want to explore those material potentials more and more and to extend the product range to other small objects.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
ME: For the moment I develop my designs myself but i always like to get feedback and I am really open in it. In architecture where the projects are much bigger, I like to work in teams.

FS: How can people contact you?
ME: Currently you can reach me through my website ( contact form. Leave your message there and I will contact you back.

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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