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Interview with Eve Fineman

Home > Designer Interviews > Eve Fineman

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

Interview with Eve Fineman at Monday 24th of April 2017
Eve Fineman
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?
EF: I studied architecture in college, and then received an MFA in Interior Architecture, with a focus on furniture design. I have been interested in design, and particularly furniture and interiors, since I was 7 years old. I was inspired by a picture book I had, of bears who created summer and winter homes inside tree trunks. Each bear had a completely different style, expressed through their choice of furnishings inside the tree. I would study the interior of each bear's home for hours, trying to decide how the spaces related to their personalities, and which ones I liked best. I grew up in Washington, D.C., and spent much of my formative years walking through the city's vast collection of free museums. This experience also contributed greatly to the development of my personal aesthetic; I was profoundly influenced by the time I spent sitting amongst by Rothko paintings, as well as the wonderful midcentury art and architecture of the Hirshhorn musem and sculpture garden.

FS: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
EF: Eve Fineman Design is the outgrowth of my multidisciplinary design experiences, ranging from architecture to interiors, furniture, jewelry and graphic design. Eve Fineman Design focuses on the intersection of architecture and furniture, finding functional and aesthetic solutions to suit a variety of urban spaces. The firm's work ranges from residential interior renovations, to commercial design, custom furniture and built-ins.

FS: What is "design" for you?
EF: Design is problem-solving and poetry. It is both pragmatic and divine. It is finding ways to improve upon existing situations, scenarios, and lives. Sometimes design is a way to make people feel good: a sense of exhilaration. And sometimes the best designs disappear, so that people can focus on other things.

FS: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
EF: I most enjoy designing furniture and custom interiors, where all of the design elements affect people on a human-scale, from the haptic to the ergonomic.

FS: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
EF: My favorite design is usually whatever I happen to be currently working on, however I do have a reception desk that I designed for a lobby in Chicago over 15 years ago, and I am still proud of it.

FS: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
EF: The very first thing I designed by myself for a design firm was a loft renovation for a rising TV star. I renovated the entire space, which included many custom-built pieces. The biggest piece was a dividing "wall" between the bedroom and living space, which included a giant television on a lazy susan. I also constructed and installed all of the custom furniture myself.

FS: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
EF: Lately I am obsessing over concrete, as can be seen in our newest lamp series. It is earthy, plastic, sustainable, sculptural, and textural. It works well in contrast with more machined materials such as glass and metal.

FS: When do you feel the most creative?
EF: Many of my best ideas come to me in the shower! I am also very creative in peaceful spaces with natural light and warmth, either in music, lighting or color. I find that many commercial office spaces are too cold or sterile to support the highest creative functioning.

FS: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
EF: One of my main focuses during a design project is communication. This can be expressed through ideation sketching and modeling, as well as through verbal and written presentations. Clear communication with clients is key to a successful design project.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
EF: Designing for me is a very energizing experience. When I am on a roll, I feel a release of endorphins. Sketching and ideation are some of the most gratifying aspects of what I do. I will never get tired of the design process. Allowing myself to openly explore ideas is invigorating – I feel fully connected to what I am doing. Sometimes the ideas that we think are going to be winners turn out to be dead-ends. When I encounter this stage in the process, I try to take a break and do something else, rather than allowing myself to feel frustrated.

FS: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
EF: The realization of a design is always met with mixed emotions. There is the initial relief and sense of accomplishment, which is often followed by the analysis phase, discovering what can be learned from and improved-upon the next time. With this phase comes an occasional uneasiness, a sense of "I should have figured it out." In order to avoid this perfection/obsession tendency that so many designers have, I try to think of each project as a marker on a continuum – a lifetime of designing, learning, shifting and experimenting. In this way, a single project can never really be separated or seen as having a distinct beginning or end.

FS: What makes a design successful?
EF: A design is successful if it communicates its intended concept in a well-crafted and innovative way. A design is successful if it brings joy to the user. A design is successful if it solves a problem while providing aesthetic pleasure. A design is successful if it improves someone's life.

FS: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
EF: The thing I find most important in judging the success of a design is craftsmanship, but this notion goes well beyond how well-made something is. The craftsmanship of the design process means there is clear evidence of how much effort, time, consideration and heart has been put into the design. If a designer is deeply invested in the design process, then the problem-solving, aesthetic, innovative and pleasurable aspects of the design will be easy to see.

FS: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
EF: It is a bit of a paradox, the desire to be responsible to the earth while designing and producing new objects. It is therefore of great importance for all designers to consider the source, process and end uses of our work. Ultimately, if a design embodies all of these considerations, then it will presumably be of use for a long time, and will therefore avoid the problematic disposability that so many of today's objects represent.

FS: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
EF: I do not think it makes sense to separate design into distinct disciplines. I think the field should evolve such that our traditional processes are questioned and redefined, and so that we can easily cross over into interdisciplinary practices. We can learn a lot by exposing ourselves to the "language" of other design disciplines, and by borrowing them whenever applicable to our own processes.

FS: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
EF: My last exhibition was part of the Dock 6 Art & Design Show in 2016, showcasing my work with artist Henri Preiss, along with several other Chicago-based furniture designers. My next piece will be included in a faculty show for Columbia College Chicago this summer. I also hope to curate and participate in a group show with the League of Women Designers, who have groups based in Chicago, Il and Portland, OR.

FS: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
EF: I find inspiration from many things outside of the world of design and apply them to my work in indirect ways. Some of these sources of inspiration include abstractions in nature, shadow projections, found sound, the body, and visual details that pervade the urban experience. I take many photographs while walking around: abstract compositions of texture, color and void. Another big source of inspiration is interstitial space: the space between. Emptiness, in visual imagery, music, conversation – is often weightier and more impactful than what we fill our spaces with. The interstice also refers to unrecognized or underrepresented elements of culture, forgotten people, in-between spaces, places left behind.

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?
EF: My designs can be described as clean, modern, and well-edited, with a strong emphasis on texture and materiality. I am most interested in the tactile and corporeal. With all of our technological interfaces being so slick and devoid of texture, temperature and malleability, I find it even more critical that we experience sensorial pleasure in our immediate surroundings.

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?
EF: I live in the U.S., in Chicago, IL. The city of Chicago is very design-centric, with a rich history of modern architecture. This environment is important in my work, because my local clients tend to be better educated about design. Chicago also has a large manufacturing base, which enables me to have all of my designs produced locally. One of the cons of being a designer in the U.S. is that clients tend to be more conservative than they are in Europe and other parts of the world. European countries have a deeper history of design, as it is more infused into the culture. This provides a greater openness toward more avant-garde design.

FS: How do you work with companies?
EF: I do contract design work for larger design firms, as well as interior design services for commercial clients. Regarding my furniture design, I am interested in exploring licensing and production opportunities with companies in the future.

FS: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
EF: I have found that working with designers first on a contract basis or trial basis is a great way to see if it will be a good fit. Word of mouth is still the most effective way to become connected with good designers.

FS: Can you talk a little about your design process?
EF: Although they are similar, the process varies depending on whether I am working on an interior space or on a piece of furniture. For furniture, my process begins with sketching and scribbling ideas. I look at images, take photographs, and sketch, back and forth until an idea starts to gel. If I am working with a collaborator, then this process is more inclusive, where images and sketches are shared back and forth as the larger ideas start to become more focused. Once an idea is solidified, I will make low-fidelity process models, both by hand and with the 3D printer. I begin to draw in a 3D modeling program, and then refine and produce larger scale models and full-scale mock-ups until the piece is ready to prototype. Several prototypes are usually made before the final piece is produced. If the piece is being fabricated by multiple manufacturers, then my process also involves producing shop drawings and coordinating with fabricators.

FS: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
EF: Alvar Aalto Savoy Vase, Eileen Gray E1027 table, vintage midcentury orange wool and teak sofa, 1940s steel desk, Rosenthal Thomas Vario dishes.

FS: Can you describe a day in your life?
EF: I often say that I have never had the same day twice. There are many variables in my day-to-day life, including teaching design studios at Columbia College Chicago, working on projects for my own clients, collaborating on projects with other artists and designers, working on my own speculative pieces, entering competitions, programming for the League of Women Designers, curating exhibitions, cooking, reading, and spending time with my partner and 12-year old son. I enjoy the unpredictability of my days, with the one constant being coffee!

FS: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
EF: Step away from your screens and go out into the world! I push for my students to be observers and documentarians, rather than passive absorbers of digital information. This means walking around, looking, sketching and photographing. It is also important to attend exhibitions and lectures, and to meet as many people as possible, in-person. Seek out opportunities such as competitions and other partnerships. Most of all, if you feel that your design practice isn't going the way you would like it to go, make your own rules and make it happen yourself.

FS: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
EF: For me, the most positive aspect of being a designer is that I am never bored and am always learning. Throughout my career, I have been consistently passionate about design, from my own pursuits to the inspiration I derive from the exciting work in the world around me. The other positive for me, is that there is no division between life and work. If you love what you do, then it will never feel like something you are doing so that you can afford "free time." Each aspect of your life will feed the other, with endless sources of inspiration for new projects and ideas.

FS: What is your "golden rule" in design?
EF: Always sketch and model by hand before moving to the computer. You will miss out on many potential ideas if you don't immerse yourself in this part of the design process.

FS: What skills are most important for a designer?
EF: Ideation, visual communication, problem-solving and the ability to synthesize information.

FS: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
EF: My toolbox includes mechanical pencils and felt-tip pens, moleskine sketchbooks, yellow tracing paper, beautiful coffee table books (for inspiration), AutoCAD, Sketchup, 3D Max, digital photography, and basic modelbuilding materials.

FS: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
EF: Since I have been practicing for over 20 years, it is now quite easy for me to streamline the design process and work efficiently. My main consistent challenge is to maintain focus on whatever project deadline is nearest, and not get distracted by other projects.

FS: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
EF: There are too many variables to answer this question precisely. I have worked on single objects where it has taken longer than a year to produce a working prototype. I have also designed large commercial spaces that have been completed in a matter of months.

FS: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
EF: "How much will this cost?"

FS: What was your most important job experience?
EF: I have been a design educator for over 15 years, and the classroom experience has been the most valuable to me. Teaching forces me to stay current with design concepts, projects and skills, and connects me with a younger generation of designers. The students teach me a lot about how newer generations think, and this understanding directly applies to making better designs.

FS: Who are some of your clients?
EF: My clients range from residential to business owners, restaurant owners and other architects, developers and designers. I recently completed a contract design job for Holly Hunt Interiors, where I worked on a private custom yacht and a penthouse in a new Richard Meier building.

FS: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
EF: I most enjoy collaborating on design pieces with other people. I learn so much by exposing myself to the processes of tangential disciplines, such as fine art, graphic design, fashion design, architecture, urban design and development.

FS: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
EF: I am working on further defining the parameters of my design studio; I am interested in designing more speculative furniture pieces, and continuing my collaborations with other artists and designers. One such project is a collaboration with a local fashion designer, where we will explore / employ each others' materials and processes to produce a series of furniture and fashion pieces.

FS: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
EF: I do both, depending on the project. I often work in conjunction with other architects or designers, and I also work closely with fabricators and other contractors. I find the team approach quite interesting and educational, but it is also fun to sometimes work on projects without anyone else's input. That feels like an indulgence!

FS: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
EF: My Zig lamp series is a work-in-progress, in collaboration with artist Henri Preiss. We are now working on a pendant and wall sconce, using his paintings as inspiration for the forms.

FS: How can people contact you?
EF: Through my website: www.evefineman.com or directly at evefineman@gmail.com


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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