How design can be narrative: Anna James.

This interview is with the young narrative designer Anna, who is originally from Hungary but travels and experiments around. Her way of learning and creating things can be inspirational for the ones who wants to start to work within different fields of design, in different countries and with different collaborators!

You have graduated from architecture in Moholy-Nagy University, Budapest then in you did your Master in Narrative Environments from Central Saint Martins University, London. What are the influences of your studies on your design?

These Universities were so different! Both by the location and the field of design.

I did study loads of practical thing as an architect what I am using in my practice today. However the way-of-thinking at MOME (Moholy-Nagy University) was not my thing. There was a minimalist/modernist direction at the time which was 'suggested' to follow. They didn't appreciate any postmodern theory, conceptual or critical thinking. So we didn't get along with the architecture department but gained a great relation with the theoretical professors! That's where I got obsessed with the Italian radical design, Memphis, and the contemporary critical design movements. They were a big impact on me and that's how I decided to take up my master studies at Narrative Environments,

Central Saint Martins.

CSM was great. They force you to be critical and controversial. Narrative Environments gives you the chance to work in fields of exhibition design, city-branding, installation, window-display or future projects. They teach you to research, to analyse, to develop concepts and also(!) to find ways of finance your project. It was really needed!

Art schools tend to avoid this topic... For my graduation project I got to into the field of contemporary art valuation and the art market. 'Where is the line between high art and empty bluff?' was my question throughout a year.

At the end I developed a site-specific role-playing game critiquing the art valuation. It was great fun, we played at London Art Fair, the Other Art Fair and got thrown out from the Art Cologne. (The funniest part that it was Daniel Hug personally, the director of Art Cologne and the grandson of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy accomponied by the security who made us leave.)

You describe yourself as narrative designer, how does a narrative designer work? How is your typical working day?

As I mentioned earlier I worked in several medium and experienced different fields at CSM. It was great but also confusing for most of us. At the end you are not sure any more what your profession is... Therefore I stick with 'narrative designer'. It is summarising for me the exhibition designer, set designer, installation artist and furniture designer professions. I just find it ridiculous to write it all under my name!( especially without years of experience)

My projects are based on narratives and stories. I am just a bit afraid to use the word: storytelling...It is soo fashionable at at the moment!!

My days? Well...I don't have a typical working day.

You have been traveling around and working in different fields with different people, for the ones who wants to do the same, what would you suggest?

Having a taste in different fields is so important! Not from the capitalist and functional point of view of course.. It is an endless working process, getting to know your own skills and qualities. As an architectural designer I worked in Malta where the only building material was stone... I didn't deal with sandstone before, had no idea about qualities, sizes...At the moment I am collaborating with some interior designers in Lisbon where I am currently living. It is all about the tiles! Such a great inspiration. I love the colours, patterns, everything!

There is a big downside though of traveling around. It takes time to build connections, relations getting to know the industry. Then you are off. As exciting as tiring it is to build everything again from scratch. Actually I am hoping that Portugal is my last stop too. I wanna still travel a lot and do projects abroad, especially in Asia but can't handle another credit card, registration process, or tax number either. Still my suggestion for everyone : DO IT!! It is only hard to explain to your mom why you do it.

We would like to know more about you, how a designer like you organises her day?

As I said I am not sure I am the best example. It is always a bit of a chaos but always interesting! I am not a regular person, therefore my days aren't too regular either. Sometimes working 12 hours, with meetings and chaos and other times chilled sessions with occasional walks at the beach. Yoga, playing, reading, magazines, browsing, and drawing is always part of it.

Is there a story behind of your design in L!PUFF Collection?

I haven't done furniture for a while in this year when they asked me to redo my concrete chair( CONCRETE SEAT ) for the Paris Design Week.

At that time I got really fed up of Berlin and decided to move back to Hungary to my parents' place for the summer. I had the space there, time and energy to experiment. It was a 4 month period where I wanted to recreate the seat only at the first place. As much as I liked the original design, I felt to renew it and develop it further.

At the last office (Chezweitz, Berlin) I developed several project where I worked on the visualisation and illustration. I really enjoyed it therefore I went further in the beginning of the year started to do editorials and illustrations on my own. I developed my own visual aesthetics: a colourful, bright and playful world filled with sarcasm!

I aimed to put this visual language back into the three dimension. That's how Collezione L!Puff born.

We would like to know more about your colourful L!PUFF Collection, how was the process for your design?

I created the collection in the Hungarian countryside ( in Csabrendek, it is close to the lake of Balaton) where I am originally from. I got some great help in the village from this dude who is a gravestone maker!! It all started with material experiments... We used different colours/forms/size of glasses, experimented with the mould. I have done like 4 seat until the final one came out! Now every relatives have one in their garden haha

See this here: LE PUFF was an earlier pastel version for example.

So the seat itself made for the Paris Design Week. Then I knew the full collection will be presented at the Budapest one. After the great feedback in Paris I developed the elements. It was a play of colours, textures and testing... I draw a lot, hand and computer and of course I have made 3D before the making.

Making production of their design for young designers is always difficult, how did you start to produce your first complete collection?

It is tough!! Especially with concrete elements! Sometime I really regret that! I am 150 cm tall and 52 kg, it wasn't just easy to deal with the 130 kg elements...My next design will be inflatable structures for sure...:)

As I sad I had some help, I made the mould, the concrete, the textures. Local craftsman has been asked to develop the metal elements for example. However for the further production a company will take care of further production of the concrete.

I made up my own studio which is a quite corner of my dads car mechanic studio lol. You really have to take care of the oil in it!

However I have the basic tools for metal works, and carpentry. I am happy I was able to do that at home. In the capitals like London and Berlin, it would have been really expensive and time-consuming! Although you have workshop places, labs with machines where you have the chance to do it. For the designer students I can only suggest to use and enjoy the uni facilities!


Anna Horvath




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