We will talk to designers, artists, and architects about their life and creative path. In our case, color is a marker that defines events and memories, evokes associations. The first person to join our project was Oleksiy Iskos, a classic Danish designer from Ukraine.
Born in Kharkiv in 1965, Oleksiy Iskos studied at the architectural department of the Kharkiv Civil Engineering Institute, then at the pedagogical department, and taught drawing at school. In 1991, he moved to Copenhagen, where he entered the 4th year of the Danish Design School and received an industrial design degree. In 2010, together with the designer Boris Berlin, he created the Iskos-Berlin studio, and in 2018 - his own Iskos Design bureau.
He collaborates with Blå Station, HAY, Menu, Muuto, Fritz Hansen, Normann Copenhagen and other European furniture and lighting factories. The designer's portfolio also includes a collaboration with the Ukrainian company ODESD2, for which he developed a pendant "pleated" lamp made of thin sheet metal. Alexey Iskos's works are presented in the Danish Designmuseum and the Icelandic Design Museum.
It is one of the few things I miss about Denmark. I remember my mother picking me up from kindergarten and taking me home on a sled wrapped in a blanket. You look up and there's a sky with stars, you look to the side and there's snow shimmering under the streetlights. This view, when everything is covered in white, both the ground and the trees, still seems to me something fantastic.
In Denmark, snow falls once every five years and melts immediately. It's the Gulf Stream: warm winters and cool summers. Nothing is adapted to either snow or heat. In summer, at +30°C, the rails widen and trains don't run, and in winter, snow gets clogged in the cracks of the doors of vehicles and they don't close. There are few snowplows, and it is unprofitable to maintain them for such cases. Everyone treats snow as a kind of adventure. If you don't clear it for three days, it will melt by itself. Every year there is talk of whether there will be a "white Christmas" this year. In the 30 years I've lived in Denmark, I've never seen it.
During the first six months at Danish Design School, I got used to the fact that my own opinion was more important than the right one
White top, black bottom
The differences between studying in Ukraine and Denmark are like black and white. In my Kharkiv institute, at the architecture department, everything was strictly regulated. When I was given an assignment, they would tell me how many sheets of paper and what format you had to hand in, how to design it, and what technique to use. There were rules for everything. In Denmark, they have a different approach - complete independence. You choose the project you're going to work on. You determine how much time it will take. The teacher essentially becomes your consultant. I met mine a month and a half after I started studying, he recognized me in a supermarket and offered to meet to talk. We didn't have grades, just criticism: you listen to it and decide for yourself whether to move on or not.
For the first six months, I got used to the fact that my own opinion was more important than the right one. Education is aimed at teaching you to think, not just giving you a certain amount of knowledge. Education is an opportunity. How you use it is your own business.
My friend's graduation project at design school failed, despite the fact that the idea itself was good. But simply implementing even a good idea is not enough. It is important for teachers to see the development, the path from idea to result. Without this, it was not clear to them whether a student could think and become a designer.
I always make sketches on paper and on a tablet. This is the fastest way to memorize an idea. I don't always have a notebook at hand, so I use envelopes or store receipts. Then I come home and take out a bunch of papers from my bag that I need to look at to transfer the idea to my sketchbook.
The ratio of my own projects to those I do at the request of the company is about 50/50. My own projects are more interesting to develop, but more difficult to sell.
I can make an appointment with almost any Danish company, and they will be happy to talk to me. However, this does not always mean that my subject will be accepted. Finding a client for your idea on the first try is very rare. There are more rejections than positive responses. It's not because the design is bad, it's just that it's important to be in the right place at the right time. Perhaps the company already has a similar model in operation or has some other plans. I talked to my colleagues, first-tier designers, and they do the same thing.
Finding a client for your idea on the first try is a rarity
In Danish culture, it is not customary to stand out, to brag about your intelligence or wealth. By showing off a very expensive car or a very luxurious house, you seem to be saying: I am better than others. And this is a bad tone. The only thing you can boast about is the success of your children. There is luxury here, but it is different. Not an expensive watch, but, say, furniture from one of the Danish classics, a chair for 10 thousand euros.
It's the same with clothes. It's okay to show some disregard for your appearance, and modest elegance is valued more than excessive showiness. Even for an event or party, it's better to dress modestly than to overdo it.
You hardly ever see people in brightly colored clothes on the streets, nor in pure white. The other day we were walking through the city, and a girl in an orange cloak was sitting on a bench, and I was even happy - it was so unusual.
My house is white. The walls inside are also almost all white. This is a common phenomenon in Denmark. Apparently, the tradition dates back to Protestantism and the Reformation - in the 16th century, they decided to remove all gold from churches and paint over the wall paintings. It was decided that God does not care what kind of decorations you have in your church, but rather what kind of person you are. The walls in the churches became white, and so did the walls in the houses.
I like this tradition. White walls are a background against which any color is stronger, brighter, more saturated. In objects, white emphasizes the shape, it shows all the shadows, just like on those plaster figures we painted at the institute.
In natural science, white is the absence of color, and in physics, on the contrary, it is a mixture of all colors. To me, white is like vodka in a cocktail. It enhances the other colors.
To me, white is like vodka in a cocktail
Danish designer Werner Pantone once said that a good color looks better on you. It plays a key role in his objects. I respect this, but for me color is not so important, it appears in my works only at the end. There is form and function, and color comes after them. Sometimes it is chosen by the manufacturer, and I don't interfere. A good design can be painted in any color: it should be harmonious in yellow and black. Color will not spoil a good design, just as color will not save a bad design.
I have the ability to easily withdraw into myself. Even in a room with loud music playing, people talking, and children running around, I can get lost in my own thoughts and nothing disturbs me. I don't believe in the idea that you need to shut yourself off from everything, to quit social media to be yourself. I am where I am interested. For example, if I'm tired of Netflix, I just turn it off. All this information and white noise eventually transforms into creativity.
We can talk about trends as white noise. If it's the color of the year or some kind of furniture upholstery, there's no point in following it. It takes several years from the moment of the idea to the appearance of the finished item. A designer who is guided by the current trend is behind in advance. By the time the item is ready, the fashion will have changed.
A designer who focuses on an existing trend is behind the curve
On the other hand, there are global long-term trends. For example, digitalization, globalization, or, conversely, the return to nation-states. They penetrate you, whether you want them to or not. It doesn't matter if you like your smartphone, but today there is no point in not using it. The other day I bought a new washer and dryer, and all I had to do was set it up to control it from my smartphone. As a designer, when I create a lamp, I realize that if not today, then in a few years it will be integrated into some smart thing system, and it does not depend on my desire. Perhaps designers understand long-term trends and take them into account before other people do.
In Denmark, the quarantine related to the COVID-19 pandemic is almost over. At the beginning of the lockdown, we were still reaching out to each other by inertia. We felt embarrassed not to shake hands or hug when we met. And now, if someone extends a hand to greet you, it seems strange. I can easily imagine that there will be more global changes in society.
Ten years ago, smoking was allowed in public places in Denmark. You could smoke in restaurants and shopping centers, there were subway and train cars for smokers. And then they passed a law that banned it. Everyone got used to it and took it positively. New regulations on the distance between tables in restaurants can easily take root in the same way.
Now, when someone extends a hand to greet you, it seems strange
Many businesses are struggling now, while others, on the contrary, have received a boost. E-commerce is growing rapidly, and two large courier delivery companies have opened in Denmark. Some companies have experienced despair and decline, but have found new niches for themselves. One of my friends produced signage for airports. For two months, his company was left without orders because the airports were closed.
Now he has developed a new product: transparent partitions that can be placed on the floor, on a table, or hung from the ceiling in an office or other public places. Together with a designer he knows, they worked on this idea for two months and are now actively implementing it. At the beginning of the lockdown, his company employed 10 people, and now it has 40.
The world is changing, but it always has been. People and humanity as a whole have an amazing ability to adapt and survive, although it is not easy and not always painless. But we designers are used to change, no matter what color it is.
Text: Nadezhda Sheikina
Photos courtesy of Oleksiy Iskos