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Question & Answers
Living in Postindustrial Buildings
“The Book of Homelessness”, the first graphic novel created by homeless people
- Eye on Design
We have compiled, in an interview format, 10 questions sent to this designer, artist, interior designer, art director and curator by Instagram users. Dorota, who approaches the topic of design very comprehensively, reflects on the different questions and provides insightful answers that help us understand her views of the profession and how she addresses projects and other aspects of creativity, inspiration and design.
How was the experience of working with a master like Alessandro Mendini?
Alessandro Mendini was an exceptional person, architect, designer and artist. He was Art director of many brands, collaborated with many relevant magazines of architecture, design and art. One of my colleagues described him with these words: “He is like a person from cosmos” and this is exactly how he was. He was very intelligent, unique, had an unusual sense of humor. On the other hand, he was very modest and respectful to other people. He was open-minded and always looked at the big picture, which is very important for a designer predicting future design needs and trends. I was lucky to cooperate with him. It was a real honor. I attended many design schools and training sessions, but this one was the most important school of design. Thanks to that, just after graduation I was able to work with the biggest companies in the world, which planned their development through design.
Design and art are very important for my professional life. I am also curator of exhibitions. That’s why working with Atelier Mendini for nearly 10 years meant I was close to my passion and to everything I find so interesting. Art was really significant for Alessandro, too. He matched it with architecture, because it was the most important for him. His projects were inspired also by human beings, they have colors, because they give emotions and feelings. His projects have often anthropomorphic features and express emotions that are not so obvious in designing. Things he created are empathic, according to his thesis: “We look at things and they look at us”. A great example of such collection is Anna G. made by Alessi. I was also taught that you can match architecture and art in the creative process. At Atelier Mendini we worked in many fields: architecture, interior design, industrial design, exhibitions and theater scenography. Sandro taught me that a good designer meets every challenge by taking under consideration the client’s needs and studying them precisely. Moreover, our main inspiration when creating should always be human beings and beauty.
He taught me also that art has a special impact on human beings, that’s why architectural projects made by Atelier Mendini include art factors which are equal to architecture. A great example of that is the metro project in Naples, which is regarded as one of the most beautiful in public space. The result is so unique because Mendini invited many famous artists to this adventurous undertaking.
To sum up: Working in this atelier I have found what Italians find so natural: the union of different arts, starting in the Renaissance and being open to cooperation and different talents and points of view in the creative process.
How would you prioritize tasks for a renovation project?
I always start by researching the location of the renovation and by analyzing the functions that need to be met. I analyze the historical factors, which define the character of the place. So, the historic background is the most relevant in the entire project and is the basis of the rest, providing a mood to the project. But I’m not afraid of combining modern and historical elements. This modern part allows us to emphasize the climate of the historical part by its functional, minimal or technical character or even by its color. It’s like a platform for dialog. Together, both trends create an interesting novelty.
If a client kept rejecting all your designs, what would you do?
I have never encountered such a problem. You can avoid this by talking to the client before the work starts. You need to define the client’s needs and how the new project will be able to develop the client’s market or groups of clients. Sometimes this process takes longer or it is complicated, but finally the client should be satisfied, especially when the project is a private house. In the case of private houses, the designer also plays the role of a psychologist to find out what the owners really need.
If I cooperate with a brand or company, first I analyze the company’s general situation to create a product that makes the company stronger in the market. So I consider how to develop products and technology.
How would you describe your design style?
From the very beginning of my professional life, I have been keen on nature and that has inspired me a lot. This is an endless source of ideas. When sculpting I only use natural materials. It may be because I grew up in the country surrounded by my beloved nature. In Poland I graduated from the University of the Arts in Poznań and my field of study was: Bio design materials which gain from nature. And this is very characteristic in my projects.
So, in general, I would say that the style of my projects is eclectic, because subjects can be more or less expressive or emphatic, less or more colorful or decorative.
How to create a great finishing of a furniture interior project
Laminates or other materials can be covered by printed patterns. So, your pattern can look like large format tiles. Companies producing paints offer many special effects paints like concrete or pearl. Their offers include a wide palette of colors or images. So, there are a lot of possibilities in the market, you can create unlimited versions of projects. Moreover, a growing trend is to customize finishes to meet the client’s needs.
Where or from who do you get more inspiration for your work?
Working on a project of large format tiles Cielo e Terra for Tubądzin first. I analyzed the possibilities offered by technology in the company, other collections in its portfolio and markets. The results were that the new collection should be dedicated to public spaces, where requirements are very demanding and the collection had to be non-slip and resistant to abrasion. This collection was dedicated to internal use and on external elevations. For me, the most important thing was that pattern and color had to be connected and that both had to suit the landscape. In my studio we analyzed landscape photos and zoomed them to pixel. This is how we obtained lists of colors: 4 of the earth, 4 of the sky and as a link to all of them, pink. They are only colors but it was very challenging to design them in a tile collection and implement them into production. Now the collection is available worldwide.
Another interesting project is Renesans, a collection of dishes manufactured in the traditional way for customers in Central Europe. We found inspiration in nature combined with hospitality and tolerance. The main idea was that there are many patterns in one collection and everybody chooses their favorite version. Despite of the wide scale of patterns, the whole collection was harmonious and coherent.
Another interesting project is a collection of vases for Dior inspired by southern Europe, especially Salento, in Italy, and its nature.
In the Due Dialogo project I designed a system of seats for public spaces, in which human behaviors and feelings for designing had a special meaning. So, the system is created to integrate people or isolate them from each other. Today, we are very multi-ethnic, born in one place and living in another, without our roots, families and friends; we must meet new people in new places. That is why this collection was designed.
I designed fabrics for the fashion brand Tatuum and my inspiration was Polish folk culture, which was very colorful and brave in fashion.
To sum up: I find inspiration in the world that surrounds me, but the association with a specific place is also important. The same happens when I design architecture or interiors.
What challenges will design face in the coming years?
The world of design is changing because of Covid. We don’t know when we will be able back to normal life and work. People who travel constantly, like me, are finding it difficult to run their business. Stuck in our countries, we cannot be involved in international projects. All international fairs and design weeks I worked for have been canceled. There are some issues in the design process that require personal contact, for instance: starting the production of a new product or controlling the construction of a new building or interior space. That limits us and changes our perspective. For example, now we can see that it will be better to produce in Europe.
We are lost in a very intensive development on global level, but now some categories of the industry are stopped because of Covid. Both situations are an important lesson in our life experience.
Since last year, online digital promotions and sales have become increasingly important. Because of the lockdown, online sales could intensely increase.
Another trend is that designers and producers will think and implement ecology and sustainability into their projects. We will focus on ecological and energy-saving solutions in construction, transport business and many others.
We won’t use single-use products as they become garbage that pollutes our planet. I hope that we will be able to appreciate high-quality, timeless and beautiful things again. I hope that plastic, which is a symbol of our times, will be reusable and one bottle will be used many times. I believe we need to go back to creating things the coming generations will be proud of. I mean things like our grandmother’s china, which we take good care of. It is precious to us and it will remain beautiful over the years.
How can I manage a creative block?
Go for a walk, travel. This always works and there you will find inspiration. Fresh air helps our brain to work. An oxygenated brain is open to new things. If we are open to new ideas, we see the big picture, from the distance.
A favourite material to work with.
I am open to different materials: both natural and made by human. But two things are my favourites: glass and light. In my studio we often work with new materials looking for these two factors.
Where can we find your products/designs? Any current exhibition?
Exhibitions are a complicated issue now, because nowadays it is not possible to open them. We are waiting for better times to come, when international exhibitions will be able to open again, like the Salone de mobile. I am a curator of many of these exhibitions.
You can find my products in the Dior showrooms all around the world, furniture in the range of Polish great brands: Comforty and Noti in their showrooms in Poland and other countries in Europe. Collections made for Tubądzin in the whole world including South Africa, India, Canada or USA. We plan an exhibition of Polish modern architecture in Milan and other cities but now because of obvious reasons we are waiting for continuation.