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Muuto visits studio of Aleksej Iskos

'My design process is a combination of rational thinking and intuition'

Function is inherently tied to the poetics of design in Aleksej Iskos’ unmistakable work. Every object he designs, carefully balances technical know-how with the whimsical. They are all also about telling stories. The more immediate, the better. Ones that not only appeal to the senses but also the imagination.

'I often find that my design process is a peculiar combination of rational thinking and intuition. When logic doesn’t suffice, intuition lends a hand and when intuition falters, logic sets in', says the designer in an interview with Scandinavian brand Muuto.

The Ukrainian-born designer started out as an architect and teacher, quickly finding the scale, time frames and number of people involved in the process overwhelming. He wanted to get closer. Design was somewhere between teaching and architecture, more tangible. His landing in Denmark in the late 80s was an act of faith, he simply needed to get away from the Soviet.

'Soviet was fifty shades of brown, so I moved hoping to find a better, more beautiful life. In Copenhagen, I was expecting skyscrapers, neon, plastic, colours. Needless to say, I was disappointed to find soap-treated wood. It took time to understand Danish design and the values behind it. When I did, I felt profoundly inspired, but with my own take on it.'

'Your combined experiences colour the way you design. A journalist in the 90s once said that I combine Scandinavian minimalism with a Ukrainian sense of poetry or the Slavic soul. It made me laugh back then, but now that I think about it, it’s not so far off.'

While Iskos designs all kinds of objects, lamps seem to have a special role in story and practice—from the very beginning. Experimenting with toy science sets where you could connect a battery with wires and a light bulb, he was floored by the magic of light.

'When I work with light it is about the story, as with all of my work. Light is a great way of telling a story.' He is an obsessive storyteller, in life and design. The more immediate and palpable the story, the better. It has to make an impression.

The idea behind Calm Lamp arose from everyday life. Landing at the Copenhagen Airport, he passed a billboard and came to a halt. Printed on a textile-like material, the ad lit up with an extraordinary, pleasant glow. He was captivated by how the light travelled through the material. The city is the starting point for the Calm Wall Lamp yet the result is deeply rooted in nature.

'Scandinavian design is partially characterized by its great respect for nature in terms of materials and light; something that I wanted to infuse the Calm Wall Lamp with, creating a light that isn’t tamed but instead has an organic flow', he says.

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