Interview Kristjan Mändmaa & Annelys de Vet

October 28, 2004
Miss Euroopa
Interview by Kristjan Mändmaa, Eesti Ekspress 28 october 2004 (English translation from Estonian)


Kristjan Mändmaa‭:‬ What is important in design‭?‬

Annelys de Vet‭:‬ Personal involvement and related ideas‭.‬

Why are you a designer‭; ‬what do you find appealing in design‭?‬

Being able to investigate and develop ideas on society and culture‭, ‬and transform the observations into useful ideas or even leave them as questions‭.‬

You are constantly experimenting with different means and medias‭. ‬Do you feel that everything is design or would you rather argue that these additional activities are merely attempts to seek variety and avoid boredom‭?‬

The output of the work appears in different forms or media‭, ‬but the input is always the same‭: ‬ideas‭. ‬The computer enables me to‭ ‬make videos‭, ‬printed matter‭, ‬sounds‭, ‬images‭, ‬drawings‭, ‬websites‭, ‬newspapers‭, ‬posters‭, ‬stamps and coins‭, ‬all from the same position‭: ‬sitting at a desk‭, ‬countless mouse clicks‭, ‬staring at a screen without a horizon‭. ‬It’s not the medium that counts‭, ‬it’s not the skill that matters‭, ‬but it’s the attitude that makes the difference‭.‬

One of the more controversial themes you have been exploring is the‭ ‬‘Right to Copy’‭. ‬The lecture and other activities‭: ‬how did these come about‭?‬

It’s ridiculous to think that you are original‭, ‬that one speaks uniquely his or her very own language‭. ‬There are so many influences‭, ‬but you’re not always aware of them‭. ‬Children learn by imitating the people around them‭. ‬Somewhere at the end of adolescence we seem to‭ ‬be inclined to think that we have to do it all by ourselves‭. ‬But I don’t see a reason why we should stop imitating the people we admire‭. ‬Imitating is learning and by appropriating the copy we develop‭ ‬new thoughts and designs collectively‭. ‬Originality doesn’t exist in the pure sense of the word‭. ‬Everything is processed by something else‭; ‬every idea is created by all the other ideas you’ve been confronted with‭. ‬A design is a result of a series of stimuli and influences‭, ‬all set within their specific contexts‭. ‬Rather than seeing a work as a unique statement of the designer‭, ‬the work should be seen as a comparative moment in time‭. ‬The notion of originality should be abandoned in favour of a broader reading of the work‭.‬

Still‭, ‬to be practical about the question‭, ‬what triggered the‭ ‬‘Right to Copy’‭ ‬issue‭? ‬What kind of a feedback did you receive from other designers‭?‬

What triggered the idea was the urge some people were showing to be‭ ‬‘original’‭. ‬It felt like an act of frustration to me‭. ‬Copying was a dirty word at the art academy‭. ‬I never fully understood this‭. ‬I copied‭ ‬a lot‭, ‬not to‭ ‬‘cheat’‭ ‬but as a moment in the design process‭. ‬Appropriating already existing designs helps to develop them further‭. ‬Just as in classical music‭, ‬which has a centuries old tradition of composers quoting other composers‭. ‬Strangely enough‭, ‬in design there seems to be a tendency of needing to be unique and having your own style‭. ‬I wanted to be as open and honest as possible about my‭ ‬‘influences’‭.‬

You’ve become known as an expert presenter‭. ‬At the Design Academy Eindhoven you also teach presentation to graphic designers‭. ‬The common knowledge in Estonia is that presentations are meant to sell something‭. ‬Your presentations seem to have become an art form‭ ‬in their own right‭. ‬What is the purpose of the presentations‭?‬

As I said before‭, ‬it’s not the medium or the skill that needs to be communicated‭, ‬but it’s the attitude‭, ‬the thoughts and idea’s‭. ‬Design is not just an object‭, ‬rather a combination of many motifs‭, ‬influences and moments in time‭. ‬Design is a transmission and what it tells is equally dependent on the spectator as on the narrator‭. ‬It’s somewhere in the middle of the moment‭, ‬the context‭, ‬the news‭, ‬the history‭, ‬the future and the emotions‭. ‬As a designer it’s relevant being sensitive to these influences and play with them‭. ‬The presentation of things and of yourself plays an important‭ ‬role in the whole‭. ‬It’s not just telling a story‭, ‬but it’s you‭, ‬the author of the design‭, ‬who is introducing a story‭, ‬moving around‭, ‬choosing words‭, ‬building sentences‭, ‬posing questions‭, ‬listing‭, ‬performing‭, ‬seducing‭, ‬convincing‭, ‬doubting and ending the story‭. ‬This‭ ‬‘presentation’‭ ‬can be seen as a design as well‭, ‬one can approach it in the same way as one would approach a design of a book or object‭. ‬Quite‭ ‬some people forget that‭, ‬whether you like it or not‭, ‬the presentation is part of the design‭.‬

How do you like teaching‭? ‬What’s your method‭?‬

An artist I admire once told about the most inspiring teacher he had met during a visit at the Cooper Union art school in New York‭. ‬All students had put their works on the walls and floors to discuss it‭. ‬The students gathered around the drawings and started