Costas Voyatzis: Design is to Share

Interview by Annalisa Rosso

10 years ago, Costas Voyatzis founded Yatzer. Born as a sort of personal library, in a short time the blog has become an indispensable point of reference on design, architecture, art, travel. A reflection of Costas volcanic personality, Yatzer online pages have made school thanks to an international approach and up-to-date, mixed with an original tone of voice and unpublished topics.

Annalisa Rosso: You travel a lot and you are steadily updated with the latest news on the international design scenario. From your privileged point of view, how do you see the future of independent design?

Costas Voyatzis: I travel physically around the world, but also through the thousands of emails I receive each day from independent designers. Design remains a very selective field. However, for somebody to be considered an independent designer today it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have studied design. The internet, through social media and various crowdfunding platforms, has played a large role in this. Through these platforms people have the opportunity, without any real marketing or business plan, to exhibit their work online so that other people will become aware of their existence. This creates a dialogue about them. From there, some of these ideas go viral online because they are brilliant ideas. The thing is that great ideas are everywhere but only a selected few of these are both innovative and timeless. The next step is for these independent designers to figure out how to implement their ideas and get their designs produced. This is where the need for funding comes in.
So the question is: can an independent designer remain “independent” and, if so, for how long? Most designers reach a point in their careers where they need to join a large corporation in order to survive. This is for production purposes. And I believe that if the product they’ve created is worth being spread and shared, then designers should accept this support if and when it’s offered. This is a good thing; it’s not a sell-out. Because the most beautiful things in the world have been thought up by people who began their careers as “independent” designers.

AR: Your claim is “design is to share”. Could you please explain better what do you mean?

CV: On the one hand, my inspiration regarding the motto comes from a song by Sebastien Tellier called “La Ritournelle”. The lyrics say “Love is to share, mine is for you”. So, I thought: “If love is to share and I am in love with design, then design is to share”. It’s like a mathematical equation, like 1 + 1 = 2.
On the other hand, in my opinion “Design is to Share” reflects the fact that we have access to design every single second of our lives. Even if we are standing barefoot and naked in a building we have access to that building and so we are sharing or exchanging energy with it. When we eat we use a fork and a plate: these are design items. There is a connection. And this interaction also fulfils the purposes behind the creation of these items, like when we wear a pair of shoes or sit on a chair. This is what “sharing” is in my mind.
And everything is designed. In nature each flower, plant and tree has its own design. If you hug a tree, you are sharing something with it. Everything is a matter of exchanging energy. And design is always in movement. Because something might look solid, but – and this is my physics background coming through – a closer look with a microscope reveals that everything is made up of tiny atoms that are always moving. Things may look solid but everything is in motion, just like we are. So, from my point of view, sharing is the constant interaction we have with everything that surrounds us.

AR: Talking about geography of design, it is no longer just driven by companies and productions, in my opinion. Schools and resources are also giving a local character to research. What do you think about that? And where to find the most interesting design debate, at the moment?

CV: Taking the term “geography of design” literally to the map, we see how different countries and cities produce and export a product or products, which cause them to have interactions with other places.
There is definitely a localization trend going on, wherein the public is supporting local designers, local materials and local productions. And this is a wonderful thing because it allows us to go back to the roots of the intrinsic qualities that give each country and/or city its own special flavour. One of the most interesting debates going on right now is: Social Media Friendly VS Humanity Friendly. This is between an object which is created just for the purpose of causing a temporary online buzz, versus an object which is created with the intention of it exhibiting a strong, long-lasting reason behind its creation. This debate derives from this quick, don’t-make-me-wait age we live in, which centres around instant gratification. There are too many impulses around and people seem to be constantly trying to outdo each other’s impulses.

AR: The theme of Operæ 2016 is Designing the Future. In this sense, which kind of responsibilities has design, from your point of view?

CV: Everything I previously made mention of: design must respect nature and be sustainable. Design items must have a strong reason and a purpose in order to be produced, otherwise their existence is useless. Designers have to keep in mind to always design mindfully and that includes localizing their productions as much as possible and to always work with a great respect to the local resources they are using.

AR: I have recently read on Yatzer the brilliant quote by Neale Donald Walsch: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” What is your comfort zone and — in a more abstract way — what is the comfort zone of design culture?

CV: I feel as if today’s new designers have fallen into the comfort zone of designing something with the intention of it creating some sort of an online buzz. They want it to go viral and to have everybody talking about it… until it falls off the radar one week later because it doesn’t have the necessary staying power. In my opinion, that should be a “no go” zone for any designer because one should always create with the intention of creating something lasting, that can sustain itself. I wish more designers realized that this is a marathon and not a sprint.
Regarding my personal comfort zone: I think that this year I touched the outer limits of my comfort zone because I celebrated 10 years of “Yatzering”. And in these years I’ve learned that there’s always something new to learn; I’m always discovering new things! So, the comfort zone I think I have is re-evaluated daily. Today I’m way past what my comfort zone was five years ago. It’s constantly being redefined because I believe in evolving and stepping outside what my perceived limits are. It’s not something I can pinpoint but I just know that at specific times things have happened that have stretched me, either in my imagination or physically when I accomplished something I never thought I would. This is what is so amazing about my job because this is what it affords me every single day.

AR: A tip for new design lovers.

CV: I would advise designers to design responsibly and new design lovers to obtain responsible design.

AR: What about your next destination?

CV: My next destination in my work is probably printed media. Maybe a book… there are a lot of things I’m working on. My next destination on the map? We’ll see!