Design is more than just a unnecessary beautification of a surface, it surrounds us in our whole environment and life. Every tool we use, every car we drive, every book we read is created by a designer, but we perceive all this things subconscious, ignore them or rail against the visual cacophony of our environment. Because of this fact we see design more as a disruption of our every day life, but the perfect surfaces create also a better awareness for the non perfection of our surrounding.
But one designer shows that the connection of design and everyday life works very well: Lina Marie Köppen. After graduating from the AMD Hamburg, Germany, Lina moves to the highly renowned Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands, where she developed a highly conceptual approach of work. Influenced by topics and rituals of use from the everyday life and theories of the philosophy of philosophers like Rudolf Steiner and others, Lina creates projects which are driven by more than just surface styling.
Lina combines profound concepts, beautiful compositions of color and form with a wry kind of humor to products which bring mechanisms of the everyday life into question. Projects like “Tools part of the L T U” or her fantastic graduation project Learn to unlearn” are examples for her combination of all this different subjects. An also interesting fact is that Lina isn't fixed on a special media. The only important thing is the concept which found it's expression in many ways: she creates products for the everyday use, books, visuals identity’s, graphic projects as well as storyboards or exhibitions. Her approach for good design is more a holistic one and underline clearly what design is: a tool for the every day
Hi Lina, please tell me a little about about you and your work
I was born and mostly raised in east Berlin. After some time my family and I moved a bit further outside of Berlin, to Neuruppin, in lovely Brandenburg. After some time I moved to Australia, where I lived for two years and also finished my high school diploma. I went back to Germany to complete my bachelor's degree in spatial design at the Academy for Fashion & Design (AMD HAMBURG) in 2010. Shortly afterwards I moved to Eindhoven, where I attended the Design Academy master's programme in social design, graduating in 2012. Currently I am working as a trainee at Droog in the design department.
I have been interested in design for a very long time. I am not sure that I ever decided on a single mode of creation, and in a way I think this is visible in my work as I use many different media, from space to graphical and product design. Fashion design also seems very interesting to me but I haven't yet had the time or chance to develop my ideas in this context. Most of my work is about capturing moments. I find it interesting to create work that has a life of its own, where the user or viewer are the spectator and author at the same time. I think maybe this is even the essence of what I would consider to be good design.
In general, I have always wanted to achieve a greater understanding of the things or moments in life where you stop for a while and consume something that will later become a memory. I am aware of the fact that everything surrounding us will be part of a memory or has the potential to create one. I like the idea of creating memories rather than designs, because they feel so much more alive. The concept of a collective memory determines our daily routines and its systems. From my perspective, creating a memory in that sense is a challenge that I am willing to take on.
Where and how do you get your inspirations or which things take influence onyour work?
It Is always hard to pinpoint those unusual moments in which you are struck by an idea, but to put it a bit abstractly, I would say that most of my inspiration happens in living itself. I would even say that aspiration is a trigger for those moments when I recognize something like strange metal parts on a walkway, and wonder what they are and why they are there—and then question if I could reverse design, just from being unfamiliar with its original purpose. On the other hand, I am very influenced by philosophers such as Jung, Deleuze and Steiner, or artists such as Beuys, Dadaists such as Marchel Duchamp, and surrealistic works such as Victor Brauner's Wolf-Table.
You have graduated first in Germany and later with a Master from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Why this decision?
I have always been comfortable living in other countries, not because I don't like my own, I do! There is just something intangible about being a foreigner. Somehow I feel more free to express myself. My decision to study at the Design Academy was a decision with no other options. During my bachelor's, the book House of Concepts fell into my hands. I was immediately drawn to what I saw in this book. At that point in my life I was very far from knowing anything about design! It really struck me and I knew this was where I wanted to go next.
Where do you see the difference between German and Dutch design and the education?
It is a bit hard for me to make a valid distinction. As I studied at a private school in Hamburg, I am not familiar with public universities in Germany. Similarly, I am not so familiar with the design scene in Germany in general. My general impression or experience is that in the Netherlands design is generally a bigger part of everyday culture. When exhibiting my work in different cities in the Netherlands, many families, elderly people and even school groups came to look at the design projects on display. I don't think that the average German even knows what "design" means, or what kinds of design exist. Therefore, I suppose that a more forward-thinking attitude towards design is more common in the Netherlands. Perhaps Germans are still too practical.
Can you tell me a little bit about your graduation project "Learn to unlearn“?
I find the theory of unlearning to be one of the most fascinating, because gaining knowledge is much more simple then losing it. This project took a long path; it took me a year to go from my initial thoughts to my final outcome. This is also why I am particularly proud of this project: it has been an honest ride. Creating a pure design proposal was one of my main goals that year, and that was much harder then it may seem. I especially wanted to work on this topic because I felt that with all the thinking about the future in the air, there must be something important about the past. It is fascinating to realize that all of the things around us change faces as we grow, that these faces are influenced by our surroundings. This process of infinite shaping seems to be an unstoppable process, and this really triggered me to think otherwise, to dream up possibilities and loopholes that "reverse" this process, altering things or "design".
How would you describe your design process?
Random, chaotic and extremely pedantic. I think my mentors were very worried about my way of working. I would come to class with many print-outs of stories, images and text that I found interesting or somehow relevant. I don't believe in facts and numbers but in empiricism. That year, I created many objects telling the story of unlearning in my own way. I designed placebo objects and demanding and helpless objects. Even though my mentors found theses things interesting, they were always questioning what I was actually doing. At one point they asked me if I even wanted to design something in the end, after I had written so many pages that at times seemed to say that I wanted design to go to hell. Yet I was never nervous about it: I knew, somehow, that all the pieces would come together, and in the end they did.
You work mainly with objects and mechanisms of the every day life. How do you deal with these things?
I am clearly a child that has been left in the wilderness with an iPhone. There are many standard everyday appliances that I reject, but on the other hand I am always drawn to new technologies because they fascinate and frighten me at the same time. Just roughly, I think half of the things that exist are unnecessary, to the extent that they do more harm then help. I am simultaneously excited and scared by the future of things.
Do you create design for the individual or for the mass?
I would say I create design for an individual among the mass. I know that in some designer scenes, the idea of mass production is derided, and I also don't agree with useless overproduction of the same things over and over. But neither do I believe in occasionally selling one piece for an extremely high price. If I as a designer create something that I truly believe in, then I also want to share it with others, and not only as an idea. I am aware that the pieces I have made are, in their current state, expensive, but If I had the possibility to serially produce them for a better price I would never say no.
What is more important for you: a beautiful form or a great concept? And which role play the terms form, color and composition?
Definitely a beautiful form and a great concept! This is a topic that I am still trying to get my head around. I once thought that I would never be interested in any form of decoration—in fact, I called them "dust catchers". Now, barely a year later, I am not sure that I would make the same statement again. I do believe in a great concept, but ultimately my satisfaction as a designer lies simply in making people happy, and I realise that happiness through design can also be achieved by simple beauty rather than amazing concepts. I do envision a good balance for my own work—the beauty to attract people's attention and a great concept to make their heads spin. Form, color and composition are almost intangible parameters that are invaluable for any creative process. They cannot be achieved with an automatic or scientific approach, and neither should they be. Perhaps it is the feeling that we inherit naturally. Listening to our hands is very important. In the end, even the greatest concepts are nothing without the right skin.
You work on Graphic and also product designs. How interact both disciplines in your work?
I would claim that graphic design, which in a strange way was my first "profession", has been very influential on how I design and create. I do get inspired by my own or others' graphical work. Product design can be very demanding towards reality, and comparatively graphic design is always floating. When I create, there is always a weird symbiosis in process, when 2D becomes 3D and eventually 4D.
Which role plays team work?
Ninety percent of the work you see on my website was developed alone. I do believe that I cope quite well with all my thoughts on my own. Although I like the idea of working in teams, I also know that the goals of each teammate must be united in order to create good work. In the future I do see myself working together with other designers or people from other professions, because sometimes you need the interchange in order to move on.
Are there any artists or designers from other disciplines you would like to collaborate with?
I don't have the desire to work with a specific person at the moment. I have always admired how Hella Jongerius creates conceptual work with commercial partners. And if he were still alive, I would love to collaborate with Jung! I think it would be fascinating to collaborate with a philosopher.
What are your favorite obsessions that you have now?
An obsession is a nice thing to have. It is like a second job, something that keeps you constantly busy. If people kept track of their obsessions and documented their findings, they could probably earn money with that information. My current obsession is smelling almost everything before I eat it. I don't know why this is; it's new, but it's sort of nice, like small surprises on normal days.
Lastly, what does it mean to you, being a designer?
Firstly the possibility and secondly the ability to influence people's lives. This may sound a bit cliché but I suppose it is that creating parts of the world we live in seems to be a huge responsibility, and I am willing to carry that weight.
© Lina Marie Köppen