Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Maria-Zoi Tsiligkiridi ("MT") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

MT : Ever since I was little, I was fascinated by the architecture of a city, a building, a space. Architecture starts from the design of a city and goes all the way to the design of furniture or objects. I have always been challenged by small scale architecture, architecture of small spaces, details and design solutions for all kinds of constructions. I studied Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens and my thesis was on the area of Anafiotika in Athens. It is a place where every corner, every square meter makes a difference. Space is very limited and thus the furniture available in the market hardly fits in. This was, then, a design challenge for me regarding the “architecture and multi-functionality of furniture”. My long engagement in highly demanding private projects led me to the design of furniture, which I have been practicing along with architecture. The final boost to enter the production of design items was my work with manufacturing. It is very important for a designer to get involved in the production process of the item he/she has designed. In fact, that’s where the magic takes place; this exchange of ideas, research, design and execution, from the first stage to the last and all the way back, until a proper product is created, both aesthetically and functionally.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

MT : Particularly fond of small space architecture and drawing solutions upon implementation, I decided to enter the field of industrial design and manufacture of everyday furniture, lightning fixtures and objects, thus establishing MA√|design products. My source of inspiration involves streets, old-stuff shops, warehouses, industries, construction sites, tradition, modern art, travels and music.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

MT : It came up naturally as an outcome of my work on small space architecture. If you are forced to become a designer, it is quite unlikely to make it happen.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

MT : I like designing mostly furniture and lighting fixtures which have a story to tell. This story can lie in the origin of the material or of the parts which make a product, meaning that they might be originating from some old piece of furniture which is not in use any longer or that might be designated for a different use but eventually end up in a new product. I also like multi-functional furniture which can fit in, equip or serve a very small space, but which can at the same time expand and be used as well in a much larger space. I like combining different styles from different eras, thus creating contemporary furniture with a “past”.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

MT : I would say never be afraid to create, risk and dream and also to be armed with love and patience for what they have decided to do.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

MT : One of the two has more imagination and wants and knows how to make it reality.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

MT : A good design is what makes its user happy; a really good design is what makes its user really happy.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

MT : Good design lasts in time longer. It helps us live in more comfort, at more ease and surrounded by beauty. Why not make the most out of these benefits?

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

MT : I would like to design a mobile shelter for refugees which could fit in or serve as a back pack so that they wouldn’t be affected by the weather conditions.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

MT : To listen closely to people and the environment and to pursue your dreams.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

MT : It’s the CAVA project. It is a smartly designed product as it can transform in many different ways by changing: 1/ use (wine rack, bar, shelving unit, side table, meal table, wine tasting table), 2/ size (from small floor wine rack to a synthesis which can cover the walls of a whole space such as a living room, a bar, a cellar etc) and 3/ looks (plexiglas, wood, marble and metal in endless combinations of colours and designs), depending on the user’s needs. It is collapsible and the special bottle holders made of pipe mountings allow the placement of bottles of any diameter or height.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

MT : By loving what they do, daring to get exposed and once realizing it, to see it from a distance and perfect it.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

MT : Design is creativity, good aesthetics, comfort, functionality, innovation, imagination and interaction with people.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

MT : Μy two soulmates Giorgos Kontogeorgos and Maria Tsiligkiridi.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

MT : Persistence, patience and love for what I do.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

MT : With courage, modesty, self-confidence and honesty.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

MT : Stories from the past will soon pop up…furniture, compositions, proposals for new spaces; but, since “a picture is worth a thousand words”, just stay tuned!

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

MT : Το make people happier!

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

MT : I am working on the renovation of a 1960’s house – an immigrants’ folk house in downtown Athens – to transform it to a home rental by maintaining and pointing out the paneling, the coatings, the framings and its extrovert character through the use of furniture of that period and on which I have applied restoration techniques, patina and collage in order to highlight those times through a more contemporary, fresh viewpoint.

DL: What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?

MT : I would like to see more products from independent designers go into production as there are many beautiful and fresh ideas there.

DL: How long does it take you to finalize a design project?

MT : From one day to several months.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

MT : From wherever I get better inspired; depending on the period of time and my mood. I like to feel free.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

MT : “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

MT : There is no doubt that design sets the trends; and it cannot be otherwise in order for innovation and creativity to flourish.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

MT : Technology makes everything a bit easier, faster and accessible.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

MT : My sketchbook, a pencil, my Mac, Archicad, Photoshop an A1 plotter, an A3 scanner, my travel photo collection and of course sun, coffee and music!

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

MT : They are equally important as they shape a design product and attribute it a different form, appearance and texture. They are like three keys – whichever you turn will give you a different product.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

MT : How did I come up with it.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

MT : Great! How lucky they are the ones who will be using it. Well done to the one who conceived, designed and implemented it!

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

MT : The one who complements, trusts and appreciates me. Four eyes and four hands are always better than two!

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

MT : By putting a lot of personal effort and by reading; by working for several years with demanding clients; by focusing on manufacturing; by actively joining the field of product manufacturing in collaboration with talented individuals; and of course by travelling!

DL: Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?

MT : Antoni Gaudí, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, M.C.Escher, Leonardo da Vinci, Mahatma Gandhi and many more that unfortunately I won’t be able to meet…

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

MT : I feel joy and satisfaction for the recognition of years of work. My goal is not to become famous, but to achieve the acceptance and satisfaction of the end user. That’s actually the reason behind the design of products; to be used by a user.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

MT : I think that if I had to choose one of each, I would limit my imagination!

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

MT : One night, at the crack of dawn, I was in a space full of designs to be delivered, mock-ups etc. After long hours of work, I felt like having a drink. I decided to boil a rakomelo (traditional Greek drink made of raki and honey) and distracted and tired as I was, I fell asleep and the kettle caught fire! Luckily, my co-designer was there who started running after me and beating me with some cloths as I was rushing to the bathroom with the burning camping gas and kettle in my hands! Fortunately, we managed to put the fire off and no project was burned…Thinking of this story, we always laugh and ever since, when we have a lot of work, we have our drinks only with ice!

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

MT : By playing and listening to music; by traveling; by relaxing under the sun; by reading a good review about my work.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?

MT : I have to ask my mum ;)

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

MT : I am afraid that in a thousand years technology will have pushed people apart instead of bringing them closer.

DL: Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?

MT : The traditional techniques and cultural heritage of each nation has a lot to tell; by listening closely, we will be able to create contemporary products more wisely.



The Cava Project Multifunctional wine rack

The Cava Project Multifunctional wine rack by Maria-Zoi Tsiligkiridi

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