Spanish Magazine Apartamento and Japanese stationery specialist Mark’s teamed up to edit an original series of the iconic Storage.it notebook line. Together with creative talents, Eley Kishimoto, Nathalie Du Pasquier, we were invited by Apartameno to design unique and vibrant patterns. Storage.it is a series of functional notebooks and diaries, which received the Japanese “Good Design” award. It features special covers for the notebooks and diaries in the form of a zip-lock pocket. In this pocket, you can store and carry pens, rulers, stickers, your favorite cards and photos, business cards, keys, and much more.
Booklet Interview with Bertjan
Born and bred Dutchman Bertjan Pot graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven in 1998 with a knitted lamp. Since then he has continued to create design in a similar playful and unpretentious way. In 2003, after a few years as one half of the Monkey Boys that Pot founded with his academy classsmate Daniel White, he started his own studio, Studio Bertjan Pot. Today he collaborates with furniture companies such as Mooi, Arco, Established & Sons and Goods and Moustache. That is if he’s not busy with self initiated projects and pieces. The signature designs of Bertjan Pot has been featured in several international design exhibitions, making its way into the collections of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and New York’s MoMA. All the while winning numerous prizes, most recently the 2012 FRAME Moooi Award for his Stairway to Heaven hanging lighting system. Here Bertjan Pot shares his thoughts on streamlined design, the endless possibilities of print and patterns that dazzle.
Bertjan, you created the pattern called Worms for the collection storage.it edited by apartamento. Is this the first time you’ve designed a pattern for a notebook?
Yes, I think so. Unless you count putting stickers on my school books, diaries and notebooks when I was in school as design… but maybe we should.
How did you come up with the idea for Worms?
Well, my theory is that there are two types of design. One that works as camouflage and dazzles the shape of the object, and one that is mostly geometric and strengthens and clarifies the shape it’s on. Of course there are many in-betweens, and sometimes a geometric pattern can dazzle just as much. Stripes are a typical pattern theme that can work in both ways, that’s why they’re my favorite, next to polka dots. So in this case I gave putting abstract squiggly striped worms on a striped background a go to see what would happen.
Do you use notebooks yourself?
I keep a few but they are all over the place; in my house, my studio, my jackets, my bags. The funny thing is that I hardly ever look back at what I have drawn or written down. I think the act of drawing leaves a small backup in my head and makes me remember it better.
Can you tell me about how you got into design in the first place?
I sometimes think that I didn’t get enough visual thrills when I was young so I started making my own things. I used to make kites and boomerangs, and I think I was into BMX because it meant I could decorate my bike. It must have been because I was pretty bad at riding it. Before I went to design school I always said I wanted to be a technical draughtsman because I liked the combination of being technical and artistic at the same time. It turned out that what I wanted to be was called designer.
Could you ever imagine doing anything else in your life?
I think that what I do best from all the possible jobs and activities in the world is thinking of things and making them.
You studied at the Design Academy Eindhoven, and I’ve heard that that’s where you discovered your fascination for textiles. Did printmaking appeal to you back then?
Print and pattern making was definitely part of my studies. At one point I tried to do an internship in New York with a pattern-design company, but it didn’t work out. I think I look at things from small to big; I would probably notice a pattern on a thing before the actual thing. That’s also how I like to work: starting with something small; a shape, a technique or an effect, and seeing how big I can make it. Maybe it will become a light, a chair, a table or a mask.
How come this fascination for patterns didn’t make you move into fashion design?
I considered it, and I did intern at another company in New York that was sort of in the field of fashion. At the time it felt like a world full of difficult people with attitudes and user manuals. Now I would say that the fashion world is a little bit navel-gazing; there are only a few people that do unique things. And all those unique ideas are tossed out the window after a year and replaced by something else.
Do you feel more comfortable in the world of interior design?
I think it is easier to work independently in the furniture scene. I can make a chair and produce it myself or take it to a factory or label when I think it is ready for it. It allows me to be more critical and it’s less of a rat-race for me.
What else do you like about creating interior design objects as opposed to works within other design fields?
I like the fact that there is distance between the user and the product. Interior design doesn’t come as close as fashion, but nor is it as distant as a power tool or a car. They are objects in your house that you buy because you need them, but also because you think they should be something more than just practical.
Although you create mostly furniture and lighting, a lot of your design is in one way or another covered in some kind of pattern. Why is that?
Sometimes I like to break things down and create confusion, such as the Enzo Mari table (Enzo Enzo) that I covered with black and white stripes. I put the stripes there because I wanted to break down the structure that is very practical and hard; they dazzle the whole thing a bit and it makes you look twice. For many people design means streamlining; making things simpler. I think it has to do with the way we communicate with clear pictures in magazines and over the internet. Products that are clear communicate within a second. If we’re talking about airport signage that’s perfect, but with a chair or a table that you live with for years I think it’s ok if it takes a bit longer to understand. We use the Enzo Enzo table in the studio ourselves, we only made one and we never intended to sell it. I can still look at it and be surprised by what the simple pattern does to the simple shape.
What is the difference between working with design and patterns in 2D as opposed to the 3D objects you usually create?
There’s not much of a difference. I already saw this notebook as a 3D project already when I was designing the pattern; I kept printing it out and I imagined what it would look like in 3D. With print there are so many possibilities. Normally 3D is more restricted by the possibilities of the technique. That’s what keeps decision making simple. With print so many things are possible that I had to restrict myself to stripes, just to stop myself from being all over the place.
Was it a similar process to work with Worms as with the Free Potato Wallpaper you created for apartamento in 2009?
The only similarity was the fact that we were looking for something unpretentious. For the wallpaper we came up with a potato and now we ended up with worms. Being unpretentious is important to me.
I think that becomes very clear to anyone that has seen your work. Can you name any other pattern maker, designer or artist whose work you admire?
I really like looking at the work of David Hockney. He still is reinventing painting and creating images. He spends his career researching how we represent three-dimensional things in 2D, in his paintings but also in his iPad drawings. I think that’s a nice way of growing older. But as for inspiration I can just as well look at road-signage, children’s drawings, food spills or army camouflage. When there is a reason for a pattern or a cause it is usually so much better than when somebody really just sat down and thought of it.
Can you describe your typical working day?
I really try to work in my studio nine to five, five days a week. I believe things like weekends and evenings are best spent sleeping or in recreation, especially when your work is creative which means that most of it happens in your head. That tool needs to rest to be at its best.
Do you have a trick to stay creative when you lack inspiration?
If I am stuck, mostly I just quit, go home and think it will be better tomorrow. But being stuck is usually not a lack of creativity; mostly it’s the overdose of creativity that blocks the brain.