Interview with Nataliya Naymark of NNaymark design

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Nataliya Naymark

Nataliya Naymark operates a solo design studio, with the majority of her winnings stemming from interior design projects. She firmly believes that the most effective approach to discussing design is to draw inspiration from Vkhutemas and the educational methods employed by designers at that institution.

Interview With The 2023 MUSE Design Awards Winner – Nataliya Naymark

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

I completed my bachelor's degree in economics, specializing in institutional economics. Afterward, when I decided to pursue a career in furniture design, I began researching universities that offered relevant programs. To gain admission to a university in my country, one must submit drawings that include compositions, portraits, human figures, columns, and landscapes. I embarked on the journey of learning how to draw, and I'm still working hard to improve my skills. Unfortunately, I couldn't enroll in university as I also needed to focus on passing my school exams, and the workload was overwhelming.

I completed multiple courses, including "Kibardin Creative Synergy" and "Furniture Design for Beginners Online Short Course" offered by Central Saint Martins University of the Arts London. I am also an avid user of online learning platforms and have engaged in various programs on edX. Among them, my preferred course is "Fundamentals of Manufacturing Processes" by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Additionally, I participated in courses provided by Coursera, such as "Modern Art & Ideas" by The Museum of Modern Art, and took advantage of international courses from openedu, with my favorite being "History of Design" offered by HSE University. Since 2019, I have completed more than 20 different courses, and my ongoing passion lies in studying the History of Design.

I was very much engaged in practical work by undertaking multiple interior projects, for each of which I designed furniture. To enhance my understanding of lighting, I participated in the "Practice with Women in Lighting" program and contributed to various museum exhibitions. In terms of sketches and technical drawings, I have created over 30 collections of furniture and lighting, comprising more than 30 individual pieces and over 30 unique tiles. To showcase my graphic skills related to tiles and carpets, I designed New Year's postcards for the past two years, each featuring one of my carpet and tile designs.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

During my time in school, I had the opportunity to participate in excursion courses to various museums in Moscow, including the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, The State Tretyakov Gallery, the Armoury Chamber, National Museum of Art of Peoples of the East, and many more. Surprisingly, when I took a career aptitude test in school, I scored higher in arts than in math. Despite excelling in math and physics classes and even winning awards in those subjects, my inclination towards arts wasn't apparent to my teachers and parents.

Consequently, I received a recommendation for an architectural program, even though I had no experience in drawing. I did have a solid foundation in technical drawing due to eight years of obligatory coursework in school.

Nevertheless, my academic journey led me to pursue a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in digital marketing. I thoroughly enjoyed my work as a UX strategist in a creative company, where I delved into usability and understanding people's needs and dreams. We executed remarkable marketing campaigns for clients like Unilever and various automotive companies.

However, as I entered my thirties, I realized that my true passion still lay in architecture. Growing older allowed me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses. I became acutely bothered by inaccuracies in measurements, and I felt that architecture would present a challenging yet fulfilling pursuit. I then made the decision to pursue a career as a furniture designer.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.
I run a one-person design studio, and while most of my income currently comes from interior design projects, I'm also in talks with manufacturing companies about my furniture designs.
4What does “design” mean to you?

I believe the most effective way to discuss design is by drawing inspiration from Vkhutemas and how designers were educated there. In Vkhutemas, they provided training in art workshops, shaping future artist-constructors. This approach meant that the outcome of their work was a fusion of both construction and art. This is precisely how I perceive design – as a blending of keen observation, the refinement of experience, and the precision of physics, mathematics, and usability.

When everything comes together harmoniously, it results in unforgettable beauty that enhances the quality of human life. In today's context, we must also consider sustainability, echoing Rodchenko's perspective on our possessions. Our belongings are not mere objects; they are companions we nurture and endeavor to extend their useful life cycle.

5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?

My favorite design style tends to evolve over time. Initially, I was deeply enamored with Bauhaus and believed it would be my exclusive design inspiration in the future. However, my perspective shifted when I discovered the works of Melnikov, Rodchenko, Bykov, Tatlin, and many others associated with Vkhutemas. Over a year ago, I stumbled upon an article about Sottsass, and it was a complete revelation. I even created several pieces in the Memphis style.

Currently, I am revisiting Modernism and finding inspiration in the works of Aalto and Pierre Jeanneret. Aalto captivates me with his minimalist designs and his exceptional sensitivity to materials. In the case of Pierre Jeanneret, his appreciation for folk crafts and the elegance and lightness of French design resonate with me. I'm also eager to delve into the works of Charlotte Perriand in the near future, even though I haven't had the chance to create anything inspired by her designs yet.

6To you, what makes a “good” design?
There are some people whose opinions really matter to me and I can tell if my design is good just by looking at their faces. They don't have to say anything; I can see the questions in their eyes, which means I might have missed something. When it comes to evaluating other people's work, I think my attention to detail and technical know-how come into play. I try to imagine the target audience and the possible interior settings. If I can picture several scenarios, it's a good sign that the design is worth spending time on.
7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

My design style draws inspiration from both Russian avant-garde and mid-century influences. You can observe geometric compositions inspired by the avant-garde movement and a strong emphasis on functionality, along with a hint of affection for multi-purpose objects from the mid-century era.

Even when I'm inspired by other design styles, the significance of precise mathematical calculations and the pursuit of beautiful outcomes through deliberate sequences remains a constant presence in my work.

8Tell us about your design process.

I frequently utilize lean canvases, finding them instrumental in maintaining a structured and current approach to my projects. Typically, my creative process begins with a sketch, followed by technical drawings, and then the development of a prototype. Occasionally, I combine the last two steps.

Concurrently or immediately afterward, I work on a lean canvas to ensure I don't overlook crucial aspects of the project. Subsequently, I initiate the process of sourcing the appropriate materials, crafting a full-scale prototype, and identifying potential companies interested in purchasing my design.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?

I have Jewish roots and a deep affection for England. My cultural heritage is a blend of these influences and I find great inspiration in new places. What fascinates me the most is how people in different locations perceive objects, care for them and approach them.

During my time at Vkhutemas, I created numerous pieces inspired by Melnikov and Rodchenko, and I believe my heritage is evident in many of my works. Conversely, I have a profound appreciation for Scandinavian design which may be influenced by my Mordva heritage. As someone with a diverse cultural background, my creations also reflect this multicultural perspective.

When I engage in hands-on work, I often listen to lectures on Arzamaz, a radio platform featuring talks on history, art, politics, and more. However, when I need to focus on tasks that involve words (like now), I prefer to listen to music. For generating new ideas, I find that complete silence and walks in nature are most conducive to my creative process.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

This recognition from the design community holds significant value for me, especially as a self-taught designer. I see it as a potential avenue for new collaborative opportunities to emerge. My goal is to sell my designs to various companies with the hope of engaging in diverse projects. I aspire to work with new materials and explore the ideal design for each specific material.

My dream design project is to recreate an analogue of the Pittoresk café, originally crafted by Rodchenko, Yakulov, and Tatlin. In this endeavor, I would personally oversee every aspect, from designing the tiles to creating the wall art.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

I believed it would be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate my capacity to design ergonomic products that are optimized for cost-effective production, as the molds required for this design already exist in Vitra's production line. From another perspective, it underscores my passion for the history of design and serves as an excellent illustration of organized wall systems, a concept frequently championed by Gio Ponti.

Furthermore, I think this piece would be exceptionally well-suited for compact apartments. It has its own target audience and addresses a specific household issue.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?
The hand with the light required careful consideration of its design and length which I had to revisit multiple times due to issues with insufficient length and rotation problems.
13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
It's an immense honor to be among the winners, especially considering I lack formal education in this field. I'm entirely self-taught and throughout my educational journey, I received limited feedback on my approach to thinking and designing. Receiving such significant recognition and actually winning an award is truly incredible. There are still days when I wake up and double-check to make sure it wasn't just a dream.
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
It combines elements of marketing, user experience (UX), and design. This blend keeps me engaged, inspired, and continuously generating fresh and innovative solutions for various challenges.
15Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

It's challenging for me to make a definitive assessment since I don't have extensive connections within the design field. However, from my perspective, I observe a pattern: younger generations tend to prioritize sustainability, which occasionally results in designs that may lack some level of innovation.

On the other hand, older designers often prioritize aesthetics and stick to established production methods. I believe that at some point, these two approaches will blend, leading to the emergence of entirely new and exciting design concepts. This doesn't mean such innovative design doesn't exist presently; it's just poised to reach a new level of creativity and integration.

16If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?
Design is a lifelong learning journey with no ultimate endpoint. It's essential to organize your work systematically, making it more manageable as you progress. Cultivate continuous learning, research, and keen observation.
17What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
My collection includes books on art history as well as magazines like World of Interiors, Design Anthology, Apartamento, Frame, and Openhouse. I have a particular fondness for MacGaffin magazine.
18Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
My dream design project is to create a replica of the Pittoresk café, originally designed by Rodchenko, Yakulov, and Tatlin where I would personally oversee every aspect, from crafting the tiles to creating the wall art. It would be a true celebration of Russian Avant-garde.
19Who has inspired you in your life and why?

My favorite designer tends to change over time. Initially, I was deeply passionate about Bauhaus design and believed it would be my sole source of inspiration for my future work. However, my perspective shifted when I discovered the works of Melnikov, Rodchenko, Bykov, Tatlin, and many other talents associated with Vkhutems.

Over a year ago, I stumbled upon an article about Sottsass, and it ignited a profound appreciation within me. This led me to create several pieces in the Memphis style. Currently, I am re-immersing myself in the realm of Modernism. I find great admiration for the works of Aalto and Pierre Jeanneret. Aalto's minimalist design and unique approach to materials are a significant source of inspiration for me. Pierre Jeanneret's focus on folk crafts, along with the elegance and lightness of French design, resonates with my creative sensibilities.

Additionally, I have a strong desire to explore the works of Charlotte Perriand in the near future, even though I haven't yet incorporated her designs into my work. Ultimately, my primary source of inspiration stems from the rich history of design.

20What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Utilizing lean canvases is a valuable practice as it aids in addressing numerous questions that may arise in the future and assists in refining your concept.

Winning Entry

Dorothee Becker’s Hand | 2023


Dorothee Becker’s Hand is a wall unit designed for the modern home environment. To improve experience …
(Read more at MUSE Design Awards)

Nataliya Naymark

NNaymark design

Nataliya Naymark operates a solo design studio, with the winnings of her earnings stemming from interior design projects. She firmly believes that the most effective approach to discussing design is to draw inspiration from Vkhutemas and the educational methods employed by designers at that institution.

Read more about this interview with James Ni for Oriental Rising, the Gold Winner of the 2023 MUSE Design Awards.