The road to design
‘I learned to look for the essence of things and to exercise restraint. The combination of the two, bring a sense of clarity and efficiency to design.’
A conversation with Lachezar Tsvetanov, co-founder of Studio Novo – a showroom and platform for good design, good life and good business, about the road to design, working at Humanscale, a window in Brooklyn, the lessons learned from two little girls, intelligently designed spaces and the point of reinvention, as held by Teodora Nikolova.
How did you end up in the field of product design?

Accidentally. But I also single-mindedly. I have always had a penchant for elegant approaches to problem solving, well before I got acquainted with industrial/ product design. When I was a computer science undergraduate in the USA, a fellow student introduced me to his roommate who was studying industrial design. I watched him work, admiring the process. This encouraged me to talk to the dean and switch majors. To this day, this has been one of my best decisions based on nothing but intuition.

What did you learn when you worked at Humanscale? What about Niels Diffrient?

Work at Humanscale introduced me to the concept of design as a strategic business function. There, I developed the skill to look at design problems as problems whose solutions are found through careful observation of human behavior and psychology, as well as through research of social, technological, and demographic macro- and microtrends. As for Niels… His approach and skills as a technical engineer, sophisticated designer, and conscious businessman are legendary. Which is what I am striving for as well. First and foremost, I learned from him about responsibility and precision. Responsibility manifests itself in the development of products offering solutions to actual problems, while precision is attained through an approach that involves asking a lot of questions whose answers establish the direction of design without leaving too much room for ‘free improvisation’. Through his mentorship, I learned to look for the essence of things and to exercise restraint. The combination of the two, bring a sense of clarity and efficiency to design.

How did your career in design change you?

Design did not change me, it captivated me, transforming me into the person I am today. Good design is my guide and mentor. Through it, I keep exploring paths to self-development. Probably the most important thing design gave me is the skill to visualize the end result before it has turned into reality, and, knowing where I would like to arrive, to manifest the stepping stones towards my desired goal. This is important to me not only in the process of product design, but also as a guiding principle in my life.

What makes good design? And what do you believe is the most significant function of design today?

Good design is where human needs, technological potential and business needs fulfilment meet. Design may take up various shapes, depending on how much priority each parameter is given. Thus, good design may be artistic, more technologically oriented or aimed at building new business strategies. Therefore, the most important function of design is to appeal to human senses, have a positive impact on human behavior, create a sense of well-being, show respect for natural resources through frugal use of the latter, and demonstrate responsibility to investors’ business needs.

Functionality or aesthetics?

Both. Nature provides the best example for their perfect unison.

What does it take to create comfortable working space for yourself?

Depends on the type and duration of the project. Comfort has physical and psychological dimensions. It is mandatory to get a lot of natural or high-quality artificial light. For me it is sometimes enough to have a comfortable armchair and unobstructed view; sometimes I need peace and privacy in a neatly oganized and aesthetic environment; while at other times I rely on my ergonomic chair Freedom 212, my height-adjustable desk Float, and my monitor arm М2 from Humanscale.

And what does it take to create the ideal place for relaxation? How do you relax anyway?

I can only answer this question in the past tense. My favorite relaxation spot was the windowsill of our apartment in Brooklyn where I would sit and watch the city awaken while savoring my coffee. All I needed then was a pillow and the current issue of Monocle magazine, my ‘window’ to the world of culture, economics, politics, destinations, and design. This experience was put on hold when our elder daughter was born.

What have you learned from your little girls about the good life?

Most of all, to savor the moment, as it is thier very young age that makes you painfully aware of the transient nature of all things.

The eternal dialogue in design is between less and more at any level, in any sense. What is your idea of the balance between the two?

The balance depends on what the user benefits from one, the other, or the combination of both. I am a believer in the efficient utilization of resources that help reach impactful, emotionally charged outcomes. It all depends on the environment and context of application.

You are an industrial designer. What do you think of decorativeness?

Decorativeness? You mean the use of color? I like it. What is more, I applaud it. It is a good means of expression.

How do you define luxury?

Spare time. As far as design is concerned, luxury is good design, namely good composition, proportions, counterpoints and accents, details, dynamism, materials, and craftmanship.

Your favorite lamp and chair?

Chair: CH88 by Hans Wagner for Carl Hansen. Lamp: Snoopy by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos.

Five favorite places of yours where design and functionality are in perfect harmony and you feel awesome…

Brushstroke Restaurant (New York City), MoMA (New York City), Central Park (New York City), Copenhagen Airport, Ekies Resort (Greece).

Does Studio Novo have an interesting ‘backstory’? How did you get the idea about it?

We sensed there is a need for good design solutions for business interiors in Bulgaria and we wanted them to be more widely accessible. We believe that intelligently designed spaces and their aesthetics have a significant effect on our sense of belonging and well-being.

What is at the core of Studio Novo’s concept? And why did you choose this name?

Studio Novois a place where you can feel and get a glimpse into good design through the environment, atmosphere and products we have created. Our primary focus is the design of business interiors, but we also help with the creation of spaces of a more personal character. The idea behind the name reflects our willingness to offer a boutique service whose added value comes from our collective experience in furniture and product design, research and knowledge accumulation, good practices in the creation of effective working environment, management, and project implementation. Why Novo? Because we believe that reinvention is indispensable in the effort to succeed both in your personal life and in business. Without reinvention and change, there is no progress. And if we do not make any progress, we fall behind. This holds true for any ambitious organization having the potential to give back to the community. We definitely believe in the good nature of what we are doing.

What aspect of Studio Novo’s development would make you particularly glad?

Since the onset of our company we have been dreaming, that one day we will launch our own line of products. I still believe this would be a noteworthy achievement.

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