This is the third in a series of interviews with the Design Council’s Ones To Watch – 70 up-and-coming designers identified as having the vision, ambition and potential to contribute to the UK’s reputation as a leading design nation. Concerns over health and safety as well as environmental factors led Effie Koukia to develop graffiti paints where the traditional petroleum-based ingredients have been replaced with biodegradable ones from natural and sustainable sources – resulting in art materials that are safe enough to eat. She was selected in the Material World category alongside Marlene Huissoud and Thomas Glover.
What’s the most important thing to know about you?
I am very passionate about design and I love to work across a variety of creative media: from product to retail design, brand strategy to identity work, interaction and digital design, photography and illustration. I love to create bridges between all these different types of design and embody the inspiration I receive from each of them to the others. In this way, my creative expression is enriched through different sources, a process which most of the times leads to innovative solutions.
What inspires your work?
My intention in every design I produce is to create entirely new experiences for its users. My portfolio consists of user-centred design pieces, based on people’s everyday stories. My passion is to add a little touch to everyday products which makes them unique, memorable and exciting; a touch which adds magic by creating higher feelings in people.
Talk me through your design and making process.
Extract is a series of eco-friendly art products, consisting of sustainable dyes mild enough to be consumed. So far an edible spray paint, markers ink and screen-print ink have been developed. During the project I worked in a chemistry lab, where I collaborated with a chemist, to produce a series of samples. All the dyes were extracted from natural sources like flowers and vegetables. All the products are suitable for arts and crafts and professional use and they are safe enough to be used by children and people with breathing problems without any use of a protection mask. The project started from my love for graffiti. I knew that the spray paints we used were neither safe for us nor for the environment. That’s how I started to explore opportunities of how they can be better by offering a new experience to people.
What’s your favourite part of the process?
My favourite part of the process is the time when I start to receive feedback from people when they use the product. It’s the time when the design is ‘judged’ and the impact of the product is measured. This is the part where designers improve and get wiser.
What’s your favourite tool and why?
My markers. They are always there for me.
Tell me about a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Effie Koukia.
A really good day includes a walk in the sunshine (unfortunately it can not be taken for granted) and a really bad day does not include coffee.
What defines good design?
Good design is the strong research-driven design. Good design is there to solve real problems or embody issues which raise questions or awareness. It is there to be loved by people, to make them think and act.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of the fact that I am not afraid of feedback, as my intention is not to design for myself.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Design needs time and space. That means that a designer should not be stressed out from the beginning of a project for doing something never-seen-before, unique, or pioneering. Strong research leads to innovation, mostly through talking to people, observing them and helping them in order to make their life better and happier. As far as the magic I describe, that requires a little bit of imagination, which comes from everything around us. Don’t be afraid to be inspired and set yourself free throughout the design process.
What did it mean to you to be selected as one of the Design Council’s Ones To Watch?
It is more than a great honour for me to be selected as a ‘One to Watch’ designer by the Design Council, an organisation which really cares about game-changing design. For me it is a boost to keep up the hard work and try even harder to make this world a better place.
And finally, what’s your favourite colour?
I have noticed that my personal pattern is the following: the products I develop are often white, my graphics are usually colourful and my outfit is often black. Maybe that shows that I don’t have a favourite colour.
Further reading for the especially geeky:
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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