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Interview - Designophy (2007)

Oya Akman is a well known talented designer who is an expert in glass design and glass. She graduated from Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts (DGSA), Department of Industrial Product Design and İnterior Design and also got her Master degree from the same department in the period of 1972-77. She finished her PhD in 1992, titled “Corporate Identity”. She had worked for various industries such as furniture, ceramic etc. before her career in glass. Beside her glassworks she is going on to produce designs with Oya Akman have many awards and academical studies on design and glass design. In addition, she is attending exhibitions and fairs all over the world.

Would you please tell us a brief history of your life? Where did you get the interest in design?
The oldest memory I can remember is my grandfather and the multiplying glass he gave to me when I was about five. We used to analyse plants, insects, actually everything with it. Then he would ask me to draw what I had seen. At that age I had discovered an amazing world of details. We would grow up unknown flowers, plants in our land and garden. I think these were what shaped my view of life. With an understanding of details I was always attracted to innovative products. I can say that I never looked at anything standard, ordinary. I registered to DGSA whereas I could have registered to a lot of other places with my high grade. We were the first industrial design students of Turkey. In order to engage in the context of production and to learn it better I started business life while I was studying. And when I graduated I worked in various firms directly in the industry. Furniture, ceramics, plastics, fashion design and glass (24 years) are the primary ones. After that there is my PhD study and my years in Canada. There, there was nothing left about glass that I didn’t know. I believe I did good work as a “Loya”. After those 13 years in the industrial design department of ITU and with my own firm I continued the nice and very special adventure of design. At the moment, besides my design consultancy to various firms and my design projects, I am designing, producing and marketing. From now on I will have a stand in Frankfurt Ambient fair ever year.

How do you appraise situation of design when you have started your professional design life and today?
Design was not even known, when you said you were an “industrial designer”, they would ask again what you were a couple of times. You would explain them what a designer does. Everything was copied. They would copy it 1 to 1 from magazines or from foreig countries. The situation of design is very different now. Design culture has been developped. Everybody prefers to use a product that has been design with a new view, that contributes ease and delight to his life.

What are the influences of your life to your designs?
Clear, genuine, simple, stable, humoristic, hypercritical, innovative

What design means to you? A profession or a lifestyle?
Definitely it is a life style. You see and evaluate everything from a different point of view. Being a designer isn’t a profession, it is a life style.

How do you define your designs? Can you evaluate your designs as being related to or in any design movement?
I have a design language of my own; Tactual, ergonomic, paying attention to details, innovative, clear, simple, different production techniques, etc.

Can you evaluate designing for out of Turkey?
I think it is very easy and pleasurable. You do design for firms and a society who know and have understood the importance of design. I would like to give an example: I immediately got an appointment from a very big chain of stores in Canada and at that appointment they analyzed my products and found them to be high quality and decided to spare one of their best stands for me. I had just arrived at Canada and I didn’t know anybody. Of course it is very important to fallow the production, the material, the market very well and do different designs. At the moment one of the places where my designs are sold abroad is the San Francisco Moma shop. I continuously get orders from abroad from different countries.

Italy is accepted as the center of design? Do you think that there is a design geography like this on the world?
I don’t think there is right now, but they are presenting themselves good and they’re organized. I appreciate Japanese and the Germans. They combine technology and design very well. And now it is very hard to talk about a geographical area, the world is focused on design.

Can we talk about the effects of Turkish Culture on your designs? If there is, in which way it is?
Of course there is. At some period I used to investigate the Anatolian civilizations, the products they used, the details and the mythology a lot. This cultural diversity forms a wider perspective background. If we analyze the Turkish culture more in the historical context, we see that it has spread and affected from central Asia to Europe, to Scandinavia, and even America. This is an incredible wealth.

How is the design in Turkey perceived, or seen from abroad?
It is not known a lot. It needs to be introduced. In this sense, for example the “first in Milano” exhibition was very important. I have a stand in the Frankfurt Ambiente Fair. There have been people who told me that they were very surprised to see a Turkish designer who has a stand. They said “so, there are also good designers in Turkey, you were a surprise for us”.

When does the pleasure of design start for you?
When it is produces, it gets its location in the market and when it is appreciated I get pleasure.

How do you feed your designer core?
I always maintain that “grandfathers multiplying glass” logic. Diverse, detailed examination, travelling, researching for technological advances, combining imagination and innovation. Always fallowing the global market.

Form Follows Function?
I think a form without a function can’t be a design. We can form function inside form but the priority is the functionality.

On which side do designers have to stand? Manufacturer or user? Where is the balance of profit and utilisation?
The designer has to stand on both sides. , because he has designed for the producer and has to take it further than the competitors and has to contribute to the improvements of production technique, material development, market share etc.
He has to be on the user’s side, because he has to ease his life, give pleasure, provide safe usage, etc by suppling his deand.

Environmental issues of technology and materials are being discussed increasingly. What is role of designer in these discussions? How much a designer must take the responsibility?
I think the designer has to be in collaboration with the producer with solution driven projects in protecting the ecologic balance and controlling environmental issues. He can bring proposals for solutions of the detection of the technological background. He can work with recyclable materials and firms which use that technology. We have to do and organize designs and presentations to protect the ecological system, that help in its development, and marking this.

How do you define the successful design? Is it connected with the selling rates?
A good design is a design that fulfills a need in the best way with the right design criteria. If this also includes production quality and price advantage, and has been situated right in the market why not shouldn’t it be the bestseller.

When you design which one do you use most: knowledge or your feelings?
Knowledge comes first. A good research, background and editing. The emotion comes after.

What is your first step in a new design project?
A very good research. What is being done on that topic in the world with which technologies, and prevision of the future; establishing the prevision of what the innovative steps in the future can be; making editing and plans that can go ahead the future previsions. Design comes later. These are my first steps.

What are your future plans?
Opening a good design office/workshop/store room of design and passing it to the young generation and designing while traveling a lot could be nice.

What should the priorities of design education be?
The concepts of innovation, aesthetics, ergonomics, and function, incorporating also the newest technologies (nano, micro, etc) together with the knowledge of material and production technologies should be transferred very effectively.

Do you have any recommendations for the designer candidates?
First of all they should know very well the global market, the material and the production techniques. I would advise them to join an international fair or exhibition abroad. Firms that you would never imagine and the press suddenly appears at your stand.


...culture that you appreciate?
I appreciate all, but atill I could say japanese. that you want to live?
I do like Canada, may be because I lived there. This country corresponds my perspective in life and expectations from life

...cuisine that you like most?

...drink that you prefer?
Different, creative, surprising; design - coctailler

...painter that had influence on you most?
Dali ve René Magritte

...writer that you like most?
Donald A. Norman

...kind of book that you prefer?
I am trying to read every publication which I believe benefits me, except novels. Research publications are arousing my interest. you like most?

...director you like most? of music you listen to?
new age, etnic, jazz, blues,country

...your own design you like most?
Inclination, Messenger you like most?
 Candlesticks of Timo Sarpaneva

...designer that you respect most?
Timo Sarpaneva ,Tapio Wirkkala

This interview was made in June 2007. Designophy ©  (Translated by Gunes Kocabag)