Launchee meets with Vera shortly after the birth of her second child, and following her design projects for our space. During the scenography and the studio design sessions, she was in her last trimester – although no one could tell her due date was so soon. Energetic, creative, charming, insightful and responsible, Vera was exactly what Launchee needed. She was open for unconventional ideas, active and experienced with design. Our guest not only prepared the mockups, but also made several paintings and even fixed herself a few tree trunks which she managed to fit into the setting.
Between the baby and her other daily chores, she told us how her love for design became a new profession, how she has rearranged her priorities, and why design is so important – not only for a professional event, but in our daily lives as well.
Tell us about you in short?
My name is Vera and I work as a designer and stylist of different types of venues. I love creating with my own hands, and inspiring others to do the same.
How did you choose this vocation?
It is still hard to tell if I was the one to choose design or vice-versa; what I now acknowledge, however, is that I have always been interested in arranging elements to achieve a certain goal, even from my early childhood (I think that the best definition of design belongs to Charles Eames, who claims that “Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose”). I often involved my sister in rearranging our room’s furniture – and so I might say that our space was redesigned once a week. I was also interested in drawing, as well as photography – but in the long run, during my more ‘conscious’ years, I chose a different career. Not for long…
How does your previous professional experience help you in your current profession?
I studied book publishing in Sofia University and I what I truly enjoyed there was the graphic design course, or seeing how visual language was used when authors interacted with their audience. My dream back then was to become a graphic designer in a magazine, so I applied for this position in an interior design journal – not by chance since interior design, as I mentioned above, has been my passion from childhood. I started my dream job literally the day after I completed my thesis (but in a women’s magazine) and until 2010 this was what I did for a living. The financial crisis back then really complicated the media market, and that’s how I made a slight professional turn, starting to work as a consultant in Gamma Design’s studio. Back then, I had the opportunity to meet and enjoy world-class products and furniture design, fine arts, and learn a lot about commerce. This experience was extremely useful for my next employment in an advertising agency, where I sold ideas, communication strategies and graphic concepts – something that I’d never consider while working in the media world. Well, I did it - rather as a salesperson than as a designer. Parallel to that, a friend of mine and I started our own design studio for events, where I learned a bunch of things but the one with the highest value was how to fail big time while you took yourself too seriously.
All of the above might seem like a motley experience, but I have viewed it as a logical and consistent development, which brought me to my aspiration to help people with what I have learned so far.
How did you reach the conclusion that ‘less is more’?
At the end of my ‘career’ path in advertising, I got acquainted with the burnout syndrome. Returning to work after my first maternity leave prompted me to rethink many of my values, but most of all, I felt I was burdened too much with things, situations, people and work-tasks, so little by little I started clearing my daily routine for what really mattered, which turned to be the simple things in life.
In your blog, you are talking about how important it is to filter the simplest things in life. How do you manage to balance between the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘mundane’?
Let me emphasize that that choosing what matters to you is something very individual, and personal values can differ depending on your stage of life. This is what happened to me – in my 20-ies, my professional vocation was what mattered most; now, in while in my 30-ies, personal and social fields are much more of a priority, so I invest my energy in my family, with my children, and I am trying to contribute to the society. I don’t have any recipe for reaching a balance and I don’t think it is possible to be balanced all the time. Personally, I just try not to go to the extremes.
Quite often, the last thing when we organize an event, is consulting a designer. Why is this so important – no matter the venue and the audience?
The good design should support the success of any event. As I mentioned earlier, this is the visual language you interact with your audience. You don’t use the services of a designer just to impress it with your style, but also to facilitate people. For instance, it happens quite often when I visit the office of a client, to experience difficulties in finding the exit. This can be easily managed with signage, arrows, or other visual materials. Each designer, for whom functionality is equally important to aesthetics, would offer such simple solutions to clients. Same is valid for events: it is important to see from the very entrance what you want people to do – where to leave their jacket, where can they find the drink corner, which seat to take. If you have invited guests at home, you will give verbal instructions, but when you are hosting a big event it is not possible to address everyone. This is where visual communication and design come handy.
Tell us a story when you have helped or even ‘saved’ a client from a critical situation?
My practice is still not life-saving, although design can be crucial in certain places, such as hospitals or mass gatherings – so I can’t really recall any critical situation. In most cases, I help my clients realize their needs and manage them accordingly with space design. Quite often, for instance, people choose to buy big dining room tables without taking into consideration their lifestyle and the fact that a much smaller table would suit them better. However, usually they choose to buy what is standard – like a table for eight, and then they realize it gets in their way too all the time.
Can you give us an example when bad design has negatively impacted an event?
The lack of effective communication always leads to awkward situations, if not bad consequences. I recall the legendary situation with the Oscars in 2017, when LaLaLand movie was announced ‘picture of the year’ by mistake. And despite all justifications (https://bit.ly/2IBGgTD) which followed the ceremony, this could have been prevented if the name of the category was placed with a larger font and at the upper corner of the card, instead of somewhere down there with small letters. The first would have helped Warren Beatty understand that he had been holding the wrong category, before announcing it aloud to millions of viewers. I have no idea if they have made any corrections to the card design after this fiasco, but I guess they should have.
Beyond your projects in the ‘corporate’ world, you have been addressing quite interesting and practical topics in your personal blog. Would you offer an advice how to get rid of useless stuff? How can we easily decide what to keep, and what to leave behind – something especially hard for the ‘hoarders’?
The big problem with the so-called ‘hoarders’ is mostly psychological. These people feel the necessity to overstock with all sorts of stuff, most probably because at some point of their life they have experienced some deficiencies (and I am not speaking only about material stuff). I feel for them, as I am in the same boat, and that is why I often remind myself that there are very few things I can’t buy again, when I would really need them. I regularly ‘exercise’ my ability to part with things I don’t use or like anymore. I find collecting stuff useless, as they take out our space and energy, instead of boosting it – and honestly, things are meant to do the latter. On the other hand, there are people who really feel better when they are surrounded with possessions. If you fall within this category, I don’t find why you should change, as long as you feel good in this environment.
What is your advice for the coming Christmas holidays? What decoration should we choose, which is different, more sustainable and beautiful?
I expect this Christmas to be different from the previous ones, due to the epidemiological situation. I guess for the majority of the people the holiday season would be celebrated with the closest ones in a small family circle and this would probably increase the willingness to compensate with more decoration at home to boost the spirit. This would be a great thing – and don’t forget what nature can offer you. Instead of buying a bunch of useless decorations that you would throw after the holidays are over, you can take a walk outside and find everything you need. You can use evergreen branches and stuff you keep at home handy. For example, you can put on your Christmas Eve table glass bottles with water and pine twigs. The front door can be decorated with fresh green wreath, or a simple wire hanger and a ribbon from a long-unwrapped present you’ve kept. You can fill in a glass jar with pines and LED string lights. Make your own decoration for the Christmas tree – from unwrapped presents or an old printed paper. Use your imagination and this year you can try to make more things with your own hands. They may not be perfect – but the time spent in preparations will be pleasant and you could recycle all resources after the holidays are over.