“Good designers are half pragmatic and half idealistic”

by Kitty Drake in June 2021
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Art & design

Created behind the scenes at the By Design Conference in Slovakia, Backstage Talks is comprised of intimate conversations with the world’s leading designers. The pleasure of this magazine is that it offers its readers a look under the hood of the industry, by sharing insights that are less guarded, and more personal than the usual design interview.

Editor Zuzana Kvetková talked us through the fifth issue.


In your early issues, you used the names of all the designers you interviewed inside each edition as its cover art. Now you use a quote as the cover art instead. Why did you make that transition?

It was a natural progression as we, as a magazine, became more confident to share our voice. We also wanted the cover to be more attractive — even for people who might not know all of our interviewees. Plus, Backstage Talks is all about good conversations and a thought-provoking cover is a good way to start one!

What stood out to you about the quote on the cover of this issue?

The cover is always the last battle before the new issue goes to print. How do we find the best way to represent and draw attention to what is inside? We simply loved the Lou Downe quote on the front of this issue. It expresses how we approach making the magazine too — half pragmatic and half idealistic.

I love the interview with New York Times design director, Gail Bichler. Can you tell me more about the interview?

It was an incredible experience! I got to spend a couple of days with Gail in Bratislava when she visited our By Design Conference. The issue of The New York Times Magazine with a cover story about Madonna turning 60 came out on the day of our interview, so right after we finished talking, Gail had to deal with the backlash about that, which started when Madonna wrote on Instagram that the feature “makes her feel raped.” It felt like I caught a glimpse of a completely different world!

I like the quote from creative director Suzy Tuxen: ‘Go home, have a life’. How does that invocation to ‘go home’ change, after this year when we literally haven’t been able to leave our homes. Has it become harder to have a life?

I guess “go home, have a life” just changed to something like “turn off your screens, go for a walk,” but the point of what Suzy said stays the same — overtime culture is often unnecessary, people work more efficiently when they give themselves the time to rest and think about something else than work.

"People often don’t realise what is interesting about themselves"

Why are interviews important?

I think dialogue is important because people often don’t realise what is interesting about themselves — our lives are always just our lives to us. By asking questions, you show them what you are interested in, you get the chance to ask further or even challenge what they say.

How do you try to facilitate more intimate conversations than the average interview?

In an ideal case, I get to meet with our interviewees before we sit down to record the interview. That way, I have a chance to find out more about what they are interested in and observe how they think a bit. But even if that is not possible, I read and listen to as much as I can find about them on the internet, so I don’t ask what has already been answered. I also like to make sure the conversation is an open discussion that can naturally move to unexpected topics rather than a strict Q&A.


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