Although designer Cristian Zuzunaga is originally from Barcelona, for over 10 years he’s lived in London, where he studied typography and graphic design at the London College of Communication. He then did an MA at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 2007.
His geometric designs are inspired by ultra-modern buildings in cities like London, New York and Shanghai. They reflect the aesthetic of cutting-edge architecture in world-famous cities today. In conjunction with the impressive way Zuzunaga marries graphic design with typographic and silk-screenprinting techniques to create patterns flooded with vibrant colour, his designs have earned him international recognition in the fields of industrial design and art.
In recent years, Zuzunaga’s work has really grabbed people’s attention because of its unusual use of colour and the way its pixellated patterns have found their way on to a wide variety of textiles – fabrics, rugs and cushions. Appropriately, since he has such a personal signature style, the designer has chosen his surname as his company name. Impressively, his main clients include such prestigious companies as Kvadrat, Ligne Roset, Nanimarquina, Christophe Delcourt and the Tate Gallery.
Interiors from Spain approached the designer to quiz him in more depth about his work and career.
Interiors From Spain: Your work is known for its use of colour and experimentation with pixellated patterns. Do you plan to continue working in this vein or to take a new direction?
Cristian Zuzunaga: A series of concepts and ideas I was interested in led me to start designing with squares, then pixels. But you can easily be pigeonholed and typecast. But while you can feel trapped by being known for a certain style, this also provides an escape route. In order to preserve the essence of what you’re about as a designer, you need to be on the ball, have your finger on the pulse, be constantly aware of all the changes happening around you. Working with the pixel as a motif is an important part of my development as a designer and person. As you go along, you find new creative avenues, depending on the concepts you’re experimenting with and the uses you’re putting your designs to. I think the collection of curtains I designed for Kvadrat is a good illustration of the unexpected directions I can take my work in.
I began designing with pixels after a trip to Shanghai where I realised that the pixel is the chief icon of our age. It affects the very way we work and see the world – it’s ubiquitous. My work using pixels has evolved naturally and has allowed me to develop concepts and ideas which had been bubbling under in my subconscious for years.
The pixel for me is a medium which allows me to explore our relationship with our environment, either via textiles or objects. What’s important for me is to continue exploring the world via this tiny unit which nevertheless lends itself to the digital construction of images and virtual environments. For me, the pixel is a metaphor, a platform which allows me to explore, visualise, perceive and feel things.
IFS: You’ve collaborated with top-ranking brands like Moroso, Ligne Roset and Kvadrat, for whom you’ve created textiles. Do you like designing textiles best?
CZ: Yes: in contrast to paper, textiles allow you to work in a totally unique way with volume, form, time, movement, colour and perception.
IFS: From the perspective of someone living in London, what’s your view of Spanish design and the phenomenon of new generations of young Spanish designers who’ve been educated abroad? What repercussions do you think this will have in the design industry?
CZ: It seems interesting to me, especially when you see that we Spanish and the British have more things in common than we think, and this is reflected in our work. In Spain, there’s a lot of potential in design but some things need to change there. In cities like London and New York, more short-term opportunities crop up for artists and designers to grow. But other countries nurture young students and promote them in the longer term so that in the future they enrich the culture of their native countries. So I do get the urge. get excited about going back to Spain [. In my case, I’ve been living abroad for 15 years and I still dream of going home but I don’t see when I can…
IFS: What do you think are the defining characteristics of good design?
CZ: It must be practical, have a warmth and potential to become a design classic of the future. Yet I’m also interested in products which mirror the present.
IFS: What projects – collaborations and installations - do you have lined up for the future?
CZ: We’ve just opened an e-commerce site, which I think is the most coherent project I’ve ever done. Most people who buy my products haven’t touched them, they’ve only seen them in magazines or on the internet and in blogs. So when we sell pieces, we effectively convert digital images into material objects – as if by alchemy: we convert them from the virtual to the real. We don’t know if people are aware of this but me and my design team always feel proud and happy when those who buy our products transform our dreams into reality.