Making Talents: Nikolas Miranda
Fresh young talent is the elixir of life, so to speak, for an industry to which attractive design is so essential. But how does one actually become an up-and-coming designer? And what drives young talent on? In this series, TOP FAIR presents up-and-coming designers from various product segments and asks them about their careers and projects. All the designers interviewed presented their designs and products at Ambiente 2020 in the context of the Talents special exhibition.
In the third interview in the series, we spoke to Nikolas Miranda, who, after completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, undertook a further course of training between 2017 and 2020 as a designer at the HWK in Münster.
: Is there such a thing as an individual design philosophy? What makes for good design in your view?
When I was a young boy, there was in our neighbourhood a man with frizzy hair and large spectacles who was always swanning around on his recumbent bike. To us children, the man on the rather sinister-looking bicycle was our idea of an inventor, and from that time onwards, that was what I, too, wanted to be: an inventor. So when I think about design philosophy or what constitutes good design, one thing I feel characterizes it is the invention that lies behind the design. The purely stylistic aspects – whether minimalistic, ornate, post-modern, functional or aesthetic – are of scant significance in my view when an invention and a design go hand in hand. What fascinate me are the inventing and rethinking of processes, materials, mechanisms, impressions and so on and so forth. Having the courage to give unconventional ideas their head, even though they may be thought to hold little promise at the outset or even be considered nonsensical or impractical, often leads to new designs which, taken further, can have a positive impact. It is not always necessary for objects to change the world; if they make it more colourful and beautiful without actually causing harm, that in itself is a big plus.
: Do you have any design models, in the sense of people or individual designs that you regard as particularly successful?
There are many people whom I consider design models. I would even go so far as to say that almost all the people who surround me are capable of filling that role: they could be fellow-students with ideas that differ from my own; family members who chip in with their own thoughts when I’m designing; or naive toddlers driven by pure intuition; but also people of all kinds on the World Wide Web showing me things of which I was previously unaware.The Herring Blade from CW&T, a new take on the box cutter, is a highly successful design to my way of thinking. Not only the handle but also the blade have been rethought, the result being a low-material, wear-free, extremely compact utility knife that can equally easily do for left- or right-handers. I would not be at all surprised to see it replace – and rightly so – the innumerable cheap plastic utility knives currently on the market.
: Do you have a favourite among your own designs – one, for instance, that turned out particularly well or that met some particularly challenging requirement?
My favourite is the ‘hundertzehn’ shelf, even though it only exists currently as a far from finished prototype. It is a shelving unit that can be continuously adjusted in terms of height without tools and without even requiring the shelves to be cleared beforehand. To move the shelf up or down, you just squeeze the steel spring, and when you release the spring, the shelf stays put.I have a feeling I’ve created something quite innovative here, even though there is nothing new in the idea of using a steel spring as a clamping mechanism. The value and the potential here lie in its simplicity and user-friendliness. It would be a dream for me to perfect the design and be able someday to market it.
: How do you get your ideas? What inspires you? Which tools do you prefer to use when working on your designs (e.g. pencils or digital technology)?
Most of my ideas come about by accident. I’m out walking, say, or having a conversation, or simply contemplating a pile of bulky refuse. Materials blur and fuse or are used in ways contrary to their original purpose. I take pleasure in torpedoing, deconstructing and refuting fundamental rules and assumptions.Most of my designs are originally sketched by hand, and only later find their way into the computer where the details and dimensions are crystallized. It is not unusual for me to try out things with no clear idea of how they are supposed to work, which often leads to wrong turns being taken in the model-making. There can be a tendency also sometimes to lose the thread or get bogged down in details or overthink things. That is when time pressure can be a boon because it forces me to take decisions, thereby ensuring that, one way or another, I do get there in the end.
: What projects are you working on currently?
At the moment, I’m working with Atelier Sänger of Cologne on the design for a textile-covered steel lamp. It is a project inhabiting the twilight zone between design and art and gives me plenty of leeway to try out new things. This is my first collaborative venture and one that began when I was still a student. I find it very gratifying that we are continuing to work on it, and that the lamp is due to form part of an exhibition in the ‘Galerie Freitag 18:30’ in Aachen, as it shows there are people who do believe in me and in what I am doing. I’m also keenly aware of how enriching such experiences are for me and how much fun collaborating with others in this way can be.I am also busy converting a former flower van into a motor home. The plan is to set out on a kind of ‘waltz’ or perhaps ‘designer hike’ would be a better term for it. Although I have already completed three years of study, I still feel a pressing need to get to know more people and familiarize myself with different design practices. I want to frequent a variety of studios, ateliers, design offices and designers in the coming months, where or when I know not yet, in order to do internships or realize collaborative projects. I think there are an incredible number of talented people out there with great ideas, and since they are unlikely to come to me, I have decided to embark on this voyage into the unknown.