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Talking Anxiety And Humour With Michael Anastassiades

House and Leisure talked with world-renowned designer Michael Anastassiades at Design Joburg 2019 about his work, which challenges what design should do.


Design Joburg, Michael Anastassiades, Lighting

Design should help us deal with the realities of modern life, but rarely does. This is one of the reasons why House and Leisure so admires the work of world-renowned designer Michael Anastassiades, who kept audiences enthralled at the recent  Design Joburg 2019 with his talk about his body of work.

At Design Joburg, Anastassiades talked audiences through his many award-winning designs that cleverly and beautifully work to address the question of how design can improve our lives. Audiences were kept in stitches at his humorous stories, and learnt more about one of his most enduring goals — to reduce anxiety through design. 

‘I think everybody’s anxious, and everybody has their own anxieties,’ he said during an interview with House and Leisure. ‘Whether they externalise it, or they just learn to live with it, I think it’s interesting to understand fragility and acknowledge that as a human quality. And it’s interesting for me as a designer because when you bring that fragility out, I think a lot of people really can relate to it.’

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Design Joburg, Michael Anastassiades, Lighting, Sconce

During his talk, the designer showed several projects that address anxiety, like his Social and Anti Social lights – one light that only illuminates in utter silence, and another that only remains lit while you talk directly to it. His series of coffee tables in which awkward hosts can hide, from the Design For Fragile Personalities in Anxious Times series, also addresses these types of issues.

‘I think it’s important to work with anxiety, whether it’s a really conceptual or obvious way of expressing anxiety, through to the everyday objects that we live with. Because, when we get anxious in life, the everyday objects that surround us are sometimes also a part of that. They almost become protagonists of the way that we live, so if we really acknowledge all sides of the aspects of our lives – not just the pretty ones – you can capture the environments that might influence this sense.’ 

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Design Joburg, Michael Anastassiades, Lighting

As an established designer, Anastassiades says that his worries may have changed, but they affect him and other designers no less. ‘When you are young, you always have this anxiety about getting to a place, but now things are different as I age. Things become a little more complex. You have to cater for your team; you have to make sure that you work as a team, rather than relying individually on your own resources, and what you can deliver.’

But he says that rather than let the anxiety of success get young designers down, they should persevere. ‘Never give up, just hang in there. Because it’s quite difficult to make a career, to survive financially in design. There are so many temptations to give up, and really do something much easier that helps you deal with life in an easier way. But I think the most important thing is perseverance, because your time comes eventually, I can promise you that.’ 

It has been over 15 years since Anastassiades last visited South Africa, and he was greatly inspired by what was on offer at Design Joburg in 2019. ‘When I see South African design today, it’s quite impressive to see the different levels and standards that designers are producing,' he says. 'It’s great to see that things are actually happening, and that designers are embracing their culture and heritage. There is room for everything, and I think it’s important that things like that are happening here.’  

For more about Design Joburg 2019, read our roundup of everything we loved at Design Joburg 2019
And for more on Michael Anastassiades and his work, visit his website.