Instead of watching movies at the cinema or having dinner in a fancy restaurant, Ukraine based designers Mark and Ola Otog started their relationship with nightly photoshop sessions. Their creative exchange soon turned into a strong collaborative partnership and laid the foundation for their design office, Otog Studio. “Design became a way to communicate our feelings”, the couple reflects, “Otog Studio is the outcome of our relationship and the desire to create together, of the courage to show personal vision in design and of our dreams to make an impact.” By putting the creative process before the final outcome, the work of the studio is based on a transdisciplinary practice working across mediums like fashion and costume design, video art and virtual reality. Acting up to their principle of “designing ideas and aesthetics of the future”, projects like “put ur ego in a box” or “recycled everything” sit somewhere between graphic design and art and show their ambition to push the boundaries of traditional design disciplines. “What we do is an image of what tomorrow might be, so we like to say that we design the future we want to see”, the duo concludes.
Before founding their design studio, Ola and Mark decided to study design in London and Antwerp as both of them were born in relatively small towns with no progressive design scene. “Studying design, visiting and participating at exhibitions, collaborating with people: Those experiences gave us a completely different vision of design practice from what we used to know”, they tell us. On their path to founding a new design studio, the duo had to overcome a few obstacles and shared their important lessons with us. “First, you need to know what you are working for in order to keep on track. Second, don’t be dependent on somebody’s recognition and approval of you, because opinion is a very changeable thing and may lead to self-crisis. And third, don’t see other design studios as competitors, but rather as great opportunity to collaborate and grow together. There are enough clients in the world for everyone.”
As each of their projects requires different skills, Mark and Ola approach each of them individually. “Usually, one of us suggests an idea and the other one has an eye on the technical development or one starts to develop the concept and the other one makes it cleaner and more understandable”, they evaluate, “Work trains you to take new responsibilities and challenges you to gain more knowledge and skills in order to execute the idea.” But before digging deeper into the actual design process, the duo normally puts a lot of effort into research. “First step is always research. It plays an essential role in everything we do, because it’s a great tool to produce unique ideas and define multiple development methods. Recently, we gave a workshop about research in design practice and discovered that many people actually don’t even know about it.”
For their project “put ur ego in a box”, Ola and Mark explored the meaning of self-identification by working with stereotypes and their influence on social behavior. “The project started with a series of photographs and prints with the phrase: If you want to be a designer, put ur ego in a box. We analyzed the designer’s role in his/her practice, questioning his/her right for following an own vision in design and whether it should be limited by a client or not”, the designers explain. In the end, they shortened the phrase in order to address the question about self-identification and self-limitation not just to designers, but everyone. For their first edition of the project, they designed a couple of accessories and textiles, using techniques like laser cutting and 3D printing. “The Necklaces, rings and earrings with the slogan look not only beautiful and attractive, but also uncomfortable to wear. What will a person choose: concept or comfort? Functionality of jewelry or its impact in public?”
For the second edition, the studio collaborated with “Support by Poustovit”. The Kyiv based clothing brand invited them to design prints for their new collection.“ Of course, we were happy about this opportunity. There were some moments when we had to make changes based on commercial issues. For example, the original font was simplified and more colors were added. Changes always happen, when you collaborate, but that is still great”, the duo tells us, “At the end of a collaboration, all involved parts should be satisfied and have reached their goals. As everyone has their own intentions, you need to be very attentive and productive. It is important to understand that the result may be way different from what you expect. We regularly collaborate with people, whom we didn’t know and result is always unexpected at some points. Today, we are more attentive to collaborations, because we have the feeling that it is a very strong platform for contemporary design.”
While “put ur ego in a box” is already a great example of their transdisciplinary approach, their project “Recycled Everything” has been the introduction of virtual reality to their practice. The virtual space was created by recycling their past projects and transforming them into new objects and living organisms. “Recycling past projects was very fun and hard at the same time. After experiments with software, we achieved very unexpected results and new ideas, which were implemented in Recycled Everything”, the duo explains. “Recycling is a very trendy topic today and many people use this tag to sell more. So for us it was interesting to try virtual recycling which doesn’t use physical materials at all and doesn’t sell things.”
Currently, the studio works on a new collection of products and items which will be presented in a shop on their website. “For the rest of the year we don’t really know what else will be, because new projects constantly appear and that is always a surprise for us too”, they tell us – and then add with a sense of humor: “But we are searching for ways to gift our accessories to Billie Eilish and Grimes.”