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Alex Proba, Studio Proba
4th September 2017

Assembly: An Interview with Studio Proba

“The serious voice that I had pre-New York is now a little more playful. It has a wink to it.”

Multi-disciplinary designer Alex Proba is from Lüdenscheid in Germany. She studied at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands before moving to New York in 2011 where she later founded her practice Studio Proba. This September Alex’s work will travel to London to be exhibited as part of Assembly, London Design Fair’s first ever US Pavilion. If ever there was a definition of a globetrotting, transnational designer, Alex is it.

Alex indulged us with super insightful and in-depth answers to the many many questions we sent her way. So, enough from me, here’s Alex and her studio in her own words. Winks and all ;)

Yolk Rug, Studio Proba

Hello Alex! Tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

That’s a tricky question. I would say that I am a multi-disciplinary designer working across various mediums ranging from graphic design and illustration to product and furniture design. I also do brand and strategy work as well spatial and architectural design projects. Ha! I guess I am all over the place :).

You are originally from Lüdenscheid and studied in Eindhoven. Why did you take the bold move and relocate to New York?

I moved to New York just over six years ago, it wasn’t much of a planned decision. While studying at Design Academy Eindhoven, an old employer, who worked at an architecture office in New York,  asked me if I could come out for a project during the summer. I was like: “Totally, I would love to come!” I guess that’s how my journey started.

Yolk Rug by Studio Proba

Creatively speaking, what does New York have to offer?

New York kicks your butt, but it also fuels creativity. New York is one of the best cities in the world to be a creative in. It is a melting pot full of amazing and talented people. This forces you to work hard and compete with others, not in a negative way, but more in an emotional and motivational way. It makes you work hard and do things and just go for it. Sometimes you do things that don’t work or where you fail but that failure is what you need to keep moving and growing as a designer (or any type of creative). No one should be afraid to fail, it is one of the greatest things we as humans need to learn.

Alex Proba

What sets American design apart from European design?

When I first moved to New York I was clueless about what contemporary American design is, what it means, and how it would influence me. With time I’ve noticed that American design takes itself a little less seriously than European design (or at least the design that I grew up with). It lets you experiment and truly find your voice. The serious voice that I had pre-New York is now a little more playful. It has a wink to it.

Tell us a little about A Poster A Day, in terms of its sheer scale (your create a new poster, from scratch, every single day) it’s an almighty project. Why set yourself such a demanding task?

I started the project four years ago purely out of creative misery. At the time, I wasn’t happy with my day job and the work I was producing on a day-to-day basis. One summer night in 2013, I found myself stuck in the goo of creative block while working on a client project. In the hope of shaking it off, I started to play with random images, shapes and hues. It was satisfying, freeing and also addictive so I made a pact with myself: repeat the process every day for the next year with only one limitation: time. That evening A Poster A Day was born. Since then, I have made a poster every day for four years. That’s 1,460 posters in total.
Nirvana Rug by Bower & Studio Proba

You’ll be exhibiting the Day 1321 rug as part of Assembly. There are quite literally hundreds of poster designs you could’ve shown, why Day 1321?

It was hard to chose what to show at Assembly, so I’ve decided to show one of my #aposteraday rugs, one design from my new #puzzlerug collection, and one brand new mixed-media piece made in collaboration with designer, and my friend, Thomas Pregiato. Quite honestly, I chose Day 1321 because it’s one of the best posters to translate into a rug: it is bold and graphic, but at the same time it has organic and imperfect moments to it. I also love the submission I’ve got for it:

Day 1321 - Hers Anonymous - “Sometimes there is no such thing as simplicity. Sometimes things have to make no sense and be messy to be beautiful and interesting. Sometimes the my wife’s REAL beauty is hidden to the public. Only I can see the details—which are not simple at all.”

The rug’s marble-looking texture reminds me of blue cheese. I love that.

Yolk Rug, Studio Proba

Why posters and rugs? Why do they lend themselves well to your designs?

When I finished school, I knew that I wanted to do something creative in life but I was too scared to decide what that should entail. Instead, I started studying dentistry, which is not so creative. Once I realised that I was unhappy with the choice I had made, I applied to a design school that offered architecture/spatial classes, as well as graphic design.

After college, I worked in architecture for a while and realised that I have no patience, something that is crucial in architecture. So I decided to go to grad school and study product and furniture design. Funnily enough, after that, I worked in architecture again but slowly transitioned into brand work and strategy. Slowly Studio Proba emerged from basically doing all the things I love. Posters are great graphical sketches of possible 3D products. Rugs are still kind of 2D but they have a dimensionality to them which lets me turn my flat graphic sketches into tangible objects. I love the evolution of the process.

Rug by Studio Proba

What was the appeal of exhibiting as part of Assembly? Why is it important to exhibit in the UK as part of London Design Festival?

This year, my ambition was for Studio Proba to create a mark outside of the US. It started with a couple of exhibitions at the Salone del Mobile in Milan this spring and is ending with a great show in London, as well as a gallery exhibition in Mallorca. I am beyond speechless and super excited about all these amazing opportunities. I also think that London is one of the most important design capitals in the world. Thank you for having me!

As a German designer, what’s it like participating in a group exhibition of American design? Does where you’re are based geographically influence your approach?

When I was invited to be part of the US Pavilion by Jill and Monica I was confused for a second. I was questioning if I really belonged in an exhibition of American design and if I would be a better fit in the German Pavilion. But then I realised that I’ve spent most of my creative life in New York – I've been part of the American design industry, something I’ve never really done in Germany. What Studio Proba is today is heavily influenced by New York and all the other amazing designers there. I am extremely humbled to be able to exhibit alongside my friends and many really talented designers.

Rug by Studio Proba
29 May 2017, A Poster A Day
Discover more about the US Pavilion, Assembly, its curators SightUnseen and the founder of London Design Fair Jimmy MacDonald

For more information please contact Jodi on +44 (0)20 3735 5855 or email jodi@zetteler.co.uk.

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