Could you tell us more about Astra, and about the vision behind your work?
The name Astra refers to the idea behind one part of my work; to make myself available to listen to what others have to say. I wanted to do something that involved listening to people and working with them. With architecture, you need to make sure not to do too much, as these days, it's about simplicity; about taking things away rather than adding them on. If you take a look at my portfolio, you can see that I've done design work for different services; from web design, to corporate design, and many more. I'm always looking for new themes for my work.
You also work a lot with paper sketches. What inspired you to start working with paper, and how long would a typical paper illustration take to complete?
I recently started working with paper after having worked with pixels for a long time. I was looking to regain a certain manual aspect to my work, and I discovered that I could not only draw, but also cut paper to make illustrations - which added a whole other dimension to my sketches. In the beginning, it wasn't so easy, as I'm not that great at drawing - but now that I have found a way to sketch out my design ideas before applying them to my final project, I find that it simplifies the process for me. For example, I recently worked on illustrations for a book. I had been stuck on an idea for quite some time, and after applying this idea to a paper illustration, I was able to continue to develop it.
Written by Chiara Pagano, illustrated by Alessandro Maggioni.
About the time it takes - it depends on the project. Digital designs take more time, because the process is linear, and I often have to start over many times if something isn't quite right. Depending on how complex the design is, it can take anywhere from two days to a week - sometimes I will cut out a sketch of my design, take a break, and finish the digital version. I recently collaborated with an Italian architect ,Chiara Pagano, who is also the author of the story »Gideon’s Tale«. She did the initial sketches for me, and I created a digital design based on that, adding a new dimension to the story.
Your website shows us different categories, such as illustrations, stop motion animation, 3D videos, and web design. What is your specialisation, out of those categories, and what is your target group?
The journey of a boy and a girl in a paper-made Japan, 2010.
I recently found myself wanting to try out new forms of communication. Most of the work you see on my website was done between 2005 and 2008, back when Flash technology was still something new. My 3D works are mainly related to architecture. My recent works made of paper have been used as illustrations. I used my illustrations for a spot for the Italian organisation SPI to promote its activities among retirees. Working with paper allows me to produce immediate results, and to convey things in a different way than I would with a digital design.
I've worked with architects, designers, and broadcasting studios; dealing mostly with the technical side of things. Right now, however, I'm focusing on storytelling: my latest project was a children's book, which I found very interesting and enjoyable.
You are planning to do an exhibition here in betahaus. Could you tell us more about your exhibition, and how you found out about betahaus?
The exhibition is focused on my latest projects. one of them being the book, "Gideon’s Tale", where I try to enhance traditional storytelling by using various forms of new media.
Before I came here, I was in a situation where I had many ideas, but no way in which to develop them. Italy is a very traditional society, and it's difficult to really research new ideas. When I came to Berlin, I knew that I wanted to do something different than what I had been doing in the past. Before, I had always worked alone, and I wanted to break this habit. I knew that betahaus was a coworking space, and that the ODC was a similar environment focused on design and crafts, so I thought this would be a good fit for me.
You have participated in some projects with Studio Convertino Services, such as advertising campaigns running throughout Italy. You also collaborated with another designer, Stefano Mandato. Could you tell us a little more about these collaborations?
Project by Studio Convertino, 2005.
Convertino is a very important Italian studio where I got chance to do my internship, and with whom I later had the chance to collaborate. I absolutely recommend that you visit their website if you want an idea of true modern Italian style design. The studio has been a major innovator since the early 1980s, and I learned a lot there. You also mentioned my collaboration with Stefano Mandato. He is my colleague - we had met in a studio in which we worked together, and he proposed a collaborative project. I was very much interested, as we had been working in different areas of the field; myself, being more of a conceptual designer while he designed logos, pictograms, and more technical things. We eventually found a way to work together using certain techniques and software, and I have to say that I am happy with our work so far.
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Republikken // Copenhagen, Denmark // Vesterbrogade 26, 1620 København V, Denmark
Le Laptop // Paris, France // 6 Rue Arthur Rozier, 75019 Paris, France
utopic_US // Madrid, Spain // Calle de la Colegiata, 9, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Nest 71 // Saravejo, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Milana Preloga 12, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Toolbox // Milan, Italy // Via Agostino da Montefeltro, 2, 10134 Torino, Italy
Edspace // London, England // Block D, Hackney Community College, Falkirk St, London, UK
Bios // Athens, Greece // Pireos 84, Athina 104 35, Greece
CoWorx // Kristiansand, Norway // Markens Gate 8, 4611 Kristiansand, Norway
CRU – Loja / Cowork // Porto, Portugal // Rua do Rosário 211, 4050-524 Porto, Portugal
SPARK // Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina // Bleiburških žrtava, Mostar 88000, Bosnia & Herzegovina
StartUp Armenia Foundation // Yerevan, Armenia // 0019, 1 Marshal Baghramyan Ave, Yerevan 0019, Armenia
Tøyen Startup Village // Oslo, Norway // Hagegata 23, 0653 Oslo, Norway
Smart Coworking // Prague, Czech Republic // Václavské nám. 806/62, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
Lighthouse // Tel Aviv, Israel // HaHaroshet 14-16 Ra'anana, Tel Aviv, Isreal
Fueled // New York City, USA // 11, 568 Broadway, FL 11, New York, NY 10012, United States **Maximum 3 Days
Capital Factory // Austin, USA // 701 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701, United States
Público // Mexico City, Mexico // Puebla 403, Roma Nte., 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Area Tres // Buenos Aires, Argentina // El Salvador: El Salvador 5218, C1414BPV CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina // Soho: Malabia 1720, C1414DMJ CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
HubBOG // Bogota, Colombia // Cl. 98 #18-71, Bogotá, Cundinamarca, Colombia
CIT // Taipei, Taiwan // 10452, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongshan District, 玉門街1號
Of10 // Mumbai, India // Prudential, Ground Floor, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400076, India
Kibar // Jakarta, Indonesia // Jl. Prof. Moh. Yamin No.1, RT.7/RW.5, Menteng, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 10310, Indonesia
Midori.so // Tokyo, Japan // Midori.so Nakameguro: 3 Chome-3-11 Aobadai, Meguro-ku, Tōkyō-to 153-0042, Japan // Midori.so Nagatacho: 2 Chome-5 Hirakawachō, Chiyoda-ku, Tōkyō-to 102-0093 // Midori.so2: 3 Chome-13 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tōkyō-to 107-0062, Japan
Launchgarage Innovation Hub // Manila, Philippines // Level 2, Industria Mall, Circulo Verde, Calle Industria, Bagumbayan, Quezon City, 1110 Metro Manila, Philippines
Independent Studios // Melbourne, Australia // 39/40 Porter St, Prahran VIC 3181, Australia
Urban Station EGYPT // Cairo, Egypt // 2 Wadi El Nil Mohandeseen, Cairo, Egypt
Nairobi Garage // Nairobi, Kenya // Nairobi Garage, The Mirage, Chiromo Rd, Nairobi, Kenya
BONUS: Cowork & Relax at the Coliving Space, Coconat // Brandenburg, Germany // Klein Glien 25 14806 Bad Belzig, Germany // Get €10 off your stay
Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them.
Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.
Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear.
Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.
Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different.
Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally.
Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.
Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.
Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte
Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.
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