Stay still and immerse yourself in the moment before it fades away - this is what Zsuzsanna Horváth’s aptly named lamp encourages you to do. Meaning “to fade” in Hungarian, Illan immediately grabbed the attention of professionals at Milan Design Week 2018 with its ethereal shape that is brought to life by the tiniest air movements. In the end, the designer and her concept were approached by Italian Luceplan. Zsuzsanna, who lives in Denmark, created a lamp that unites Northern European design tradition with an almost artistic presence and environmental awareness, a result that provides a sustainable solution for design lovers all over the world. We talked to Zsuzsanna Horvath about her work, sustainability and her personal inspirations.
First of all, let us congratulate you on receiving the Red Dot Best of the Best Award for the Illan lamp! Why do you think audiences and professionals are so captivated by this concept?
Thank you! Illan is an extraordinary lamp that has an unmistakable charm in its organic shape and wave-like movements. I think this is one of the reasons it became such a big success story, along with its warm light that is complemented by the natural look of wood so well.
You mentioned how Illan is the result of lengthy experiments. Do you usually find this sort of creative process appealing, or are more comfortable in projects where there are certain standards and expectations set in place?
I almost never work this way, that’s why Illan was such a peculiar experience for me as well. I usually have to design quite specific products that come with their own fixed set of requirements and standards, such as function, size or material use. Illan was conceived in an entirely different manner; I was experimenting with paper cutting and laser cutting, and I ended up with the first prototype for the lamp. It was very interesting to go through with a project in a completely different way than I used to, and it was revealing to see a working product at the end. I hope I’ll have the chance to try my hands at this type of workflow again in the future.
Illan lamp / Zsuzsanna Horváth
You spent years in Finland, and you’ve been living and working in Denmark since 2018. How does Northern Europe inspire you?
I studied in Finland as a designer, so their basic principles and material use are what usually shape my thinking as well. Simplicity in form and material use is exceptionally inspiring, along with a proximity to nature and thriving for timelessness.
Do you see any resemblance between Hungarian and Northern design, or are these two completely separate worlds?
I don’t feel I have the necessary insight into Hungarian design principles, as I learned the gist of my profession abroad. If there’s one difference I could point out is that the Hungarian scene puts a bigger emphasis on industrial rather than artistic design, I think.
Cup chair, R255 chair, Rocking Bench / Zsuzsanna Horváth
Sustainable efforts are becoming more and more integral to many aspects of our lives, including design. What does sustainability mean to you?
Achieving sustainability through my design is an important aspect of my work, whether it’s the use of natural and organic materials, creating flat pack products and incorporating recyclable solutions. There’s another approach to sustainability that stems for longevity: creating quality products that bear the marks of timeless design throughout many generations. It is essential for me to create products that have their own peculiar story, an emotional core that customers can easily relate to, expanding the product’s life cycle.
Nature is present in many of your creations, whether it’s material use or visual form. Can you tell us about your personal relationship with the natural world?
Nature inspires many facets of my creative process, including the details, geometry and ratios of concepts, but I’m also fond of outdoor trips and weekend hikes; these are important sources for both recreation and relaxation for me. Travel in general plays a prominent role in my life, both in nature and in urban environments.
Viiva leather earring, Lofoten wooden earring, Moiré coasters / Zsuzsanna Horváth
You’re preparing a number of new prototypes for this year’s Milan Design Week. What notion connects these concepts?
My upcoming collection is mostly influenced by kinetic art, opart and optical illusions. Some products will once again feature hints of the moiré effect, interference and mirroring. And I am preparing a few concepts that are based on the laser cutting experiments that resulted in Illan.
Aside from the Design Week, what is this year’s biggest project for you?
I’ve got a couple of exciting projects to look forward to, one in Finland and another in Hungary. Apart from these, I’m expecting my second child due in Autumn.
Finally: what is your advice to young talents starting a career in design?
Just keep up the good work! It is very difficult to jumpstart your career, but keep going to exhibitions with your prototypes and form collaborations with your peers. Appearance at exhibitions comes at a price, but there are many organizations offering scholarships. For example the German Design Council announces a free-to-enter competition each year where the 21 finalist design concepts are then presented at the Milan Design Week. (Be sure to check out similar programme initiatives by the Hungarian Fashion and Design Agency - S21.)
Nebula installation / Zsuzsanna Horváth, Ariane Relander, Hao Wu
Come to S/ALON BUDAPEST 2021 and meet the most well-renowned professionals and promising talents of the Hungarian and international design scene! This year we are putting those brands and manufacturers in focus who are utilizing their skills to produce environment-friendly solutions and groundbreaking innovations in the hopes of creating a sustainable future. Let’s meet at the Budapest Arena between September 24-26, and become part of this design revolution!
Cover image: Illan lamp / Zsuzsanna Horváth