In the lead-up to Think Outside: Identity + Economy, November 5, we spoke to Dr Gjoko Muratovski, an international, multidisciplinary design expert with experience spaning from Europe and Asia, to the USA and Australia.
Dr Gjoko Muratovski is an international, multidisciplinary design expert with experience spanning from Europe and Asia, to the USA and Australia. His interests range from architecture and spatial design to branding and corporate communications. Over the years, Dr Muratovski has been working on highly diverse projects with a number of organizations, including Deloitte, Toyota, Greenpeace, NASA Johnson Space Centre, UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, World Health Organisation, United Nations Association of Australia, Department of the Premier and Cabinet of South Australia, Office of the Prime Minister of Macedonia, Dumfries and Galloway Council of Scotland, and Auckland Council of New Zealand.
Dr Muratovski is currently the Head of the Communication Design Department at Auckland University of Technology; Chairman of the international ‘Design for Business’ Research Conference (Melbourne International Design Week); and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Design, Business & Society (Intellect Books & Journals, UK).
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have a range of roles and responsibilities and the dynamics of the day can change quite rapidly. In a typical day I may have several planning sessions with my colleagues from the Department of Communication Design, consultation with our students, and meetings with our industry partners. The rest of the time I work on projects with organizations such as the Design Foundation in Australia, the Designers Institute of New Zealand, Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability (DESIS) Global Network, the European Academy of Design, and others. Working with many international partners can stretch the day quite a bit due to different time zones, but interacting with all these great people makes everything more enjoyable.
What can attendees to the Think Outside lecture expect to hear?
The title of my talk is “The Utopian City”. There is a utopian idea that if we manage to create a perfect city we will live in some kind of equilibrium. Yet, from a historical point of view, no utopian community has managed to persevere the test of time. There are few examples in the world where cities were built on utopian principles, and I was born and raised in one of them. This talk will be about my home city Skopje, the capital of Macedonia.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Master Plan for the City of Skopje. This once-futuristic, utopian concept city was envisioned by the United Nations and UNESCO. The project was led by the award-winning Japanese architect Kenzo Tange famous for developing the urban plan of Tokyo, and was built with the support of 77 countries. This is a very different city today, but at the time, this city was meant to serve as an ideal model of urban planning.
Where do you go to get inspiration?
I travel. I get inspiration from interacting with different cultures and from meeting new and exciting people.
What are your top 5 favourite design books?
I don’t read as many design books, as I used to. Now I tend to read books from different fields – from economics and psychology, to history and cultural studies. But, I do have few favourite design books:
“Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things” by Don Norman
“Marks of Excellence: The History and Taxonomy of Trademarks” by Per Mollerup
“Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State” by Steve Heller
“Life Style” by Bruce Mau
“S M L XL” by Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Mau and Hans Werlemann
If you weren’t a designer, what would you do?
I would probably be an architect, like my brother.
What has been your greatest achievement?
On a professional level, it was the establishment of the Greenpeace Design Awards. As the Director of that program, I managed to engage more than 1500 creatives from over 70 countries to take part in the development of highly inspirational social and environmental campaigns.
On an academic level, it was earning a Doctorate in Strategic Design Research. This really helped me grow as a designer and it opened a new door for me to work in the Higher Education sector. Now it gives me a great pleasure to see hundreds of students graduating each year from the design programs that I have helped develop.
And finally, it was meeting my wife – she is my biggest fan and my toughest critic.
What is one piece of advice you wish you had received when you were first starting out in your profession?
The advice that I received quite often when I started out in my profession was that in order to be taken seriously by my peers, I need to become a specialist in a single domain of my profession. This advice still holds true for many designers. But the advice I wish I had received was that successful design requires an interdisciplinary partnership and understanding of many other areas that go beyond the core of the design profession. Not until reading Ken Friedman’s text ‘Towards an Integrative Design Discipline’ have I realised the broader socioeconomic implications of design. Ken’s writings about design influenced and inspired me the most, and I wish I had this kind of advice earlier in my career.
What inspires your work?
When I was young, it was my home city that inspired me to take interest in architecture, art and design. I grew up in a house designed by Finnish architects. My neighbours were living in a house designed by Mexican architects. Japanese architects designed the centre of my city. In the city I was surrounded by some of the finest examples of futuristic architecture in the world. For example, since the 1970s, Skopje had solar-powered high-rise student housing. The National Opera House was a deconstructed pyramid that could rival the Sydney Opera House in terms of scale of visual impact. In the newly built Museum of Contemporary Art, there were works of art donated personally by artists such as Picasso and Calder. Skopje, at the time, was a unique, cosmopolitan city where one could marvel at extraordinary examples of visionary international architecture, art, design, and urban planning. I used to find all of that very inspiring. And it was that city that inspired me to do what I do. However, the city has changed dramatically, and I no longer live there. So, I try to find that same inspiration by travelling around the world.
What principles inform your work?
I like to apply social science research methodologies in my work. I believe in making informed design decisions, rather than relying purely on intuition or a gut feeling – as many designers do. Intuition is certainly necessary at some early stages, but I like to make sure that the overall strategy that I develop is evidence-based and grounded in research.
Do you have any tips for getting your ideas off the ground?
The idea creation process is different for different people. I like to do things systematically by doing a lot of prep work before I start developing any ideas. From the very beginning, I try to gain as much information as possible about the problem I am dealing with. Then, I do a comparative analysis between other similar problems and benchmark other existing solutions out there. Once I am confident that I have a good grasp of the problem, I try to identify possible areas where design or design thinking could be applied. I use this background information to set the parameters of the project, and this serves me as a foundation to start getting my ideas off the ground.
In line with this, I can also tell you what is not a good way to get your ideas of the ground: Never begin a project with preconceptions of what that project might be. The most obvious answer is not necessarily the right answer.
What role do you think design can play in addressing 21st century problems/challenges that are typically considered outside of the realm of design?
Many of the 21st century problems and challenges are far too complex to be approached in a conventional way and from a mono-disciplinary position. Designers tend to work in a manner that transcends disciplinary boundaries. They also like to challenge conventions and look at things from a different perspective. After all, complex problems require creative solutions, and being creative is what designers do. The next step for designers, I believe, is to look beyond the realm of their own profession and start applying the same way of thinking to different kind of problems.
Who is your double doppelgänger?
Doctor Evil, of course.