The psychology of design
The world of design can be a push me, pull you world according to Helen Kontouris
Designer Helen Kontouris has taken home her fair share of prestigious awards. In November last year she was named IDEA's designer of the year and won the award for best product. In recent weeks the 34 year old was awarded the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (HACCI) Chris Saristavros Young Achiever Award.
"Every award obviously is quite special but to win an award from HACCI, which is associated with something special to me; my heritage, is really fantastic," Kontouris says.
After graduating from a degree in Interior design from Melbourne's RMIT university, Kontouris spent the first three to four years of her career in the same industry.
From there Kontouris switched into industrial and product design, enabling her "to spend time evaluating and designing products I felt would contribute and make people's lives a lot better".
Listing 95 percent of her clients as European, Kontouris operates completely from Australia, and attributes her success in Europe to the relationships she has built.
"I've never gone into working with companies thinking after our first meeting that anything will come from it. I purely start a dialogue for design, start a dialogue for a relationship I'm intending to build with these companies and that's worked very well," she said.
In terms of design aesthetics Kontouris said her work has "an organic femininity about it", which may also contribute to her high demand within the European market.
One of Kontouris' first products to be picked up by an Italian company, in 2003, was a large over-scale 6 foot tall floor lamp, that's still in production today.
"It's been quite an iconic piece for me, and really kind of launched me into an arena where more European companies and also Australian companies took more notice," she says.
Kontouris says even from a young age she was always "obsessive" about design, aesthetics and the psychology of people.
"I'm very curious, I probably ask too many questions and I also probably observe things most people wouldn't and that then in turn informs my work," she says.
In designing effectively Kontouris says it's essential to observe the way people interact with products and understand the way they use things, or lack thereof.
"If things are designed well people shouldn't need to think; good design should just be," she says.
Quoting the common example of people pulling a door that says "push", Kontouris says this comes down to design efficacy.
"If there wasn't a handle on the outside
of a door you would automatically push, so why does there need to be a handle on the outside? It's highly frustrating to me everytime I walk to a door and get it wrong, and you think you're stupid but it's not you; it's the design," she says.
Based in Melbourne, Kontouris runs her business with a very small team, comprising of herself, two engineers, and one product renderer.
After ten years of being her own boss, Kontouris says she could never go back.
"I would highly recommend it," she says.
"I've run HKD for ten years now, it'd be quite difficult for me to be
in another mindset, I love having my own team and working across products I'm really enjoying".
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