Novedge: Tell us a little bit about yourself and IMAGO Design.
Jan Kokol:My name is Jan Kokol, I am a trained architect and designer with a PhD research background in the field of mass customization. Additionally I like to spend a lot of my time producing art, mostly large scale paintings, which are exhibited internationally. The focus on my work in recent years has included fashion, jewelry design and design software. After publishing the results of my PhD research in a book, I worked as an architect for UNStudio in Amsterdam. It was a very interesting time, filled with very interesting projects. Somehow I did not want to "limit" myself to architectural design only. That is why I founded my own company, IMAGO Design, specialized in a wide range of design tasks and services.
Novedge: What is your background?
Jan Kokol: During my student years I was an apprentice in the architectural office of Günther Domenig, which had a big influence, among others, on my perception of architecture. At the same time, my studies in foreign countries like Portugal and Japan enriched my personal development and my understandings of different cultures. After finishing my master thesis I was hired at the architectural office Miralles Tagliabue in Barcelona, Spain, where I worked as a 3D Design specialist for about 2 years. I regard the office of Miralles Tagliabue as a very unique place, whose take on creativity, freedom of design and poetic approach to architecture I cherish to these days. During this time I got to be working on a very specific project, the Bridge Pavilion of Zaha Hadid. We were preparing and optimizing the interior geometry for construction, and also controlling the development at the construction site. Gaining first hand experience practicing architecture did not stop me from wanting to focus more on research, specifically in the field of mass customization. This is what took me back to the Technical University in Graz to pursue a PhD. My PhD research was extended to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an additional position as a graduate teaching assistant for the Senseable City Lab. The focus on digital fabrication and robotics has led me to the Harvard School of Design , where I was able to develop a few internal projects including my case study, Robokline, which had to do with analogue painting executed by a robot. As you can see in this video , two ABB robotic arms are programmed to recreate paintings of the American expressionist Franz Kline; each copy, or clone, of the painting becomes unique, due to unpredictable physical aspects, like the dripping of color. This remains one of my favorite projects, as it has an extensive research background with a very strong statement. It also highlights the very intense relation between art and technology and the related topics of copyright and uniqueness.
Novedge: What is the scope of your services?
Jan Kokol: The scope of my services is quite diverse. I started off by working on rendering, animation and virtual reality, and organically my interest extended to parametric jewelry design, digital fabrication and fashion concept consultancy.
Novedge: Can you give us an example of some of your works?
Jan Kokol: About a year ago I worked on virtual reality project for the Deelen Art Gallery in Rotterdam. The idea was to create a more in-depth experience for visitors while showcasing new works of the Italian artist Roberto Fanari. Roberto Fanari paintings were monochromatic hidden landscapes, that revealed their content under changing light conditions. We wanted to enable visitors of the gallery to enter the painting itself and explore freely these landscapes with an unlimited degree of movement. The virtual reality scene for the hidden landscape started in the precisely reconstructed gallery space in front of the painting. Upon entering the painting, the viewer would find him or herself inside the mysterious black forest with moving vegetation, flying butterflies, etc.
MUSEUMNACHT 010 – Virtual Reality by Jan Kokol from bastiaan deelen on Vimeo.
Some months ago I finished a collaborative project including designs as all the advertising material for a patented closure system MAGIX-LOCK. It is a very effective closure mechanism that uses the reverse power of magnets in order to open or close.
A project that was very exciting was the shooting of a classic sports car sequence in the Austrian mountains. I filmed a Porsche 906 driving down curvy mountain roads with the help of a drone and a 360 degree camera. Once the documentary is finished I think it will become part of automotive history. Novedge: How do you feel about technology and what kind of software do you use?
Jan Kokol: I believe that technology is an integral part of design and art. It is important to be informed and comfortable with technological developments, as part of the "Zeitgeist". In my opinion new technologies should be embraced and not rejected. Still I do like to switch constantly between the digital and the analogue, or combine both. At the end all the digital information is transformed into analogue one, in order for our brains to process it. I like to use different software packages as I do believe that specific fields are best served by specific software. Even while designing I like to switch back and forth between software. Software development can go sometimes too fast, and it is fairly impossible to be up to date on everything. So it is important for me to know what to choose for very specific tasks. Rhinoceros for example, fulfills a lot of my needs just by the fact that I can use plug-in extensions for parametric design (Grasshopper – now included in Rhino 6), rendering (V-Ray) and sub-d modeling (T-Splines). When I work on Animation and more specific Rendering, I prefer to switch to Autodesk 3dsMax. Sometimes there are issues, as the T-Splines plug-in is not offered any-more for Rhino users by Autodesk, but is implemented into their Fusion 360. Now I have to look for alternatives for Sub-D modeling like MODOas a standalone software or Clayoo , in order to use Sub-D modeling techniques in Rhino (native sub-d functionality in Rhino is under development). For virtual reality I work with the Unreal Engine, which is a fantastic piece of software. Unity as-well is highly recommendable, but I somehow just got stuck on Unreal Engine. Back in the days I used to work a lot with Macromedia Flash, and I still do love that software, but it is not supported by the web framework any more, so I do use it only for personal interactive presentations. I did use Processing sometime while at MIT, but currently I am not working on projects that would require it. Whenever possible I run specialized workshops for some of these programs or teach at university institutions.
Novedge: What side of your business do you have more affinity with: the design, the production, the animation or the still?
Jan Kokol: The affinity to renderings has always been a strong one, as I was always attracted to digital imagery. I remember spending nights in front of my CRT monitor as a student watching the scan-line move down by an inch per hour. I felt excitement in seeing new parts of the image. Animation and still services have been a good starting point for my business. My interest now is more focused on parametric design and geometry optimization for digital production. I am also working more in the jewelry design and the fashion industry. One of my latest projects is my personal design for a full body suit called the NOOK and the Insect suit, which are set up for 3D printing, with embedded sensors and actuators. Novedge: How would you describe your aesthetics?
Jan Kokol: I believe my aesthetics in design are in constant development and change. I am certainly going for the "shouting", for the "fresh", or the "provocative". But I like to keep a sense of proportion and coherence in terms of design. I do believe design objects should tell a story, or evolve from a story, rather than just being a aesthetically pleasing. I like the sleek modern design, but at the same time I appreciate past stiles like the Jugendstil with all its ornamental decoration and life.
Novedge: Can you talk about your philosophy?
Jan Kokol: My philosophy is quite simple. Do the things in life that you love. At the same time respect other people. Passion is an important ingredient for design. If you don't care about your work, why should others do ?
Novedge: You have had some impressive clients, who would you like to work with?
Jan Kokol: The list would be very long, and aside from important designers, architects and artists I always like to work with people that are interesting and that fight for their ideas and their work. If you find a person that is as passionate about personal work as you are, the collaboration is bound to be successful.
Novedge: What is the next frontier in Design?
Jan Kokol: A more intuitive design environment as-well as machine learning in order to aid the design process. Optimized digital fabrication technologies.
Jan Kokol just published an article for the Chaos Group's blog on V-Ray for Grasshopper. Make sure to check it out!
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