As we finish up the new product designs for our 2019 catalog, we thought we’d pause for a moment to catch up with our principal designer, Kristina Constantine.
Born in present-day Azerbaijan and raised in Russia, Kristina arrived in Virginia at the age of 25, armed with her design portfolio and little else. An ethnic Armenian refugee, Kristina spoke little English. Her talent and warmth, however, transcended any language barriers. When she joined our team at Rivanna in 2004, she immediately transformed our product line and began to build our distinctive, planet-friendly style. Within a few years, Kristina was studying at Parsons School of Design in New York. She graduated at the top of her class and interned in some of the world’s finest fashion houses. When she chose to come back to design for us at Rivanna, we could not have been more delighted!
Recently, we asked Kristina about her creative process:
When did you first realize your talent as a designer and that you could have a career in design?
I didn’t know I had talent until I enrolled in the design program at the National Institute of Design in Moscow and really embraced every assignment. Ideas seemed to come relatively easily to me and I received very encouraging feedback from my professors. Later, I was accepted to Parsons School of Design in New York and graduated with honors. So, I started suspecting that maybe I have a talent, though I’m still not sure.
Describe your creative process and what inspires you and your designs?
I get inspired by just about anything: shapes in nature, architectural details, a feel of texture, contrasting surfaces or colors. When something catches my eye, I start deconstructing to try to get to the essence of that inspiration, and to understand what makes it appealing. Then, I take those elements and use them as a starting point in my designs.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
I find a way to stop thinking about the problem and try to solve it instead by doing something completely unrelated in order to off switch my mind, like go dancing or clean my desk or something. It always works.
What was the biggest mistake you made when first starting out?
When I first started working in manufacturing, I let myself get carried away creatively and designed without consideration of the manufacturing tools and processes. Being a part of a great team helped to quickly overcome that shortcoming.
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
I love that it’s a path of continuous collaborations with people who make my ideas come to life, and then sell them! And I get to play at work!
What is the best design advice you received when you were first starting out, and do you follow it?
The advice came from one of my Russian professors who explained that design is not fine art, since it has to be created with the purpose of sale. So I always ask myself questions - who is the customer and why would they like my designs?
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