Auckland, New Zealand-born Marcia Mihotich is a designer and illustrator based in London. Attracted by the big city and the promise of an exciting job in graphic design, she moved to the UK in the late 1980s, where she eventually opened her own practice. At her live/work studio, she combines clear thinking with a quirky individual aesthetic and collaborates with companies such as Industrial Facility as well as variety of arts-related organizations and people. She is also creative director of the new tea company Rosy Lee Tea London. Other recent projects include the design of a new series of books for The School of Life and Pan Macmillan publishing as well as illustrating Philippa Perry’s book from the series called “How to Stay Sane.” Mihotich is currently working on a large comic story for the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale. Find out what inspires her in this tour of her space (starting with that cushy Eames Soft Pad Management Chair).
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? For nine years. London EC1. It’s an area that is a lively mixture of residential and business, so even though I work at home, it doesn’t feel like it.
How would you define your aesthetic? Modernist, but not at the expense of content. I try to be informationally organized, but visually interesting.
How do you keep your work space organized? Books on the shelf. Papers and notes for current projects on the desk next to the computer. Everything else in boxes along the wall. And unfortunately the thousands of things that don’t fit into those categories in piles on the floor. I suspect, like many designers, I have extreme hoarding tendencies and can amass all sorts of things ‘that might just come in handy.’ However, if someone is coming for a meeting, I will clean up fairly ruthlessly in order to give the illusion of a calm, ordered, desirable environment.
When you set up your home office what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? I think my office is the nicest room in the house, with big floor-to-ceiling windows — and as I have to sit here all day, it should be! When I started working from home, my son was very small, so it had to be somewhere that could be cut off so he couldn’t spot me. (It’s worth pointing out he was being looked after by someone while I was working; I wasn’t just hiding.) We did a bit of space re-configuring, built a wall, and now there are two doors between the office and the rest of our home. But the interior of room evolved — it hasn’t been planned or designed as such. I just needed a desk and computer and got on with it. Maybe it’s a bit like a lot of people in fashion who wear black; I expend most of my creative energy on other people.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet right now? I will confirm the designer stereotype and say the Eames Desk Unit.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? A box (not strictly a desk accessory, I guess). I always seem to need one to put something in, either pencils and drawing things or samples or just for bits. I am only just beginning to realize there is no perfect box. The other thing is one of those really heavy metal sellotape dispensers. I don’t have one as I can’t face carrying it back from the stationery shop, but I really want one. Perhaps I should order one online.
What would you change about your work space? More storage, of course. But I don’t want to see it, so it would have to be invisible. If that’s not possible, a walk-in stationery cupboard would be really brilliant.
You established your firm in 2002. What led to that point? For the previous 18 or so years, I had worked in different design companies. When my son Hal was born, I didn’t want to go back full-time so I started working for myself — initially around three days a week and now pretty much full-time again. But it’s my full time, not someone else’s. But maybe the most important thing is I wanted to choose who I worked for and with.
What drove your decision to live in London? I was born in Auckland, NZ. When I was 21, I wanted to go to London and work in design. In the early 1990s, it seemed to me to be where lots of interesting design work was happening. So I did, and I am still here.
How does working from home impact your work? It’s really nice. I don’t have to spend any time commuting. I spent many years working in offices with lots of other people, which I loved — but I don’t miss it now. I spend a lot of time collaborating with clients or other designers, so uninterrupted design time still feels like a bit of luxury.
What and who inspires you? When I was a student and when I started working, it was designers or artists, because I was still learning what design was and needed to see lots of visual things and understand them. Now it can be almost anyone or anything, from car boot sales to fossils.
What about your work has changed since becoming a parent? As I have much less time, I have to be extremely compartmentalized about everything. With design, playing around is a good thing — you often need that extra time to explore things. But as I have to be very efficient with my time, there isn’t as much time to do that as I would like, so I tend visualize things in my head or try to work out solutions to things when I am not at work. This probably makes me look a bit pre-occupied a lot of the time.
What drives your creative decisions? Problem-solving.
Photos: Marcia Mihotich