On the Shelf

Interview by Pamela Daniels 
Photographs by wangwei.co.uk
Naamyaa Journal Issue 01

Name: David Cuesta
What do you do: Designer, Artist, Director
Company name: Creative Research and Development

What is the philosophy behind CR&D:

When we started the company we discussed at length what it is we do as creatives. What came out of that conversation was that as designers we essentially research and develop creative ideas in order to solve problems. I come from an eclectic background that includes a fine art practice and have always felt that exploration of concepts help in the realisation of the end product. As a design studio our objectives are always to create functional products, however it is important for us that the end results have a meaningful and aesthetically pleasing outcome. Design ultimately is about the user, we are just the guide for the mind and eye of that user.

The objects on your shelf are a diverse cross section of playful, intellectual, practical, superstitious, things of beauty and even weaponry. Tell us a bit about each of them:

1. Pantone book from 1996

When I started my professional career I was working as a pre-press operator in a printing shop in East Vancouver’s commercial street area. It was an amazing 1960’s warehouse. Upstairs they had a small prepress department and I used to get all the digital files from clients and output them to film negatives. I also had to use a drum scanner to convert photos and transparencies into digital files before outputting the film. The drum scanner was the size of a room… it was amazing. After I had output and processed the film it I would run it down the hall to the “strippers” who would cut it up and re-impose their own crop marks onto it using red tape… even though I had already put crop marks on it in “Quark.” Those guys were also amazing, they could hold up a piece of film to the light and tell me the density of colour just by looking at it. They had been working there since the 60’s. Now it’s all direct to press, no film and no stripping. 
 In the industry you are meant to buy a new pantone book every year. One day they were going to throw away the old books and they asked me if I wanted it. I gladly took it even though it was meant to dull over time. The funny thing about pantones is that the colours numbers have not changed in years. I still use this book to this day on hundreds of projects, it hasn’t really faded that much. For me it symbolises that though things come and go and though you are meant to update certain things as they become obsolete, there are certain things, like being able to strip together film with scalpels and tape that are quite timeless.

2. Stack of sketch books

My first memory of enjoyment and being free is drawing. For a long time whenever we designed a print project in the studio we would order A1 sheets of different kinds of papers to make samples from and I would keep the left over sheets in case I ever needed them again. One day I realised that every time I did a different project I ordered new paper so there was no point in keeping the ever-increasing stack of beautiful sample sheets. I shuffled the stack of paper like a deck of cards and then had them cut down and bound into a series of small sketchbooks. The end result is a diverse selection of books each with a treasure chest of colour and textures hidden within their pages.

3. Stiga Allround+ Penhold Bat

I started playing table tennis again seriously about 4 years ago. It is actually a very aerobic work out. I find it is like a zen martial art. Helps clear my mind and stay focused. My old flat mate (who was my table tennis sensei) gave me this Bat as a birthday present when I was starting to get into it again. It was the first proper bat I owned where you could change the rubbers. Though I now have others this one is close to my heart and I love it as an object. It’s made from 5 layers of plywood and has a special band of wood down the middle for power. Regulation black and red rubbers give it a constructivist edge. I decided I would keep this object over of all the others because if I was not a designer I would play more table tennis. I went to a table tennis club in Vancouver once and played this Chinese guy who must have been 90; proof that you can play pong your whole life.

4. 25 Piece Drill Set

I Purchased this set when I was working on one of our exhibitions called X3 at the design festival a few years ago. For the show the studio built a freestanding cube out of steel bar and polycarbonate sheet. We had to drill 212 holes into the steel bars. Its something that when finished appears quite innocuous because when the cube is made up you don’t really notice the holes. However drilling those holes took days. Good thing we had a good set of dill bits. As an object it is very functional when you open it the bits reveal like claws. The box is very analogue in its design, there is nothing digital about it.

5. Money Cat

I asked my wife to bring me some money back from Hong Kong. This is what I got. I love the way it sparkles. When you first look at it the hand just seems to keep moving forever. Your first thought is did someone invent a perpetual motion machine in China? Nope! Its actually battery powered. Keeps you buying batteries forever. Well… a little bit of investment in batteries is a small price to pay for this cat bringing me money. I am not exactly superstitious, but whenever the cat runs out of battery the studio seems to get quiet. I quickly go out and buy another battery.

6. An Explosion

I made this out of two bits of acrylic. It was a prototype for a project. It was actually for a Christmas event, but to me it is like a pop art explosion. I like to hide art history references in the design work when I can. The explosion symbolises what happens to me every time I work on project. Lots of friction and combustion, but eventually has a beautifully symmetrical form come out of it.

7. Double Sided Tape

So much of what we do is digital now days, however you still always need to put something together. When working with paper, double sided tape is great because it allows you to stick things together and still hide the method of fastening. I got this from Cowling and Wilcox. DST is Priceless in a design studio.

8. Air Soft pistol

I bought this pellet pistol in a head shop in Whitechapel. At heart I am a pacifist, but I do believe there is a deep seeded instinct in man for action and adventure. Playing video games and playing with toy guns is just a way for channelling that instinct. I actually think gun’s as objects are quite beautiful. I really don’t like killing, but as an object of design they can be aesthetically pleasing. I think the stigma attached to guns makes them become overlooked from a design point of view. This one makes an amazing clack sound when fired that reminds me of a potato gun. And who could not love the bright orange colour. Kind of like a tiger, beautiful to look at, but also quite dangerous if approached in the wrong way.

9. Philip Meggs: A History of Graphic Design 3rd Edition

After working in the printing and design industry for a while I ended up going back to school at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design to study Communication Design. The design history class was actually one of my favourite classes, but it was a class that was taught to a combined audience of industrial design and graphic design students. Very strange I thought that even though I was studying communications most of the time we ended up talking about architecture and furniture design. I think out of the whole year maybe three classes were about graphics, but for some reason we were still required to buy this as a textbook. Though I have always had a slightly fractious relationship with my teachers at school I actually really enjoyed the design history course, even if it was at 9am on Monday mornings. Though we barely talked about this book at all throughout the whole year, we were encouraged to read it and I think it’s probably the best graphic design resource I have used in my career. The great thing about it is that it’s all historical, no trendy design from the latest magazines. All the originals are in there.

10. SATA 3.5” 2 TB Hard Drive

I still like to do my own networking. One day I will probably stop doing that and have an army to manage the servers. However for now I don’t really like the idea of someone else storing my data on the cloud. Everything we do is stored on 5 hard drives, one at home, one in the server, one in the closet, etc. They are so cheap that its really easy to back up if you can be bothered to do it. Even though we think of the digital as quite ethereal and non-static, in actual fact all the information gets stored on magnets somewhere. It’s a good physical representation of all the pixels we push around all day. Funny also that we do a lot of exhibition work and even though some of the files we make are for massive spaces they only take up 3.5 inches. Since America is a world leader in tech, I suppose they still measure these things in inches, even though they are the most futuristic things, they are still measured in imperial.

11. Japanese Pull Saw

Every person needs a blade. I have many. This is one of my favourites. It does not get much use in the studio but I like its form and it looks mean hanging around. I bought it when I needed to cut some wood because I thought it was a beautiful object. There is something about cutting wood that triggers something quite base on an instinctual level. People think it looks like a weapon but I see it more of a tool. When you cut with it, it’s smooth and fast.

Which of these items do you utilise the most in your daily life?

Toss up between the money cat and the hard drive.

What is your most treasured possession?

From the bookshelf the table tennis bat. In my life my body and soul, I can’t really posses my daughter or wife, but they are pretty cool to have around.

Would you say you are materialistic? Attached to things or objects?

Material possessions are just an expression of attachment. Attachment is the root of all suffering. I have my life and breath, my soul and spirit. Everything else is meaningless. (Except of course for my wife and daughter, but its their spirit that is important on a physical level they are also transient)

If you had to let go of all but one of these objects which would you keep?

Table tennis bat.

Is there a secret to good design?

It’s a cliché but simple things usually tend to be the most functional. Design is a process of stripping away all the non-essentials. Knowing when not to play a note is more important than knowing when to sing at the top of your lungs.

What are you most proud of in your life and your career as a designer?

In my life my daughter. Ok that’s sappy I know. As a designer the studio. It’s an object of design unto itself. Working with people to help them realise their visions. And an art book I designed for myself 8 years ago called good vs. evil.

What is the most beloved lunchtime meal of your team at your office?

Char Sui


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