Design is essentially a social process involving problem-solving through study and interactions. Can an intensively collaborative activity such as design adapt to the challenges of a remote working environment, social distancing and isolation necessitated by the pandemic?

Since design responds to the realities of modern living, how are designers adjusting to an environment that’s constantly in flux, and navigating this strange, uncharted territory from their individual homes and home studios? Will the dynamics of design evolve to accommodate the new realities?

Herman Miller posed these questions to some of their favourite design partners, whose answers will be shared in this ongoing series, ‘How designers stay productive while working from home’.

Focusing on what matters – with Michael Anastassiades

COVID-19 has hit London hard. Its design community, from indie fashion designers to global design brands, will continue to feel its effects for the foreseeable future. For London-based Michael Anastassiades, the stay-at-home guidance from the UK government has prompted more planned interactions with his team and a revival of his yoga practice.

Have you made any changes to your daily routine to help keep you productive at home?

I rediscovered my yoga practice, as none of my other forms of physical exercise are possible during the lockdown. Having the discipline to start your day with something as rewarding as yoga helps your mind see things in a positive way and stay productive.

I used to teach Astanga Mysore classes for 10 years, and only stopped a year after I set up my lighting brand in 2008. My studio was still based at home, and I had designed all the furniture to be easily dismantled and stored against the walls to make space for eight yoga mats for my regular students two evenings a week. Everything was organised on floor-to-ceiling Enzo Mari shelves that I had made, and we used to practice yoga surrounded with all my early design experiments and material samples.

Now that you are surrounded by those objects in your home 24/7, do you find the same value in living with these design experiments?

My home has always been the best platform for me to create and live with my own work. It has become a very dynamic space where things come and go, but it is nice to see some objects remain a permanent part of the setting. I've always believed that before you can expect someone to live with an object you’ve designed, you have to try it out first.

How are you staying creative during the lockdown?

My sketchbook remains the most precious tool for me to connect with my creative thinking.

How has the new distributed nature of your studio affected your creative process?

The new studio in Camden is one big space we all share without much privacy – other than our own concentration. Working on a project has become an organic process that shifts between people and evolves through a constant exchange of sketches and spontaneous model-making. Working remotely means that that these interactions are now much more planned. It’s very different.

When we eventually emerge from this, how will your work or work processes be permanently altered by it?

For as optimistic as I would like to be, it is difficult to predict what the real impact on the world will be. As designers, we have a duty to be adaptable and to continue to think creatively.

What is the role of designers in response to a crisis of this magnitude?

As designers, we need to become more thoughtful. And as people, we need to learn to operate from a place of generosity rather than one of greed. Shocks to the whole world, like the one we are living through, are important moments to reflect on real values.

Photo by Ben Murphy