Interview, photo: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Translation: Elena Savlokhova

Senior Designer at McLaren Automotive

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You’ve said that your experience could be described with the phrase “that incautious dreams lead to”. Do you have another incautious dream right now?
Yes, and it’s in no way connected to what I’m doing now. I really want to learn how to play piano. I want to write a fictional book. I want to try myself in acting – act in a movie created by my friends. Hopefully I won’t lack the talent and won’t mess it up for them. For the sake of the experiment. I used to really want to be a part of the history of automobile design and this dream is slowly coming true, it’s all happening in parallel. There are other global dreams, but that’s a bit too personal to discuss.

Could you give a bit more details about your book ideas?
To be honest I’ve had some experience in writing a book. I went through a certain situation in my life so I’ve had a lot of thoughts as a result that I wanted to project into a certain story. There are 5-7 characters that resemble certain things either from me or my friends. Yet it’s not a mirror reflection. Whoever knows me well enough would have an easy time seeing my traits in those characters: a sense of humour, impulsiveness, etc. Overall I like to write. I’m a hell of a fictionist. I like to formulate and play with words, to miss-align them, to incorporate deep and complex meanings. As odd as it may sound, I have no idea how this all combines within myself, at least as an interest. My excuse is being a gemini – designer by day, artist by night.

Would you write it in russian or english?

You’ve mentioned that you would like to try yourself out in acting. What film reality would you like to live in?
I really like Birdman. It’s one of the two films that I keep on my laptop and occasionally re-watch. It has a rather therapeutic effect on me. I don’t even have to focus that hard, it could just play on the background. Would I want to live the life of the protagonist? Probably not. But the atmosphere of this film and the theatre  theme, all those troubles they are going through somehow resonate with me. Even though there is no basis to connect myself to that world of art, that world of cinematography.

What film would you produce if you had an unlimited budget?
Maybe it would be art house or esoteric, something for a narrow audience, with double and triple interpretations and meanings. So you’d have to watch it three times to get it. And every single time you watch it, you discover something new that you haven’t noticed before. Most probably there would be a thread about love and friendship. Don’t know about the cast though. Male actors: Dicaprio, Gosling.  But it’s not a must. I like stories based on real events, those are always my favourite films, but films based on imagination are worth all the respect. After all those romantic films where people believe in utopia, you begin to value films that illustrate reality.

You used to go to the book market on Petrovka and buy magazines that you still keep. What about memories? Is there a memory that you cherish the most?
I used to collect postcards, tickets – I’m sentimental that way. I think artistic people are sentimental. My relationships were always idealistic. I believed that my first love would be my only love. I was never afraid that it would be my last person. I was never eager to be in a lasting bachelor state. It has transformed since, yet I still continue to have a romantic side. I’m getting rid of it now step by step. I don’t like getting small gifts, I think those are annoying, although it totally used to be my thing. My shelves used to be filled with souvenirs covered in dust. And now whenever I go to someone’s house and see something like that I quiver. At this point I ask my friends to never get me small gifts. As a general rule they now cooperate with each other and get one item that is meaningful. A few years back they got me a japanese training katana. Now that’s a very cool gift. As a follow up, last year they got me a ninja costume – not the one you imagine when thinking of cartoons, but a proper one with belts and patches. I’ve never worn it because it’s too difficult. I took it to England with me as I thought that I would somehow start working on my ninja persona, but I never got to it. Now I plan to bring it back home with me and find those who sold it to my friends… to learn how to put it on properly.  

So what about the most cherished memory?
Like all decent kids I’ve honourably skipped school, even if it was art school. There were days when I just didn’t feel like it. So one of those days, when I was around 13, I had a one to one conversation with myself, where I argue how bad it would be to skip school (even though I’ve had numerous conversations like this in the future), and I eventually overcame myself and decided to attend my classes. So after going through that inner battle I draged myself to art school and as I reach the building after a half hour walk I remember that the teacher told us that there would be no school today. The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t skip school, but if you decide to skip, then never hesitate and do it cold-bloodedly.

You’re a part of the few people who work on the advance design program – the development of the vision of an automobile in the next 15-50 years. You let your imagination roam free with the expectation that technologies will catch up to your ideas. How do you yourself see the future?
There is an optimist and a pragmatist in me. As a designer, of course, I see everything from the aspect of beauty and rainbows. The pragmatic side of me says that everything will be bad. We’re irrational at using the planet’s resources. It’s a serious matter. I don’t possess the necessary scientific knowledge to argue it on a broader scale, but I think we’re entrapping ourselves. Maybe we’re close to a point of no return. Sooner or later it will all lead to the state of resources – the state of our forests, gas emission, the destruction of the ozone layer, and so on. We could easily ignore the occuring issue and imagine a future of people walking in flawlessly white suits, driving noiseless cars, a feeling of security, but reality is – there is nothing happening right now that would lead to that scenario. That’s the contradiction that I have to live with.

What thing do you thing exceeds its time?
Visionaries, like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson. It’s not even about specific people, rather the concept of their thought process. The motives that drive them are not always clear but they are grandiose. Take for instance, Musk, family values for him are not as important as for the majority people. This person wants to change the course of history on a global level, interplanetary even, he wants to colonize Mars. If only 1% of the population would think the same way, then we’d live in an entirely different world.

“When I leave the house I as if end up in the past. McLaren works on solutions that become reality 10-15 years ahead of themselves”. How does your reality look like? What’s it like to be you?
Everything that you see on the roads or in autosalons right now was a sketch 4 years ago. When you go outdoors after working on a project – everything seems outdated. It becomes difficult to be surprised. As a designer, you become spoilt because you’ve already seen it all. Overall I’m a rather optimistic person. At the beginning of this conversation I said that the future of the world looks saddening.  At times I walk around London in the not so safe neighbourhoods, but I always have this confidence that everything will be all right. I think it characterizes the way I see the surrounding world. In regard to advertising, then I’m very disappointed. The visual noise should go. As an aesthete I appreciate simplicity. 

There is a saying in english “simple but not simpler”. That’s how I like to approach things, I don’t like to complicate in places that could be simplified. It goes for everything – automobile design, relationships, clothing.

For example, in the automobile aspect, we’re all fighting for a long term design, for it to be iconic and timeless, to make the product relevant in the years to come. When someone is working on a design of a suit jacket, the latest technology is being used – fabrics, threads, materials etc. All of these are details that signify a the products relation to time. When you decide to wear this suit jacket in a year, even if you only wore it once, then it already looks not relevant, as the trend had passed.Whereas when you put on a classic piece of clothing or when you take a ride on a classic car that is not necessarily new, but definitely has something elusive about it, something that makes it stand out – it’s simply timeless. The more you overload something with excessive noise, the less timeless it is. You have to fight for simplicity.

You’ve mentioned that an automobile for you is foremost an aesthetic, and the technical aspects are secondary. Do you follow the same rule in other aspects of life?
I’m definitely a visual person, however the tactile aspect is very important to me. It’s important for me to be able to feel the form. In interior, for example, if it looks good but it’s uncomfortable then at the end of the day it will only disappoint me. I can’t say that this approach is the same with people. You can’t value people just for their looks and ignore their inner qualities. I’d say it’s the other way around. If a person seems interesting then you quickly stop focusing on the flaws of their appearance. It takes me a long time to connect with people on a closer level, to let them become a part of my world. It’s rare when someone becomes a friend who I can just go out for a glass of water in a restaurant. I can let go very fast too. Even if it would take ages for me to get to know a person, a small detail could end it. It could seemingly mean nothing to the person, but in my mind I project the consequence of this detail 10 years ahead and how it can affect the friendship in a negative manner. I just don’t let it happen. I’m very picky in the people that surround me.

You dream of trying yourself out in other fields of design, for example, clothing. Is there a brand that resonates with you the most?
Alexander McQueen. Not in its current state though. I think I was more fascinated by Alexander Mcqueen himself: his way of thinking, his story, his indifference to what others thought of him, his inner rebel. Every creative person recognizes himself or herself in him, because he was the definition of art – a clot of artistic energy that existed for the sake of creating. There are a lot of brands that create futuristic clothing, yet I’m not quite certain that it’s a right approach. I think it’s too early for futurism in fashion. We often see in the world of automobiles when companies present their brand in a very conceptual way in showrooms, but the production itself releases rather simpler and restrained products. It all looks great on the surface, when it’s seen out of context, when it’s presented on a futuristic stand. ‘Wow, the future is here’. Then you go into the actual world and see four Lanos cars when you yourself have an entirely different concept in mind. It’s like you want the attention but not too much of it, you don’t want to be the center of attention. Something futuristic will simply look absurd on the grander reality of things. We’re not mentally prepared, there is no infrastructure to support this vision yet. Even the juxtaposition with the architecture of cities. For example, at McLaren we have a smart casual dresscode, yet we still have to look presentable. There is a big flow of VIP clients and guests and you never know who you’re going to run into in the hallway. You could be wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt (and why not?). Better not.

Would you say no to sex or sketching?
Sketching is almost like sex, only it’s not sex. For the beauty of the answer I would say no to sex, but it will be sketching. I will become a writer. I will say no to sketching, become a writer, and I will have a lot of sex. Perfect. I will also have time to play piano. And I’ll act in movies. See how everything turns out? Everything that stops me from an acting career is my drawing.

If you were a woman for 24 hours, what would you do with that time?
I would try to constructively analyze my experience in order to give instructions to myself as a man afterwards – to see the world through the eyes of a woman, how a woman feels it and perceives it, how she approaches men and what is important to her. I would write my thoughts down and pass it on to myself as a man.

You’ve said that you’re tired of London’s rainy weather and that you wouldn’t mind developing the automobile world of a tropical country. Where would you like to do that?
Maybe Spain. I think I was born in the wrong country initially. I’m not meant for the cold weather, I don’t like a lot of layers of clothes. I’d love do spend my days wearing shorts and a vest top (to work as well). I love the sea, I love the sand. If I could ever combine my ideal work environment with my ideal geographical environment then it would be fantastic.

You couldn’t travel a lot when you were studying. What about now? Do you have time to travel now?
I have to travel for work way more often than for leisure. My parents and sister live in Ukraine and they don’t have the opportunity to come and visit me in London. Hence, I travel back home and we spend some time together. We have a very close and warm relationship. They’ve helped me so much throughout my life. I’m a responsible person, although a few ex girlfriends might argue with that. When I’m in the UK I always remember that my family lives away from me and they lead a more simple life than I do. I have a hypertrophic feeling of guilt regarding this issue. On a subconscious level I try to compensate this fault by events, emotions, I try to come up with any sort of festivity for all of us to do together, or simply to take them out. However, as I’ve said, I travel a lot because of work. Recently I’ve been to Portugal. The atmosphere and the climate fits me perfectly, at least I think so. We go wherever the autosalons are, be it Frankfurt, Paris, Geneve. I travelled around England, Scotland. I return to the Czech Republic from time to time. I worked there for 3 years and I have a lot of warm memories and friends there. Moving from Kiev to Italy was easy. Moving from Italy to the Czech Republic was a bit difficult emotionally. Moving to London was very difficult. I promised myself that the next time I move won’t be in the near future. The younger I was the easier moving seemed. As long as it’s not the case of sex. But now I feel that 30 hit me hard.

What are the most beautiful car models ever created in your opinion?
I often say that it’s BMW z4 couple, but it’s an answer I’ve been using a lot, so I’ll try to name something more fresh for this interview. It could be the Ferrari f40, Alfa Romeo Duettottanta concept, Maserati Birdcage concept. I think those models had an affect on me back in the day. If you look at them then you understand what I meant when I spoke about the beauty of simplicity. At one point Mazda’s design director was a person with a philosophy that you should eliminate lines to the point where if you take away one more line – the design falls apart. The automobiles I’ve mentioned clearly illustrate this philosophy.

Tell me a funny or awkward story from your childhood.
There were so many but here we go. I once went out to hang out with my friends and my mom told me to take my sister with me. I was 7 and she was 5 and a half. I didn’t want to take her with me because all my friends were older, so it wouldn’t be cool. So I ended up leaving her somewhere outside and went to hang out with my pals. I came home in a few hours without my sister, as I thought she would find her way home by then. I lost my sister. We found her at the police station. Can’t say I’m proud of this. I love my sister with all my heart and we have a very nice relationship. I think to this day I still try to compensate for what I did back then. I always bring her gifts or we travel somewhere together. I’m still trying to fix that situation.

You had to sacrifice relationships for your true calling. Do you have regrets?
I might have regretted in the moment, yet I don’t regret it now when looking back.

What question would you like to be asked at an interview and what would your answer be?
Should I lead a life without sex or without drawing? I’m lucky since I’ve already been asked that and the answer turned out quite well.

You could draw during sex or draw with the help of sex. Or a couple could have sex on a canvas while covered in paint, thus creating a drawing.
Really? Pretty cool.