Dou­ble Dutch

CRE­ATIVE DUO DE­SIGN BY TOKO BRING A THOUGHT­FUL AES­THETIC TO THEIR DY­NAMIC CRE­ATIVE PROCESS THAT SPANS ACROSS AR­CHI­TEC­TURE, FASH­ION, EX­HI­BI­TION DE­SIGN AND ARTIS­TIC COM­MENT, WRITES FREYA HER­RING. PHO­TOGRAPHED BY DAVE WHEELER.

VOGUE Living Australia - - Art & Design -

DE­SIGN BY TOKO is no or­di­nary Syd­ney graphic de­sign prac­tice. “We called it De­sign by Toko be­cause we be­lieve that de­sign is al­ways de­rived from con­cep­tual think­ing,” ex­plains Michael Lug­mayr, who founded the com­pany with life and busi­ness part­ner Eva Di­jk­stra. “We like to think that we can de­sign every­thing, so we get in­volved with ar­chi­tec­ture, we’re into ex­hi­bi­tion de­sign and even fash­ion.” Lug­mayr and Di­jk­stra founded De­sign by Toko in 2001 in the Nether­lands, where they were pre­vi­ously based. The word ‘toko’ comes from the many in­de­pen­dently owned In­done­sian shops in the Nether­lands known as tokos, and now ex­ists as a slang word mean­ing ‘in­de­pen­dent busi­ness’. Af­ter vis­it­ing Aus­tralia on a two-week hol­i­day, they de­cided to move them­selves and their busi­ness here per­ma­nently. “We fell in love with Syd­ney,” says Di­jk­stra. “We went back home and within two months we put our house on the mar­ket. It was a re­ally emo­tional de­ci­sion; a gut feel­ing.” To­day they live in Syd­ney’s Belle­vue Hill with their “big­gest project”, the cou­ple’s seven-month- old baby, Pip. “Syd­ney is just so beau­ti­ful and the life­style is so fan­tas­tic,” Di­jk­stra says. “That com­bi­na­tion is pretty unique.” Although much of their day-to-day busi­ness is fo­cused on graphic de­sign and brand­ing for such com­pa­nies as Cult, Os­car Wylee, the Pow­er­house Mu­seum, and Hansen and Søn, De­sign by Toko con­tin­ues to work out­side the realm of graphic de­sign. They re­cently col­lab­o­rated with Syd­ney’s Hill Street Precinct to make an artis­tic state­ment against the pro­lif­er­a­tion of de­signer copies. “We built this tower of replica fur­ni­ture to look like a bon­fire,” says Lug­mayr. “It started a dis­cus­sion ››

‹‹ about repli­cas and ref­er­ence cul­ture in gen­eral.” Di­jk­stra con­tin­ues. “It had lights un­der­neath and a smoke ma­chine, so it ac­tu­ally looked like it was on fire.” The duo also worked on the ex­hi­bi­tion and iden­tity de­sign for the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Ar­chi­tects at the 2012 Venice Ar­chi­tec­ture Bi­en­nale, cre­at­ing no­madic spa­ces of ex­change out of a rug dec­o­rated with the floor plan of the Aus­tralian Pav­il­ion. “On it we held dis­cus­sions and talks about ar­chi­tec­ture around the city,” Di­jk­stra says. The sub­ject of ar­chi­tec­ture holds a lot of weight for them. “We prob­a­bly love ar­chi­tec­ture more than we like graphic de­sign,” says Lug­mayr. “But what we both re­ally en­joy is sim­plic­ity,” says Di­jk­stra. “It starts with the con­cept and then it’s just a case of find­ing the purest form of that idea.” Lug­mayr adds, “The ma­jor­ity of the work we do is idea gen­er­a­tion. There are so many de­sign­ers out there, the only thing that can re­ally blos­som and be unique is a strong idea.” So how have th­ese guys con­tin­ued to cre­ate and in­no­vate to­gether for some two decades? It’s all about bal­ance. “Eva is amaz­ing at de­tail­ing, see­ing the big­ger pic­ture and hav­ing in­cred­i­ble, ex­cep­tional ideas,” says Lug­mayr. “Whereas I’m less in­ter­ested in the de­tails and more into a sim­pler, con­cep­tual think­ing. At the end of the day we just re­ally com­ple­ment each other.”

Visit de­sign­by­toko.com.

“The ma­jor­ity of the work we do is idea gen­er­a­tion. The only thing that can re­ally blos­som and be unique is a strong idea”

from left: in the stu­dio, Di­jk­stra (left) and Lug­mayr be­fore an art­work by Di­jk­stra; the ta­ble is self-de­signed; ‘Doll Steel’ chair by Emilio Nanni. Ex­am­ples of the pow­er­house cou­ple’s pre­vi­ous work.

Blue art­work by Di­jk­stra; ‘Con­corde’ ta­ble by Po­liform. clock­wise from top left: In the hall­way, art­works by Gio Schi­ano, Will Coles and Ni­cholas Krushenick. In the din­ing room, Hay side­board and ‘Dome’ lamp by Todd Bracher, both from Cult; art­works by An­dré He­mer and Louise Bly­ton. Posters in the Toko stu­dio. In the kitchen, art­work by Paul In­sect. In the liv­ing room, ‘Toro’ chair by Blu Dot; art­works by Otto Piene.

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