It seems like there isn’t a new bar or restaurant in Budapest that Eszter didn’t leave her mark on. Literally.
She is just as passionate about gastronomy as about design, and the best proof of that is her recently released – and since sold out – book, Menü. A visual treat, and food for your soul, Menü became an instant hit.
We recently spoke to Balázs Glódi about the release of your book Menü, which you worked on along with Kamilla Mihály. What was it like to work together in this capacity?
I’ve known Balázs for 3 years now, and we started a very intense work-vibration from the beginning. We went to Asia together twice for months and we realised that my graphics go really well with his photos and that we know what the other wants even with closed eyes. I absolutely love all his work, especially when it comes to gastronomy.
We noticed, while in Asia, that other than the overall culture of a certain country we were mainly interested in their food and the eating habits of the ordinary people. I started to make these Moleskine notebook sketches from country to country and he was taking photos. After many trips we started to see the outline of a book. We had requests from other people before to create a book, which was good, but we wanted our own book. One where we didn’t have to follow someone’s wishes which we might not like, and we can make it about what we want and how we want it. It became evident that we need to make a book about our friends who are seriously into gastronomy, but also active in other fields. People who already have or are planning to open a restaurant.
It wasn’t really a question who would write the book. We both immediately thought about Kamilla, and she got so involved that the whole thing soon became a reality.
We started to work on it at the end of March/beginning of April 2014, but we didn’t have a structure for it and didn’t know what’s going to happen. We knew we wanted a book where the recipes are very important, but the living spaces and milieu are even more important.
The first photo shoot was in April and from then on it got more and more intense. First we had one or two shoots per week and later we even had two a day. All of them were wonderful experiences! You go visit your friends, who sometimes are not necessary your closest ones, but they were just as direct and welcoming.
We finished all the photos by mid-summer, and Kamilla was writing the words in parallel to keep all the experiences fresh. After that we started to put the book together.
You’ve mentioned Asia, but you’ve been to a lot of other interesting places as well. How do your travels effect your work?
Traveling is very addictive thing, because other than being a huge inspiration, this is the only opportunity to not work. I can’t not work in Budapest. When you travel it’s a bit easier not to, especially if you don’t take a laptop with you.
A thousand years old hand-painted sign in Cambodia can inspire me even if I can’t read it or understand it. Its obscurity is what makes it exciting.
Every trip has a point though, where we go to a place to see it from a design perspective. For example, we went to a design studio in Vietnam, because I heard about them before and I really liked their work, so I sent a message to them saying “Hey, your stuff is cool, can we visit you for a chat?” We had a similar experience in Singapore too. I think it’s a very important part of a hedonistic trip to break it up a bit. It’s a professional addition to the trip which you can later put back into your work.
Where do you get more commissions from, Hungary or abroad?
It’s varies really.. It’s hard to say no to any of them. My biggest problem is to realise the point when you have to put up the “We are full” sign and say no to a project. So when it comes to work from abroad I only pick the few that are close to my heart and very exciting, and I work on those very happily. Sadly there are a lot of requests coming in from Behance where they send it out to 80+ designers from countries that are more to the east, the only thing that matters is the lowest price, and they don’t reply to you again.
When it comes to local work, I’m trying to keep the valuable ones. Positive feedback feels really good. You can’t top the feeling of seeing a place in the city that you designed. Although it was also awesome when I once designed a concept store in Miami, but I’ve never been there before up until recently when I was coming back from Peru and had a connecting flight there and 10 hours to waste with Gergő (Szőke). We got out of the airport and the owner of the place picked us up and took us to the store. And there it was, my design from a year and a half ago. I have clients from abroad who we became friends with. Their attitude is usually a bit different. They respect you more as a designer.
I would really love it if we could stay in Hungary but if things were better. Flatlab is perfect even in the long-run. It’d be great to expand the space physically as well, and there are plans for that already. I think Budapest is a very exciting stage professionaly at the moment. All of a sudden everyone started to open up new places, suddenly everyone is interested in design. There is definitely a buzz going around, but at the same time when I look at the politics I just want to pack up and leave. If the two were balanced, it would be the perfect place to be.
Do you have a favourite work?
This book (Menü). Right now it’s very easy to say that this is my favourite, but obviously it’s always the latest projects I’ve been working on. I have a lot of projects I’m proud of: Tokio, Terminál, Kolor. It’s a really cool feeling to go to a place that you worked on, although I don’t go to places I designed too often because usually I’m just bouncing back and forth between my apartment and Flatlab. As cool as it is you can’t even compare this feeling to creating something for yourself. You feel a sense of ownership with both, but stamping every single copy of your own book by hand is something way more special.
What are your plans for the future?
There are a lot of ongoing projects that will peak later this year.
Opening a place is in the pipeline as well, but obviously with other people who know more about hospitality than me, and don’t just approach it from a logo perspective.
We also had this ongoing joke while working on Menü, that “Yeah we will leave this for the second book”, and although we don’t know what’s going to happen to these 1,000 copies, we hope it will be a successful project, because there is potential in making a second one, especially since we had to leave out a lot of people because of the space, and all of us had a list of people who we were heartbroken to leave out. So this can be on the horizon.
But my biggest goal is to be able to manage my time!
Since the interview, Menü became a very successful book and all 1,000 copies quickly sold out.