The design team Iskos-Berlin was founded in 2010 in Copenhagen by the two established designers Aleksej Iskos, born in 1965 in Kharkiv, and Boris Berlin, born in 1953 in St. Petersburg.
Boris Berlin is a graduate of the Institute of Applied Arts and Design, St. Petersburg (Leningrad). Aleksej Iskos has studied at Danmarks Designskole, Institute of Industrial Design; Kharkiv National University of Pedagogics, Department of Artistic Education; Kharkiv State Technical University of Building and Architecture, Architecture Department.
Boris is already well known as one half of the design team Komplot Design which, over the years, has received numerous international design awards for many products.
It is, in fact, Komplot Design that first brought Boris Berlin and Aleksej Iskos together. They have known each other for around 15 years since Aleksej first began to work as a trainee at Komplot Design and then, for a further 11 years, as an assistant.
They decided to establish the Iskos-Berlin design team because they enjoy collaborating on projects and because their cooperation “swings”(like a jazz-tune).
The fact that both of them were born in what was then the Soviet Union may or may not have something to do with that...
As individuals, however, they differ in some respects. Aleksej is impatient, egocentric and lazy – everything you need to be a good designer. Boris, on the other hand, is tenacious and patient, selfless and industrious. So the two complement each other well.
Their inspiration just comes from… nowhere. Or everywhere. From nature and lively conversations, art exhibitions, architecture, materials and technologies, from spending a lot of time in production facilities and factories, from production-line rejects and waste…
They see design much like the art of storytelling. The clearer your story is, the greater the chance is that people will understand it. The more surprising the point you make, the greater the chance is that people will love it. And “please, don’t be too serious! Don’t forget a sense of humour!” If you love Woody Allen, you’re perfectly placed in the target group for Iskos-Berlin.
When designing their first product for Blå Station, they focused on the imperfect, on what can happen if you let go. Design is normally preoccupied with the idea of having full control over functions, forms, materials and so on. This striving to control your surroundings is probably a typical trait of western culture, encapsulating both its strength and its downfall. But why not be more forgiving and let materials behave as they “want” to behave according to their nature? Why not give an object the freedom to be “abnormal”? To be unique?
The result was Spook – a statement of opposition to the masculine striving for the submission of material, for overall perfection that tolerates no disobedience, no mistakes. A flat felt mat, draped into a three-dimensional shape, creates natural folds that later stiffen in the production process – folds that never twice fall in quite the same way. Each chair, being almost the same, becomes different.
When asked if they could name a designer they appreciate, they replied, “Probably God! (If you can imagine God as a designer) His design is not perfect. Sometimes it’s superfluous, sometimes it borders on the bizarre. But what an imagination! What a variety of solutions for the same basic functions!”