Dan Mikkin and design as a lifestyle
We are extremely pleased to start our journey as the brand Wuruhi by introducing you Dan Mikkin whose company – the Brand Manual – helped us develop our website’s vision, name, values, and strategy.
We first met Dan in Tallinn University where he was giving a lecture on company branding. This is where our common path to build up Wuruhi as you see it today all started. We especially respect and admire how instead of thinking of local Estonian design as something exclusive, Dan has made it an integral part of his lifestyle.
Amongst his peers and friends, Dan is known to love Estonian manors and the history they entail. Consequently, we decided to invite Dan to Kolga manor and have a chat about his philosophy, passions, and the importance of design in his life.
Who is Dan?
I’m a designer. Which means I like making sense of things. Taking somebody’s product or service and make it work better. Add a twist to it so that the thing rises to another level. Thinking it through and then executing meticulously. Meanwhile, taking life as a gift and enjoying it as much as I can.
Talk a bit about your work in Brand Manual and what other projects you are occupied with at the moment.
I started Brand Manual, a service design company, along with my jolly partners 8 years ago. Professionally, this takes most of my attention and time – I do exactly what I want with my life. I’m privileged to work with like-minded people day in and day out. Apart from that, I still have a restless mind and itchy fingers. I used to design many books in the past, just to get my mind off the commercial projects. Not so much nowadays, daily work is too much fun.
Apart from designing, I love to wander. To travel in Estonia and around the world on holidays, but even on business trips I never miss a chance to look around. I always carry my SLR camera along, taking visual notes. And there’s a relentless feed on my Instagram account @danmikkin.
Building design (a.k.a. architecture) and street views are my pet subjects. That has evolved into the Dozen project – photographing my home city Tallinn at 12 year intervals. I did the first round in 1998, re-shot exactly the same spots in 2010 (that became a public exhibition). Expect an update in 2022.
While enjoying this lifestyle I learned to appreciate stuff that performs. Stuff that is easy to use, doesn’t get in the way and doesn’t fall apart in a few months or years. Both while roaming the city streets or camping in the woods. And this no-nonsense stuff usually looks beautiful as well. I also appreciate a good story that goes along with these things. Stuff works better when someone has put their heart into it.
Personally and professionally, what is your vision and purpose?
I truly believe that I can make a difference. As a designer, I strive to make the world a better place. It sounds terribly idealistic, but life on Earth has never been better, thanks to the efforts of many idealists. There is still a lot to fix though, so we’re not running out of work.
I also think that the world is an amazing place as it is. There is still so much to see, so much to learn and observe. I’m quite aware that I know almost nothing and that keeps me thirsty.
What is design to you?
To me, design is solving somebody else’s task or problem: I sure do design for myself as well, but understanding the predicament of another person or company is what really drives me. Design combines rational thought process with aesthetic tools – so yes, well-designed things look neat. But there’s always a reason behind that beauty. Otherwise, it’s not designed, just embellished.
Because it is such a big part of your lifestyle, we in Wuruhi consider you an Ambassador of Estonian Design. How would you comment on that?
Estonia – my home – is the place I deeply care about. It’s quite a small country, so making a difference here is a comparatively easy task. I do what I can to promote business here, whether it’s technology, tourism or applied design. Fortunately, there has been an amazing rise in the creative industry in the past decade.
As a communicator, I’m well aware that you can’t truly praise anything without living it. So I guess that makes me an ambassador.
What makes Estonian design so special that you want to wear it? How does it make you feel?
Estonia has a deep tradition of craft to start with. It is also a very dynamic place, so this combination of openness, Nordic clean taste and attention to material and execution produces garments that are easy to love.
For me as a fashion consumer it is also a brilliant way to stand out. When everyone is wearing the same stuff from previously exclusive brands, clothing yourself in beautifully crafted pieces from the exotic Estonia really works.
How and when did you start wearing Estonian design? What was your first ever piece of Estonian design?
Well, it has been a roller coaster. First, there was not much choice; all you could wear was locally produced. Then the world opened up and it seemed really exciting to wear famous brands you previously could only see being worn in films. And then the Estonian production resurrected and folks around here started to appreciate it again.
Throughout these changes of attitude, I have always cherished a well-sewn suit – most of my sets have been Estonian. Somehow, they hang well on me and have that little twist I value.
I used to wear Everman in the 1990s, now it’s mostly Baltman (a bow to Antonio, their chief designer).
Which Estonian brands or design do you like to wear? How do you combine your outfits?
There are quite a few items by Reet Aus in my closet. She’s the champion of sustainable and responsible fashion, creating her pieces from the offcuts of the industry. She’s also very good at branding herself – without me having to wear a huge printed trademark on my chest.
I also appreciate the craft of the tongue-in-cheek jeans house, Reval Denim Guild. They are not shy on character.
Regarding accessories, Estonia has been a hub of good jewelers for a century. As a man I don’t feel comfortable wearing too much of it, but a few personal details have grown on me. It can be a ring by the grand old lady of goldsmiths Aino Kapsta or more contemporary items by Maria Valdma (a remake of my wedding ring). Or cufflinks by Tanel Veenre.
There’s also great stuff coming from Estonian leather smiths like Stella Soomlais.
On early flights, I wear an Ööloom sleeping mask (they call it a face blanket).
This question has become a tradition in Wuruhi, so here it goes: what book has inspired you the most?
There’s a book for every stage of my professional journey. One book has great significance right then and there and later another surpasses it. On a more universal scale – I guess ”The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams is one of the most basic texts I’ve read. Not one to take life too seriously.
What are your favourite quotes?
Not too good with quotes. The above-mentioned “Design is making sense of things” by Klaus Krippendorf is a good guide on my path. ”She may be right” is a great check of your empathy skills. I guess it can be attributed to Bill Bernbach. He definitely said:
”Word of mouth is the best medium of all”.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
From a distance, Voltaire seems like one of the sharpest pencils of them all. Reading books by different folks is quite a good substitute to actual conversations. Who knows how great personalities the people we admire or hate have, just by judging their public image or stuff they’ve said?
|PERSON||PHOTOGRAPHER||FASHION STYLIST||ASSISTANT||CLOTHES FROM||ACCESSORIES|
|Dan Mikkin||Arttu Karvonen||Alli-Liis Vandel||Anna Vandel||Baltman||Gvido, Ülle Kõuts|