About Miriam Trilety

Miriam Trilety is an artist, illustrator and psychotherapist. This diverse background merges in an extraordinary approach to arts and design, as her work shows a slightly odd habit of constantly observing and questioning everything in a quite ironical and satirical manner. Illustrations might seem just pleasantly beautiful at first but turn into sociopolitical statements at a second glance. Miriam Trilety’s designs challenge the viewer in his or her artistic perception while the discrepancy between graphic design and psychotherapeutic approach seem to blur.

Interview with Miriam Trilety

Miriam Trilety ("MT") interviewed on Sunday, 19 May.

Could you please tell us about your experience as a designer, artist, architect or creator?

MT : While studying philosophy I began to work on illustrations that originated in the philosophical lectures that I heard at the time. Both of my parents are academic philosophers. My father was a professor in theoretical physics, thus I came in touch with a humanistic environment at a young age. I was confronted early in life with philosophical, artistic and political issues. As part of my training as a graphic designer at Die Graphische (Graphic Design School) from 2002 till 2005 in Vienna, I was able to gradually test my technical skills and develop a certain personal style. Afterwards, I decided to train as a psychotherapist, where a creative approach has a strong influence on my therapeutic activity. I mainly work as a freelance graphic designer and an artist. However, I also completed remittance work for the University of Vienna, die Austrian Academy of Sciences, .akut Verein für Ästhetik und angewandte Kulturtheorie and the Zeichenfabrik Vienna.

How did you become a designer?

MT : To me, it is a way to personally process impressions of life and to critically and creatively deal with the world. In addition, I experience this kind of expression as a way to leave something in the world that does not reduce to purely genetic reproduction. I have always considered it important to make a choice on a voluntary basis, and that is what I did in becoming a graphic designer. I already felt the desire to express myself artistically as a student. To me, it was a kind of inner need to express myself artistically. I was aware from the beginning that I did not want to make a living as an ordinary commercial artist, as the freedom of creative expression was too important to me. As I did not have to earn money from the graphic design due to other career options (psychotherapy), I always had the choice to illustrate what I liked best and had hardly any pressure to submit to market conditions.

What are your priorities, technique and style when designing?

MT : Being able to embark on an inner design and change process, even if it means that the result of this process is not foreseeable. I often start my work without a specific goal and let the visual thinking process lead me to new designs. Only then will it become more concrete. Basically, this is a playful search process where my inner thoughts become visible to an outer audience in an illustration. In the beginning, I mainly worked with a pen and pencil, then started using Photoshop. Now I only work on the iPad Pro in Procreate. I have found the technique of my choice. However, I remember that I once wanted to take part in an illustration competition in Berlin. When I read the terms and conditions, it quickly became clear that only works on paper were accepted as originals, not digital illustrations. My illustrations were not even perceived as real graphics. Even prints on paper were rejected. I actually felt excluded as an illustrator.

Which emotions do you feel when designing?

MT : This is very different. Usually I work on a motive without interruption until it is done. That may be a few minutes, or hours, sometimes, but rarely, a few days. My designs are more eruptive and evolving in the moment, and then suddenly come to a standstill when I feel like there is nothing left to do. A feeling that is difficult to describe.

What particular aspects of your background shaped you as a designer?

MT : For example, I get a lot of inspiration from various philosophers, as well as from my very fascinating patients, who I love to work with. Besides treating patients in a psychiatric unit of a small upper austrian hospital i use my private practice and studio as a creative spot for illustration workshops. I also give classes in how to use procreate as an illustration tool. In terms of my artistic expression, William Kentridge, Alfred Kubin, Francisco de Goya, David Shrigley, David Hockney, James Victore and the »Gugginger Künstler« (Art Brut) are among a range of illustrators and artists who have had a great impact on my creative life.

What is your growth path? What are your future plans? What is your dream design project?

MT : I have always understood design as something that includes other areas of life and disciplines in the artistic process. Every engagement with life has an effect on our creativity and the way we see and deal with design. This is also the reason why I find the biographical component of each designer relevant. I find great pleasure in the work with my psychotherapy clients as we share an authentic exchange, which gives me impressions that I can later process and express in my creative work. I think the play between impressions and the freedom to process them through design will be my future focus. If this inspires customers or the design industry, I cannot predict, but I sure find creative pleasure in doing it.

What are your advices to designers who are at the beginning of their career?

MT : Live for the cause and enjoy the numerous and diverse creative results. There are no perfect solutions. Desires, ideas and expectations change, like our body. And do not throw away any designs, sometimes the seemingly unimportant notes or sketchy months or years later may be of interest to you.

You are truly successful as a designer, what do you suggest to fellow designers, artists and architects?

MT : Just do it, and dońt think about what may happen, or may not happen, as you never know. Love what you do and take yourself serious.

What is your day to day look like?

MT : Some days are scheduled around my psychotherapy work. On those days, I engage with my clients and patients. My routine as a designer is not clearly defined. There are days, on which I feel vulnerable and isolated, but these days sometimes bring out the best of my works. This is due to a flow, which allows me to forget the aesthetic criteria for a final product. Often times I have sudden impulses which I need to channel visually. If it is remittance work, I structure my day similar to the ones I spend at the clinic or my praxis. I get up early and concentrate on the development of an idea, which I then let sink, concretisise, revise, correct and in accord with the customers validate.

How do you keep up with latest design trends? To what extent do design trends matter?

MT : I love to research works by my designer colleagues online (social media) and be inspired. It is like browsing through a library full of books and magazines. A lot of work is already archived online which allows a certain flexibility and mobility in my research. I cannot say that I find trends particularly important as they are captures of moments at the end of the day. However, I allow myself to cite certain (past) trends every now and then.

How do you know if a product or project is well designed? How do you define good design?

MT : This question is very hard to answer, as our values and views on design are heavily influenced by our cultural background. The subjective and collective embedding in historical epochs is what I regard as an essentiality that has to be considered in regards of good design. Design does not happen free of its context. Every visual positioning is bound to references and historical contexts. What we experience as being beautiful is mostly what we have learned to be beautiful. However, every visual concept is build on the relations of form, material, color, structure, area or space. The relation of these elements could be understood as natural basic instances in the aesthetic process of perception and appraisal. Sagmeister & Walsh recently dealt with these aspects of aesthetic perception in their exhibition "Beauty" in Vienna.

How do you decide if your design is ready?

MT : This differs from motif to motif. I am a big fan of reduction. Sometimes less can express a lot. I would say if I find something coherent has a lot to do if the piece of art can be looked at from various perspectives. I oscillate between various perspectives and inner conditions, which function as validation. One of them is my inner critic, the other one, an affective disposition towards a certain topic, through which a relationship to the motif develops. This always means a certain kind of relation, which operates as a quality parameter.

What is your biggest design work?

MT : Interestingly I favor the work "Big Bang", that won the Bronze A'Design Award. It is the depiction of the climate crises with the motive of an explosive hand grenade filled with cars, through which a discomfort arises in the viewer. It is a feeling that a lot of people have when thinking of environmental changes.

Who is your favourite designer?

MT : James Victore, David Shrigley, Alfred Kubin, Amber Vittoria, Tara Booth, Malika Favre and many, many more.

Would you tell us a bit about your lifestyle and culture?

MT : Aesthetics have always been important to me; in regard to housing, movies, theatre, fashion but also in regard to stimulating intellectual content. Maybe this has something to do with proportions of space, form, structure, material and colour. They have a central influence on our well-being. I can say that certain creative inputs have an influence on my well-being even though they might be irritating as well. Looking at interesting images create a reflective process inside me, which are fantastic stimuli.

Would you tell us more about your work culture and business philosophy?

MT : As a psychotherapist, I believe in the vulnerability and resilience of the people. We all find ways to deal with the world in the best of our abilities. My way to deal with life and to help shape it is in the visual processing of all traces life leaves behind inside me. My visualisation process is just another form of answering as well as questioning life.

What are your philanthropic contributions to society as a designer, artist and architect?

MT : I teach at a training institute of fine arts in Vienna called Zeichenfabrik (www.zeichenfabrik.at). We have a constant artistic dialogue and exchange. Also, the collective, spontaneous and open engagement with other illustrators are very inspiring to me. I would like to offer more socio-critical illustrations and offer support to NGOs. A few years ago I developed a logo for a citizens´ initiative in Vienna, which supported an environmental area in the Danube region. The EU had planned to build a highway through this natural reserve. The initiative uses the logo till date and I experience a great feeling of ethical enrichment through it.

What positive experiences you had when you attend the A’ Design Award?

MT : I decided very spontaneously after being invited to submit my work to the A Design Award. I was uncertain if any of my work would be considered at all. I was thus thrilled to hear that three out of four nominations received an award. Which award position did not matter to me as all award winners are regarded as the best in the world and it is a great honour to be part of this wonderful experience. The participation at the A Design Aways is my first official participation at an international design competition.

Miriam Trilety Profile

Flip Flops Poster

Flip Flops Poster design by Miriam Trilety

Big Bang Poster

Big Bang Poster design by Miriam Trilety

The Thinker Poster

The Thinker Poster design by Miriam Trilety


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