Q&A with Sonya Dyakova of Atelier Dyakova

Renowned Creative Director Sonya Dyakova of Atelier Dyakova talks to ABDA about all things book design and her day-to-day routines at her studio space in South East London.

Tell us about your typical journey to work.
A short two-stop train journey and a peaceful walk through a gorgeous Southwark park. I love London for its green spaces. On the way to the studio I pass a pond with ducks and geese. So I arrive in the studio in a good mood. We recently moved into a new space in Bermondsey, a brilliant area for food, and art (White Cube gallery is around the corner).

We just installed brand new Vitsoe shelves over an entire wall, I can not tell you how much satisfaction I found in putting all the books in their place. Dotted around there are plants and a few objects — like a reel of twine (quite useful).
Here you can find numerous paper samples and swatch books that we use nearly every day. And then of course books…titles that we have designed and many others.
Mostly on art, design, textiles, architecture… food and photography.

Two books by Paul Arden that really get my brain in gear when I need a spark.
Sophie Calle
Bruno Munari: Air Made Visible

Which recent book project has been a standout to you and why? 
Alexandre Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky

This publication was released in conjunction with the exhibition ‘From the Stony River to the Sky’ at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, which presented over 80 pieces, including large-scale outdoor works, set within the gardens at Durslade Farm.

The book features a special binding which enables the physical division and clarity between two parts: the illustrated essays and the installation images of the exhibition. Normally swiss binding is positioned at the start of the book but here we placed it in the centre.

The cover is made of a rough tactile material with a texture reminiscent of stone surface, it is die cut to reveal a flash of colour and foil blocked.

Which book was most inspirational to you as an emerging book designer?
— Annelies Štrba: Shades of Time, 1997 Lars Muller
— Andrei Tarkovsky — Sculpting in Time (Russian “Запечатлённое время”, literally “Depicted Time“) is a book by Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky about art and cinema in general, and his own films in particular.
— Marc Chagall — My life / autobiography
— Le Corbusier: XX Century Architecture. Progress Publishing 1970

None of these books are about graphic design, and I think this is an important nuance.

You began your career working in San Francisco.
How does that experience compare with working as a book designer in London, where you are currently based?
There was a very different feel to it. In San Francisco I didn’t have a close relationship with books yet, I was exposed to a great deal of various experiences / training and projects, all of which were of course invaluable. It’s all about finding what you love and how you can make a living out of it. The only books I worked on in San Francisco were self-initiated college projects, which were very important. I didn’t find the equivalent of that in the ‘real’ world after graduation and set out to find that elsewhere. In London I found connection to the ideals I believed in: authenticity, typographic rigour, design being an experience, something you live through rather than a job.

How did you know it was time to start your own studio?
How do we know anything… Always intuition. You sort of feel your next steps, and wait for the right moment. After gaining some experience working within design studios as well as a publishing house Phaidon, I seemed independence, and was earning for definition of my own voice. Working with Frieze magazine was the beginning of that and propelled me to start on my own.

And what experience did you draw from your time with Phaidon Press?
I learned the dynamics of publishing, about the roles of editorial decisions vs marketing, I learned how to look at a book and review it, looking at overall concept down to minute details, checking that all elements had a meaning and reason to be there. I treasure the time when Alan Fletcher was the creative director and all the wonderful creative people I have met whist working there. It was intense period in my life, but I would not change a single detail.

Can you describe how you balance book design and branding projects in your studio practice?
We have had wonderful brand identity commissions and we would love to have more. Recently we have completed a brand identity for Hauser & Wirth Publishers, and one of the biggest identity commissions we’ve have had was LEMAIRE https://atelierdyakova.com/Lemaire-Paris a Paris-based clothing and fashion brand. We’ve worked on the re-brand of The Wapping Project https://atelierdyakova.com/The-Wapping-Project

As always we have a lot of editorial projects in the studio, which we enjoy immensely — we welcome branding projects into our practice. I would say we have a different approach on identities than perhaps an agency that only tends to do branding, as we are exposed to art so much and work with an editorial hat on, I’d say we have a multi-faceted and open mind.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
All of it!
Visiting Renzo Piano and having a tour of his studio
Visiting Gilbert & George in their home
Working with Alan Fletcher, Amanda Renshaw, Richard Schlagman and Emilia Terragni
Grand Prix from Tokyo Type Directors Club
Meeting Araki
Being art director for Hauser & Wirth
Re-branding Lemaire, Paris
Becoming AGI member
Finding great collaborators and team.
Always combining work and leisure — recent trip to LA
Having dinner with Ferran Adria
Visiting Noma’s fermentation lab
Working with illustrators blexbolex, Paula Troxler, Jeffrey Fischer,
Meeting Karel Martens
Working with furniture gallery

What are you most looking forward to this week?
Getting the green light for our Donald Judd book concept from Galerie Ropac, which is a bit experimental and is an interesting physical and tactile object. We have been working closely and exchanging ideas with the artist’s son, Flavin Judd, which is quite exciting.

How do you typically unwind at the end of the week?
With a cocktail in hand and a good friend.
Dancing in the kitchen with my 3 and 8 year old to some atrocious pop.