'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio

designboom visits Aristotelis Barakos at his athens studio

 

Meet Aristotelis Barakos, an award-winning product designer based in Athens. Thoughtful and dedicated, he works across scales with a hands-on approach to creative problem-solving and strategic design methodologies. Aristotelis spent his early years in Munich, raised in a family of tailors, before moving to the Greek capital at the age of ten, where he assimilated to different cultural influences and eventually majored in the sciences. ‘I initially studied Physics at the University of Athens. However, my aptitude for making things made me realize that design was my true calling,’ he tells designboom during our visit to his studio. From there, he began developing his penchant for prototyping and materials, collaborating with a growing network of artisans and experts to create lighting pieces, furniture, and more. 

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
product designer Aristotelis Barakos at his Athens studio | image © Ioanna Jejoumi

 

 

a thoughtful product designer with a wide reach

 

Aristotelis Barakos (see more here) designs a wide range of products, from decorative items, lights and everyday objects to state-of-the-art tech devices and systems. Constantly embracing new challenges, his collaborations span Greek and international companies, as well as start-ups. In 2019, he established his very own studio with a vision to create honest, functional, and good designs that bring a smile to people’s faces. Exemplifying that vision are his whimsical Théros lamps and a recent collaboration with Aumorfia, which brought to life a collection of leather-wrapped lighting pieces. designboom spoke with Aristotelis, who walked us through his unexpected journey into product design, his studio’s latest collections, his inspiration, and much more. Read our full interview below. 

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
Théros – lighting collection | image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

 

 

interview with Aristotelis Barakos

 

designboom (DB): Tell us about your background. How did you get into product design? When did you open your studio and what were you doing before?

 

Aristotelis Barakos (AB): I initially studied Physics at the University of Athens. However, my aptitude for making things made me realize that design was my true calling. To pursue this new path, I worked as a technician for a studio that specialized in special constructions for the film industry. This role helped me gain valuable experience in prototyping and creative problem-solving. My passion for envisioning and creating, together with my curiosity to constantly learn about production techniques and experiment with materials, led me to study Industrial Design. One year after my graduation, I worked for a technology startup based in San Francisco, where I designed a technology gadget that gained significant attention from media and backers in the US. During this project, I had the opportunity to travel to China and stay there for six months. I worked on the product’s development process, oversaw mechanical engineering and production preparations, visited large factory facilities, and learned a great deal about mass manufacturing.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
image © Ioanna Jejoumi

 

 

Afterwards, I worked in-house for about two years at a biotechnology startup named Pnoe Analytics. This role lasted until the end of 2018 when the idea of creating an independent design studio in Athens was born. I opened my first studio workshop in one of the most central parts of Athens at the beginning of 2020 – in a half-empty office building. Just three years later, in 2023, we moved our studio to a bright, sunny ground floor space, also in the center of the capital. The new location combines everything we need: an office space, a workshop, and a showcase area where we meet with clients and partners.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
Hecate – lighting collection made of leather | image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

 

 

DB: You have a way of linking each of your designs with a special story. How does your design process evolve? Do you find inspiration in stories and myths of the past and then move onto the design, or is it the other way around? What inspires you?

 

AB: The inspiration process is not linear for me. Sometimes, a design idea comes first, and as I work on it, I discover a story that fits perfectly with the visual elements I’m developing. Other times, a story ignites the entire design process from the start. Research is a crucial step in my process. I delve into the historical and cultural context of the story to ensure authenticity and depth in my design. Besides stories and myths, I find inspiration in nature, art, architecture, and everyday life experiences. The key is to remain open and curious, constantly observing and seeking connections between the world around us and the narratives we hold dear.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
inside Barakos’ workspace | image © Studio Aristotelis Barakos

 

 

DB: How did the idea of the Théros lighting collection come about? How has the collection evolved? 

 

AB: While growing up in Munich, Germany, I used to visit Greece, my paternal homeland, with my family for the holidays. Flashbacks and sensations from that period of my life associated with these trips, like the dazzling sun and the heat of Athens, still bring memories and drive inspiration. The remainder of the strong gush of hot air as we exited the airplane, the dry grass lining the country roads, and the blinding Mediterranean light made me squint for days and, to this day, brought comfort. The Théros project evokes these sensations through objects and experiences, coming from the surprise and comfort I felt as a child during my summer holidays.

 

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image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

 

The Théros collection consists of a series of tabletop lamps, each a poetic design gesture that combines a clean-cut, balanced form with a personal, heartfelt story. The lamps’ adorable figures evoke in all their simplicity the image of a person in the sun, narrating a timeless story of peaceful holidays basking in soothing, milky sunlight. Part of the lamps’ attractiveness is their strong personality, which is elegant and understated yet at the same time playful, lovable, and cheerful. Each lamp’s body is made of marble, its head an opaque glass sphere, and the lampshade a handmade straw hat. The hat whimsically rests on the glass sphere and can move freely in any direction, creating different lighting conditions. The tilt and position of the hat change the mood of the lamp completely. The marble bases and straw lampshades are made locally in collaboration with small workshops, focusing on Greek craftsmanship and strengthening the objects’ sense of origin.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
Théros – marble body with opaque glass sphere and handmade straw ‘hat’ | image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

 

 

In 2021, I was invited to participate in KERAMIKO DESIGN, a ceramics exhibition, for which I commissioned a friend, ceramicist Giannis Zois, to reinterpret the lighting objects using materials and techniques of his own craft. The deep red color of the ceramic bases is a reference to terracotta, a material widespread around the Mediterranean and, therefore, a natural addition to the project. Théros is a project that will be evolving constantly, based on a methodology of collaboration and a vision to reveal the potential of small local workshops and artisans. I am already working on exploring different materials and crafts that are characteristic in the Mediterranean for future collaborations.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
image © Ioanna Jejoumi

 

DB: How important are collaborations for you? How do you choose your collaborators?

 

AB: Collaborations are incredibly important to me as a designer. They bring fresh perspectives, new skills, introduce me to materials I am not familiar with, and innovative ideas that can significantly enhance the creative process and the final design. Creating with others urges a dynamic exchange of thoughts and expertise, which often leads to groundbreaking and unique outcomes that are difficult to achieve on my own. From my point of view, collaborations are about the personality of the artist I’m working with. It’s essential to have a smooth and more cohesive collaboration. I always seek collaborators with whom I share values and have the passion and willingness to push boundaries.

 

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image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

 

DB: Tell us about Hecate, your most recent project. What was your experience in working with leather?

 

AB: Hecate is the result of my collaboration with the founder of Aumorfia, leather designer Theano Ravazoula-Potamianou. Theano approached me in order to work and create together and introduced me to a totally new but fascinating world: the craft of leather. Leather’s rich texture ability, which is able to transform and elevate even the simplest designs into luxurious pieces, is what inspired me most. The idea behind the design is to use the materials’ strength and flexibility. Inspired by symmetrical geometric principles, Hecate’s collection design is a visual and structural expression of equilibrium. A tabletop, floor, and pendant lamp are meticulously handcrafted from pieces of sumptuous leather and stitched along the edges to form a modern interpretation of a tripod with a radiant sphere suspended within. Three curved leather pieces circumscribe three circles and cradle an illuminated opaline sphere at their centre.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
Bonbon armchair | image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

 

 

The result is a mesmerizing abstraction that evokes both the mystical symbolism of the three-faced ancient Greek goddess Hecate and the celestial dance of the moon. In order to achieve this, we did numerous tests to find the right type of leather with both the strength and flexibility to create this form. Each piece is handcrafted in Athens – from the leather tanning process all the way to the final piece. We work with local leather artisans and craftsmen to convey our common vision of combining contemporary aesthetics and to maintain an artisanal spirit. One remarkable insight I found during this collaboration is that the small industrial area in Athens, where our tanner is based, hosted a thriving community of more than 100 factories in the 1950s. Today, only 25 of them still operate. That is both distressing but also an inspiration and a motive to create.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
image © Ioanna Jejoumi

 

 

DB: Beyond lighting design, what are some of your favorite projects you have worked on over the years?

 

AB: One of my favorites is the Bonbon, a collection of three seats: a sofa, an armchair, and an ottoman. I created this collection with a small upholstering workshop in Athens with bold, uniform colours and an emphasis on texture and construction details. The idea here was to create different seats that offer comfort and pleasure and are almost addictive to touch, based on the philosophical theory of cuteness (Kindchenschema) by the Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz. This theory states that there are particular proportions and features that create positive emotions in humans. Our collaboration with Gousdovas Upholstery Workshop was from creating the concept to developing the inner structure and upholstering techniques.

 

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image © Studio Aristotelis Barakos

Another beautiful project is the design of the ceramic bottle for Dia Elis, an award-winning extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) produced in the historic region of Elis in western Peloponnese. Ms. Dimitra, the olives groves owner, a biology high school teacher, came in contact with me to design the bottle for the exquisite olive oil she produces at a family-owned olive tree farm. Aiming for simplicity and elegance, we created a minimal, sculptural bottle inspired by the ancient Doric columns found at Elis’s formidable temples and gymnasia. G Design Studio, an Athens-based consultancy completed the project through visual identity and packaging.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
ceramic EVOOO packaging for Dia Elis | image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

 

 

DB: What are you working on at the moment?

 

AB: Currently, we are immersed in several exciting projects that are almost breaking the borders of our creative and design capabilities. First and foremost I’m focusing on developing my brand even further, working diligently to expand our studio editions to more categories. We ensure each piece maintains the brand’s aesthetic signature and quality while creating synergies and partnerships into new and exciting projects. Another significant project we are working on is the bespoke design for a lamp to be placed in the suites of an upcoming 5-star resort in Southern Greece. 

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
image © Studio Aristotelis Barakos

 

 

That is an inspiring collaboration with the resort owner to create unique pieces, not only functional but also pieces of art, using locally collected materials to support regional craftsmanship. We are also engaged in the creative process of a premium marble furniture brand, yet it is still not presented publicly. That includes assembling a team of exceptional professionals who are developing a cohesive visual language and brand identity reflecting the luxury and sophistication of the marble manufacturer. Of course, I have several new collections designed exclusively for them.

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
Taco de Luz Grande – lighting collection | image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

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image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
Taco de Luz – lighting collection | image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

'the key is to remain curious' — meeting designer aristotelis barakos at his athens studio
image © Studio Aristotelis Barakos

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Sermon – candle holder | image © Giorgos Vitsaropoulos

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