Ones to Watch

Dispatch from Ukraine

Anna Carnick

“In the darkness, the light is most visible.

Like their fellow citizens, Ukrainian designers and architects are responding to the intensifying war in their homeland with perseverance and resolve. We reached out to multiple studios—some who remain in Ukraine and some working abroad—to learn more about how we can best support the Ukrainian design community now.

Across the board, they tell us that Russian forces are targeting Ukrainians’ heritage and identity as part of Putin’s larger attempt to deny Ukraine’s right to sovereignty. As a form of resistance and show of solidarity, allies are asked to familiarize themselves with Ukraine’s rich creative culture—listening to, learning from, and engaging Ukrainian creatives at this crucial historical moment. Read on for more in their own words.


1. Kateryna Sokolova, NOOM & SOKOLOVAKateryna Sokolova; Photo courtesy of the designer

Tell us a bit about your practice and what youre presently working on.

I am an industrial designer from Ukraine, co-founder and creative director of the design company NOOM and SOKOLOVA design studio. My scope is broad, related to all spheres of industrial design—from furniture, lighting, and decor to hardware, electronics, and the environment.

By the end of the summer, NOOM plans to launch a children's furniture collection based on our existing Gropius series. As well, we are currently developing a new collection of armchairs, sofas, vases, and lamps, which we’re planning to present in the fall.

Top: Low Gropius Chair CS1 by NOOM in bouclé | Bottom: Sokolova’s recently designed Military Gropius Chair is covered in the same netting Ukrainian volunteers weave for camouflage needs in the rear and front lines of the war. The piece was crafted specially for the 2022 exhibition, <a href="" target=”_blank” >Ukraine: Design for Real Time</a>. Photos © Katerina Sokolova

What would you most like to say to the international design community at this moment?

Ukraine has a lot of designers that create modern, timeless pieces. Discover them.

For many, I realize, Ukraine is terra incognita; so much of our cultural history has been stolen by Russia. The main task for all Ukrainian designers and creative people, in general, is not only to promote their own work abroad but to tell the world about Ukrainian identity, creativity, and our strong character and cultural heritage.

NOOM’s Freyja Tables and Gropius Sofa; Photos courtesy of NOOM

How can the global design community best support the people of Ukraine right now?

I ask interior designers, decorators, and architects to start exploring Ukrainian design; you will be surprised how many highly original and creative products we have. And perhaps next time you think about buying from a big brand, stop yourself and consider Ukrainian design instead, which is as good as Italian, Dutch, or French.

We encourage global citizens to support Ukraine by spending with Ukrainian businesses and particularly buying from Ukrainian designers. Kyiv-based studio O0 Design even launched a campaign called Spend With Ukraine, which introduces the world to a group of Ukrainian businesses that sell globally–and encourages people to spend with them. Help us fight the darkness; to spend with Ukraine is to stand with Ukrainians.


2. Ruda Studio

From left: Cofounders Oleksandra Rudenko and Yurii Vovnyanko of Ruda Studio; Photos courtesy of Ruda Studio

Tell us about your practice.

Ruda Studio is a multidisciplinary design studio with its own atelier, the core of which works in the ancient technique of straw marquetry. Ukrainian straw is a symbol of the fertility of our land. The studio revives old Ukrainian crafts and creates collectible objects for everyday life.

 Top: Ruda’s Natūra cabinet “in the color of the Black Sea,” composed of solid oak wood, brushed brass, and inlaid with painted straw. | Bottom: Solomia Cabinet in oak and Ukrainian straw. Photos courtesy of Ruda Studio

Since the beginning of the war, our studio has stayed in Ukraine, in the city of Odessa on the Black Sea. Our entire team continues to work, both to represent Ukraine and to tell the story of Ukrainian culture through our objects.

In the darkness, the light is most visible, so in times of turmoil we need more optimism. We are currently developing new collections inspired by the concepts of home, roots, warmth and security.

Ruda’s Natūra Cabinet—this one in the colors of the forest—is handmade of solid oak, polished brass, and inlaid with straw in a gradient ranging from “earth black to golden wheat.” Photo courtesy of Ruda Studio

What would you like to say to the international design community at this moment?

First of all, we want to thank you for your support. It is now very clear that design is a language of communication, a language of attitude, self-determination, and strength.

We call on the design community to support us so we can do what we do best—design a peaceful and highly cultural environment, despite all the difficulties.


3. Andriy and Olesya Voznickis, Natura Ceramica

Husband-and-wife team Andriy and Olesya Voznickis of Natura Ceramica; Photo courtesy of the artists

Tell us a bit more about your practice.

We are a small family studio creating ceramics inspired by nature, bionic architecture, and our Ukrainian heritage. Prior to the war, our studio was based in the historic center of Uzhhorod; presently, we are in Amsterdam where we continue to produce work. We experiment with materials and textures, create unique objects from clay, wood, and stone by imitating and reassessing nature. At the moment, we are concerned with such questions as the search for truth, rethinking values, and harmony with nature in the spiritual plane.

Work by Natura Ceramica; Photos courtesy of the artists

Our latest Gonta vase series are inspired by ancient Carpathian and modern bionic architecture. We use wood from old shingle roofs and casks that have their own history. Gonta is the name of  a tapered wooden shingle typical of the Carpathian region of Ukraine. When traveling through the old villages in Karpaty and observing the architecture, we felt the magnetism of old wooden roofs marked by time. Simultaneously, we realized this era is vanishing, and felt the urge to preserve it in our art.

Gonta by Natura Ceramica; Photos courtesy of the artists

What would you like to say to the international design community at this moment?

We wish the design community would focus more attention on the unprecedented environmental and ethical problems of today.


4. Alexey Gulesha, Sivak + Partners

From left: Sivak + Partners’ Alexey Gulesha, Dmitry Sivak, and Maksym Iuriichuk; Photos courtesy of Sivak + Partners

Please tell us a bit about your studio.

We are a team of architects and designers from Ukraine, and we usually do private architecture and interior design projects. We provide our services all over the world, but now we decided to focus on the USA and South America because we lost almost all of our local projects. Our work is now present in New York and it feels like the land of opportunity welcomed us well.

 Top: Sivak + Partners’ designs for an IT-company office (left) and a private apartment (right), both in Kyiv | Bottom: Beach Hotel in Odessa; Photos courtesy of Sivak + Partners

What would you like to say to the international design community at this moment?

It feels like we live in a moment of history when the values are changing very fast. To be surrounded by nice, close people became more important than being successful and rich. And I think that the focus of the design research and evolution should be moved to covering these needs.

How can the global design community best support the people of Ukraine right now?

We need to understand that we can’t stand against challenges like war separately. When an atomic bomb flies into your country, it doesn’t matter what community you are from. We are all humans and we all want to live in peace and happiness. We need to do ALL that we can to stop terrorism and genocide. Nobody should be allowed to do the things that Russia does every day with my country and my citizens. We need to not just support people who fled but stand strong against people who are the reason why others had to flee.

We need to give all the support to the ones who stand against aggression and ban all the things which allow the aggressor to do what he does. They need to feel how alone they are with their aggression in a world, where peaceful and free people live.


5. Nikita Bukoros

Nikita Bukoros; Photo courtesy of the designer

Please tell us a bit about your practice and what you're presently working on.

I graduated with an architecture degree in 2012, and have been working as an industrial designer since 2014. During this time I have had experience working on various projects in different areas, including furniture, gadgets, accessories, tools, appliances, sports equipment. I also do a lot of commissions as a 3D artist, various AR, and VR experiences, and related tasks. For now I keep working on industrial design projects with Ukrainian companies.

Top: Bukoros’s 7.1 chair for EMKO | Bottom: Mibster Chair by Nikita Bukoros for Tenjam; Photos courtesy of the designer

What would you most like to say to the international design community right now?

War makes you look at a lot of things differently.

Even though everything you’ve done in the past seems suddenly pointless, it’s also a good chance to reconsider what really matters and what isn’t worth years of your life.

Speaking to the international community, the world is changing intensively today, and it is worth looking at your activities through this lens. Make projects and your life resilient, antifragile, and sustainable.  Think not about today and yesterday, but about tomorrow.

How can the global design community best support the people of Ukraine right now?

The best support is communication. Keep Ukrainian designers included in the global agenda. Ukrainians are very hardworking and imaginative, and Ukraine has a story to tell. ◆


Our sincere thanks to all the designers and architects featured here for their participation. Check out our first Dispatch from Ukraine, featuring 5 additional, outstanding Ukrainian studios, by clicking here. Below you can find some designer-recommended ways to support Ukrainian citizens right now:

  • Peremebli: Furniture for Temporary Housing in Ukraine
  • MetaLab
  • Kharkiv School of Architecture 
  • UNICEF Donation Drive for Ukrainian Children
  • Spend with Ukraine
  • Be An Angel