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Prof. Zoltán Csordás


“You never know from which direction the Muse’s tractor runs over you.”

Zoltán Csordás graduated as a Graphic Designer in Graphic Design major of Hungarian University of Fine Arts. He is awarded with the Golden Drawing Pin, a professor at our Graphic Design BA and MA, a professional mentor of international students, the founder of MATT, one of the masterminds behind “Utcahossz” project, the designer of countless images. Csordi. 

What are you involved in? 
In connection with my profession I am involved in three different things: I’m a freelance graphic artist, I teach at METU and I am a PhD student at MOME PhD school. 

Which field of graphics, which use, or style do you feel close to?
I mostly have jobs in connection with visual images, that is what I am mainly interested in but I also love designing posters. Besides images and logos probably most of my work means posters. I also design books which poses a totally different kind of challenge. I have made cookbooks and bedtime tales for kids. Currently I am designing a bedtime story book. At the same time, I am involved in another book on cooperation between human groups. I hope not only the content, but the form will be extraordinary as well. 

I can also mention web design, applied design, TV programmes’ main titles, exhibition images. I believe I have covered almost every aspect of graphic design in my career in the past 30 years but the first few mentioned are the ones I feel the closest to. Styles do not occupy me really, or not in particular. What I am mostly interested in is that the work done is done the best I can, it reaches its goal and expresses a strong thought. The thought is the most important, all the rest can come after that.

What appealed to you most in this specialist field?
What I enjoy most in graphic design is that it can reach a lot of people therefore I can pass on what I think of visuality to far more people. The best part of image design is that a complex system can be created from scratch. And it would be pointless to deny that I love dealing with logos.  My family could tell more stories about it.

The applied or the autonomous genre is the one that you feel closer to?
I love both: to do the applied one and to see the autonomous one. These are two very different things.

When you are involved in the process of creating something, where do you get impulses from? Where do you start from?
I start the job by doing research and I try to gather the most possible information and later I can freely arrange these in my head. I rarely draw. While I am thinking I mostly scribble down words and take notes. When I start to draw, it usually has some definite conceptual basis and aim. Apart from that, an impulse can come from any direction. Once a faded shower head gave the best inspiration, another time an island cut into two parts. You never know from which direction the Muse’s tractor runs over you.

Could you tell us something about the thinking and creative process you use when making a piece of art? What was your favourite piece of work? Why?
I sit down, arrange information and I think. Sometimes I write down a word on the piece of paper in front of me.  Have a cup of tea. There is nothing interesting in it from the outside, but from the inside the initial chaos can be quite scary. Every single time I figure out that so far I have just been lucky and this is the moment when it turns out that I am just an untalented amateur. Usually this process goes on at night I do not have the time to collapse during the day.

I have a lot of favourite pieces of work, some have never been realized. I would not like to highlight any in particular, but probably I prefer those which have some kind of a social benefit. Or at least the primary aim of them was that. 

What was your last piece of work? And what are you working on right now?
My latest piece of work is in connection with a previously created image. I made a catalogue for precious wood.  Currently I am designing an image related to culture and also working on the previously mentioned books as well as re-designing painting restorers’ websites. And I have just finished a purposely-designed teaching material for young water-polo players. 

When did you make a decision that you would like to teach along with having an art career?
I do not have an art career, the way I see it graphic design does not belong to art. In my opinion we are craftsmen. The starting point and the final point are not the same as in case of art work as we regard it today but undoubtedly the way we cover it shows some resemblance. I am a sensitive, creative person but by my definition it does not mean art.

I find education extremely important. It is important to share your knowledge with the others if you know something. Actually, the starting point is the same as why I chose graphic design: get my message to other people, what I know, what I think. Teaching within the framework of an institution was not my idea. I was not looking for the opportunity actively, it was actually offered to me and I accepted it. When I stopped it, it was offered again, and I accepted it again. 

I like teaching but I would not call the thing I do teaching, rather sharing experiences. And I get a lot from my students, so it is more like a continuous conversation that everybody can build and develop from. At least this is the aim. 

Teaching and learning are rapidly changing. The old methods do not seem to be very effective; the new ones do not seem to be fully fledged. Surely our communication is also changing, therefore graphic design as a way of communication also must change. We have to deal with not only problem solving but posing problems as well. 

What is the most important in teaching for you? 
I think the previous sentences give the answer to this, but to put it in a nutshell: the outgoing and the incoming communication.

What is the factor why you like to pass on your knowledge to the upcoming generations? 
This is a barter. I give mine and they give theirs. Everybody benefits.

What is the most exciting and the most difficult in the role of an educator?
The most exciting is diversity, that how many different answers there are to the same problem or how many different types of problems can be posed in connection with a particular job. That is especially true to METU as there are students coming from a lot of different cultures. At the same time this is the most difficult task as well, understanding and giving advice and help accordingly. This is what I especially like.

How is the profession different from the time when you learnt it? Has it changed? What are those principles that are eternal and never change?
Our profession and the preparation for it also have changed a lot. The web has led to a lot of changes. Communication compared to the previous media turned from one-way to two-way. Anybody can be a receiver and an information provider as well. Everything is available within the split of a second, information flows freely. But at the same time, it is a problem as well, as a not so educated or trained brain and eyes are not in the position to be able to decide what is valuable and what is fake. What is more, information comes so fast that this makes us, teachers, watch continuously and intensively. Briefly, everything is really fast. In this fast flow it is very difficult to find such fix points that you can rely on. There are hardly any rules which are always true, in every job, and which cannot be challenged. Trends come and go but quality and ideas are independent of fashion, so this is what I try to pass on to my students.

Who do you recommend this BA/specialization? What drive can motivate somebody to be part of this world?
I recommend this to those who like to think visually and feels an urge to show this.

What message would you send to those who are flirting with the idea of graphics? If they are preparing for a university what is the most efficient way to do so?
It is a difficult thing. There is huge visual noise but still I recommend seeing as much as they can and try to interpret and arrange the things they have seen. “I like it / I don’t like it” is not enough. If they arrange their thoughts, their work will be much better.