How growing up multilingual influenced Orysia Zabeida’s decision to be a designer

Orysia Zabeida grew up speaking multiple languages – Quebec French, Ukrainian and English – and she credits her multilingual youth as being the reason she found her way to design. “Each language has its distinct universe, and each influences how we perceive the world around us,” she remarks. “The medium of design was a way to create structure around my diverse interests and map out and merge the different parallel cultural universes I was navigating.” This fascination with language and different alphabets combined with her love of drawing (“I used to draw every day, everywhere, and everything”) so eventually, Orysia enrolled at UQAM in Montreal’s graphic design course, by way of exchange at the Haute école des arts du Rhin-Mulhouse in Strasbourg, France. Today, she’s based in New Haven, Connecticut, having recently completed an MFA at Yale.

Orysia describes herself as a multidisciplinary designer, drawn to whichever medium a project calls for. “I’m interested in public spaces, mundane objects, daily rituals and how they forge our sense of identity,” she explains, adding that she also explores “ways technology interacts with humans and nature.” For example, of late, she’s been fascinated by themes like spirituality on social media, the rise – and paradoxical concept – of mediation apps and how companies use happiness as a marketing ploy. She sees her role as a designer as questioning such paradigms, in particular, the digital tools we use to increase everyday wellbeing. “My practice aims to question society and challenge the role we chose to play in the systems we create and inhabit,” she elaborates.

What’s clear when talking to Orysia is that she has an innate inquisitiveness for nearly everything. Whatever the topic, she dives deep, finding out whatever she can and soaking up information like a sponge. In turn, her projects are rich and well-informed, full of absorbing insight into a myriad of topics. Tying together these disparate tangents is Orysia’s sense of humour which she describes as the umbrella all of her projects live under. “The accessibility of a joke is a crucial glue,” she says. “I think comedy has the power to reach, disarm and draw attention to otherwise ignored and silenced issues.” The playfulness that pervades her work is, therefore, “as important as its more intellectual objectives,” as it is this very farce that allows her to expose “problems”.

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