I would say to my 18-year-old self that you need to find
your own self-belief. You must speak to what is unique
about you. And you need to make sure that you find
the strength to do it. This is the sacrifice.
When they’re young, everybody is anxious about
finding a job and earning a living. You have to make
a living to get by, sure, but if you make that a priority
and try to create a job, you’ve lost it. It’s better to
look at the act of being creative and separate it from
earning a living.
When I was 18 I was an engineering undergraduate
but I realised that what I studied wasn’t what I wanted
to do. That’s when I went to the Royal College of Art
and did a master’s degree in industrial design. When
I graduated, the expectation was that you needed to
approach manufacturers and start designing in order
to get royalty deals. That was the urgency.
So you get out there and many times the door closes
because you’re not there yet. You become a victim of
an economic situation, perhaps, or you don’t fit the
company’s programme, or you have a false perception
of their vision. Your vision and their vision might not
This process is quite straining. It’s a trap that wears you
down. What I realised early on was that as a creative
person I had to create. I needed to generate ideas rather
than simply try to sell ideas. So I would say use your
energy constructively to be creative. Don’t try so hard
to convince people about that creativity.
At that moment I told myself that if people can’t be
convinced about my creativity the best way to go
forward was to do it on my own. That’s when I decided
to set up my own company. That helped me achieve
freedom and gave me a formula to continue coming
up with ideas.
Another big mistake that people make when they
start off is to have some role model that they relate to.
Every creative person is unique; you shouldn’t have
role models. You cannot base your dream or your
aspiration on something that’s gone before. You can
relate to a lot of different things obviously, but what
suits you is a unique formula that you have to discover.
But there are very few designers that do it this way:
who speak to their own values and ideas and pursue
them, who are persistent in following what they believe
in. I’m glad I had the patience all these years to stick to
what I believed in.
l Michael Anastassiades is a leading designer
of luminaires and products whose work is in the
permanent collection of MoMA New York and the
V&A in London
‘Use your energy constructively
to be creative’