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Design Duos / Dokter and Misses

Their journey from carefree student life, to running a design studio in Jo'burg, fired by love and creativity.

By TDE Editorial Team / 2nd July 2020
Dokter and Misses, 2014 COURTESY: Dokter and Misses / PHOTOGRAPH: Richard Keppel-Smith

Dokter and Misses, 2014
COURTESY: Dokter and Misses / PHOTOGRAPH: Richard Keppel-Smith

A romantic partnership that blossomed into a creative collaboration, DOKTER AND MISSES is a Johannesburg-based multi-disciplinary product design company. Established in 2007 by industrial designer Adriaan Hugo and graphic designer Katy Taplin, the duo’s work reflects the creative disorder and visual noise of downtown Jo’burg, their home town and inspiration.  Alongside their product design, they produce together a line of colourful, boldly graphic, jagged-lined, asymmetric, limited-edition collectible pieces which have been exhibited at fairs and in museums across the world.  Last year they mounted a solo show of new work, entitled Practically Everywhere, at Southern Guild in Cape Town.

The Design Edit (TDE): How did you meet?
Dokter and Misses (D&M): We met 17 years ago as young, carefree design students. A mutual friend and artist, Zander Blom, introduced us and we hit it off immediately, but only started working together a bit later.

Dokter and Misses, 'Dreamz + Desire + Possibilities', 2016 COURTESY: Dokter and Misses

Dokter and Misses, ‘Dreamz + Desire + Possibilities’, 2016
COURTESY: Dokter and Misses

TDE: What drew you to work together?
D&M: We both have a passion for design and creating. I come from the three-dimensional world as a product designer, and Katy comes from the two-dimensional world of graphic design. The mutual interest in each other’s worlds, and being able to enhance each other’s works with our different skills, was very exciting. We were in love and working together added a deeper level to our relationship. 17 years later a lot has changed, but we still have the most fun creating things together.

Dokter and Misses, 'Kassena Town' cabinets, 2015 COURTESY: Dokter and Misses

Dokter and Misses, ‘Kassena Town’ cabinets, 2015
COURTESY: Dokter and Misses

TDE: How has your combined creative output developed?
D&M: We have less time to be creative together, as we often become wrapped up in running a business. So now, when we have the creative time together, we have to be much more focussed in getting the most out of it. Our creative chemistry/dance has not really changed. We still ebb and flow with who takes the lead, and we move with ease from the role of creator to commentator. We now understand each other’s energy better. We’re not always in the creative zone at the same time, mainly because real life happens. I run production in the workshop and Katy deals with the promotion and admin stuff – but those areas are really all by-products of our passion for creating together.

Dokter and Misses, 'Touch and Go' cabinet, 2019 COURTESY: Dokter and Misses / PHOTOGRAPH: Hayden Phipps

Dokter and Misses, ‘Touch and Go’ cabinet, 2019
COURTESY: Dokter and Misses / PHOTOGRAPH: Hayden Phipps

TDE: How do you work creatively? Do you split the work, do your skills overlap and complement, or are you polar opposites?
D&M: We intrinsically have the same vision for our work, and an unspoken connection and understanding. But we are different in many ways – fundamentally, taking risks vs. being cautious. Approaching a design from these extremes works for us. On a practical level, I am tasked with resolving 3D and Katy the 2D. I bring new materials and manufacturing processes to the table. It is almost as if I bring the ingredients and mix the cake, then Katy chooses the baking tray and puts on the icing.

We have hard debates about why and why not. It sometimes takes me a few days to understand Katy’s point of view: an important aspect I overlook. In our workshop, Katy is known as the colour guru and I am the one who deals with gravity and puzzles. But I think that giving each other confidence to express ourselves is the most important factor in creating good work.

Dokter and Misses, 'Rat Trap' cabinet, 2019 COURTESY: Dokter and Misses / PHOTOGRAPH: Hayden Phipps

Dokter and Misses, ‘Rat Trap’ cabinet, 2019
COURTESY: Dokter and Misses / PHOTOGRAPH: Hayden Phipps

TDE: Why are two people better than one?
D&M: It breaks the echo chamber effect and boosts creative confidence, and apart from the comradery, it helps with running a business. In our industry, in South Africa, it is almost the norm that you are responsible for the whole business chain: design, manufacture, promotion and sales. In this environment, two is surely better than one.

Dokter and Misses with 'Moonjelly' lamps, 2018 COURTESY: Dokter and Misses

Dokter and Misses with ‘Moonjelly’ lamps, 2018
COURTESY: Dokter and Misses

TDE: What are you working on at the moment?
D&M:
We are working on a range of new storage called the ‘Holiday’ cabinets, a new range of chairs using steel tubing, a new storage product for your entrance hall and new glass light fittings.

Dokter and Misses, 'Practically Everywhere', 2019 COURTESY: Dokter and Misses / PHOTOGRAPH: Hayden Phipps

Dokter and Misses, ‘Practically Everywhere’, 2019
COURTESY: Dokter and Misses / PHOTOGRAPH: Hayden Phipps

Dokter and Misses a Johannesburg-based multi-disciplinary product design company.

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