Lamp shades made of stone veneer, flooring with lenticular effects and jewelry made from Corian—these imaginative solutions are the progeny of 13&9, a product design studio directed by Anastasia Sugic and Martin Lesjak.
With Sugic’s background in fashion and Lesjak rooted in architecture, 13&9 infuses diverse areas of expertise into the design process. The Austrian-based firm has lent its interdisciplinary perspective to companies such as Mohawk Group, Buzzispace, and Lande. Learn how the 13&9 team uses agile collaboration to elevate product design.
interiors+sources: Why is interdisciplinary thought the foundation of your design philosophy?
Sugic: We don’t separate professional and private passion. We cultivate curiosity and continuous learning. When you experience new fields, you can create unconventional solutions.
Lesjak: By combining different disciplines it naturally produces unique perspectives. You can’t do it all yourself so it’s important to have a specialized team. To create balance, 13&9 has one group that focuses on conceptual design and one that works on execution.
Sugic: We also don’t categorize projects. We ask what we can achieve together and how we can push ourselves forward. We exchange, not employ.
Lesjak: Our studio isn’t just a collaboration between different experts—we all switch professions within the workflow. When you gain new skills, you see things differently and can then translate that knowledge to new projects.
i+s: What is your process like when working with international companies?
Sugic: We first learn about the company and become familiar with their goals. Then we see what areas they haven’t explored yet. We envision what the manufacturer could produce that will be relevant for society and individuals. The design should have a consciousness that connects with people.
Lesjak: When partnering with a global company, you have to cultivate social and communication skills to hone your creative output. It’s about finding the right external and internal team. We act like directors of a movie to bring it all together.
Our collaborations are usually long term so we become deeply intertwined to sustain the partnership. We don’t just deliver a design—we take ownership of that company’s brand.
i+s: Why do you prioritize working with small-scale manufacturers?
Sugic: We want to learn everything about how a product is created. If you don’t understand the process, you can’t push the design. You have to go beyond aesthetics and explore materials and manufacturing technology. Good design can start locally with the right quality partner. We are surrounded by many talented manufacturers so we didn’t hesitate to form relationships.
Lesjak: It is also more sustainable to work with a local producer because materials and finished products have reduced shipping impacts. Plus we want to keep the connection with craftsmanship. This is true even when we work on a design for an international company.
i+s: What inspired you to create architectural fashion?
Lesjak: This is a great outcome of our transdisciplinary exchange. I fell in love with Corian during an architectural project and started playing with the material to transform it. The jewelry is a fusion of architecture and fashion.
i+s: What advice do you have for advancing collaborative design?
Lesjak: The working environment evolves rapidly and design must follow at the same pace. You can’t be afraid to take different approaches. Give up categorizing. If your mindset is mobile, your designs will stay relevant.
Sugic: Creative disciplines shouldn’t have borders. Designers need to learn to be abstract. If you know something, it has already past. You must challenge yourself to think in new ways. By doing so, you can artistically transform the physical.