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This month, we sat down with graphic designer Réka Imre to talk about her creative path, finding her way to working at studio NUR, and how she spends her time off. Read on to find out what she keeps in her bag!

Hi Réka, please introduce yourself and tell us about your path to the design world.

I graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2018, with a degree in Graphic Design. I also studied Liberal Arts for a while, which I found interesting, but the reality was I wanted to study in a creative field. At first, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get into art uni—there’s a very competitive application process in Hungary—but I took part in an intense art course and spent two years preparing for the entrance exam, and I was accepted. University was a great experience for me, mainly because of my fellow classmates and the college for advanced studies I attended. 

How did you end up working at studio NUR? 

Throughout my student years, naturally I followed what other creatives were up to on the design scene, and I had specifically been following Eszti Laki's work for a while, as I was really into the beautiful things she was doing. Coincidently, one of my classmates mentioned that Eszti was looking for someone to work with, so I grabbed the opportunity and sent over my portfolio. We met, and hit off straight away. I quickly went from being an intern to a permanent collaborator, or as we like to call it, a co-creator. We've been working together for six years now and it's been super fun. In fact, my grandparents have a vineyard in Csobánc (a famous scenic hilltop by Lake Balaton in Western Hungary), and Eszti bought the one “next door”, so now we're vineyard neighbours too!

Is your job also your passion?

Totally, and even after six years of hard work, I haven’t had a burnout.

What’s your secret?

In a nutshell: My job is really varied, I get to create beautiful things visually, and our clients are great too.

The longer story is that I always tried to take on fun freelance projects that excite me as well, and I’m also really interested in book design. So I try to keep things balanced, for example I’ve worked on projects with Szabadon Balaton, an art initiative raising awareness on the ecological condition of Lake Balaton, and with the Hungarian National Gallery too. I also spend a lot of time in nature, and after long walks, I feel revitalised and motivated to carry on with my work. 

What does your average day look like?

I usually leave home at around 9am with my boyfriend, and I’ll roll down from Buda on my bike to Flatlab (a coworking creative studio in downtown Budapest) and start my day with a coffee in the office. My schedule is pretty normal, I have an 8-hour job with studio NUR, which I was actually apprehensive about at first. I thought I was cut out for the freelance life,  but realised it’s not for me. It’s so nice to have a full-time job and a routine, it makes my life a lot more relaxed. 

I’m more of a morning person, so I like to start working after my coffee and our chats with the other graphic designers in the office—we work in a creative environment. What’s also nice is that my boyfriend works in the area too, so he comes over for lunch a lot, and my mom, sister, and grandparents are also all nearby.

How do you spend your time outside of work? 

I play the guitar, or plant trees with my boyfriend in Törökbálint. He has his own NGO, and he’s a big conservationist.

What are your hobbies?

Going for walks in nature, running, and playing music, especially the guitar and drums.

Are there any past or future projects you’ve worked on you’d like to highlight?

I've just finished a book on Hungarian painter Lajos Gulácsy for the Hungarian National Gallery, and there will probably be more books coming this year as well, so that’s something I'm looking forward to. I’m also proud of the Art Deco Budapest exhibition catalogue I made last year for the gallery as well. It’s nice to be able to see my designs come to life, and to hold a book in my hands reflecting the end result.

Let's see what's inside your bag!

Pen Box - I inherited this from my grandfather. I’m a big fan of Hungarian retro packaging, so this box is special to me in more than one way. 

Matches - This box of matches is from Copenhagen, I bought from a retro bazaar, and the place was filled with similar designs and packaging which I think is a beautiful record of the history of graphic design.

Namecard - This was created for a Thai restaurant in Switzerland, and it was one of my first jobs with Eszti at Studio Nur where I designed the logo and the complete visual identity. We also got to go to Switzerland together to do the photoshoot, which is a great memory.

Muji Pens - Everyone loves these pens, and I’m no exception. They’re great to use for sketches.

Scarf - I bought this scarf from an Indian shop, it's perfect to sit on during summer picnics, and to keep me warm in winter.

National Blue Trail Booklet - My boyfriend and I started this hike a year ago, and we're more than halfway through it now. It’s something we do on our free weekends, either with friends or just the two of us. I’d highly recommend it, as it’s such a well thought out trail and experience. 

Laptop Case - It was a gift from Eszti, and came at just the right time—when we started the National Blue Trail.

Guitar Capo / Picks / Drumsticks - I started playing the guitar with a capo when I was 16, and I've been playing in various, “just for fun” formations with friends since. Music is a really important part of my life when it comes to relaxing and having fun. Playing the drums leads back to me being in a punk band with friends where everyone had to play an instrument they couldn’t actually play, but after I decided to take lessons. I can’t say I’m any good at it, but it's definitely a great tension reliever! 

Ex Libris Stamp - This was made for me by Ivett Lénárt. There was a knitting group called Kötöde at university, which played an important role during my time there. It was an experimental design group and community, where we worked on exhibitions and prints, dealt with social issues and carried out projects for fun together. The group still keeps in touch, and back in the day when we were more active we figured out that we could make each other ex-libris stamps, and this is the one I got from Ivett. I still make these stamps for my friends and family, and it just goes to show how interconnected books, bookbinding and book stamps are in my life. 

Forever Calendar - This calendar was also a Kötöde project. It's further away from the commissioned genre, and more on the side of autonomous art, which I rarely do due to focusing on commissioned projects, but these were very inspiring exercises.

Book - It's one of the last books I made with Adam Albert, who is the head of the Department of Artistic Anatomy at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, and this book has been shortlisted for the Hungarian Book Design Award. In my opinion, book design is one of the most beautiful parts of graphic design.

photos by Botond Wertan

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