Tag Archive for: designer

When it comes to being a designer, János Héder, MANOOI co founder and brainchild behind the company’s exquisite lighting creations, says he shares a sentiment that his company likes to tout: “Creation is our ‘mother tongue’.”

But, in his case, becoming a designer was not something he was born with, but the result of his observations about the world around him, which led to an evolution in his thinking. 

János Héder co-founder of Manooi

“When you’re young,” he explains, “you don’t realize that being a designer is a profession; you’ve only noticed that there are objects around you – and that’s how it is.”

“Design” as a concept was even more of a mystery to him, seeing as he grew up in socialist Hungary, where goods, housewares, utilitarian objects, cars, etc. were “one size fits all” and sometimes had to be cherished and used for decades. “Everyone had exactly the same objects, the same home interiors, etc.”

János recalls that the things in his parents’ flat provided him food for thought. “Those things were natural, but whatever there was I had different ideas on how it should look and that it was possible to improve upon it – when you don’t feel that things are in harmony with themselves, they just don’t go together: ‘that rug doesn’t go with the table’, for example.”

Back then, entire blocks of flats were all fitted out with exactly the same things: silverware, plates, furniture, whatever you can imagine. One department store chain had a slogan that went “Irreplaceable because they’re replaceable”.

“So if you broke it, you went in and bought another,” he explains. “This was such shitty logic and I hated it.”

“When things are mass produced – 100,000 pieces of something that has no thought behind it – that really disturbs me, because with a little care it could be something different, but they’ve taken every kind of uniqueness out of it which might strike our fancy.”

In contrast, János says he likes items that are really well thought out and work well as well as objects that have a heritage and which provide some perspective on past times.

Given that few car brands were available back then, one way in which Hungarians dabbled in modifying utilitarian design was in how they customized their cars – many times the Russian Lada – to differentiate them. 

“They looked really lame,” says János, who also remembers having his breath taken away when seeing a very not lame Lamborghini Countach for the first time at Lake Balaton. It was noticeable that much thought had been put into the sports car’s design, and it struck a nerve with him.

“Something’s not right,” he realized, concluding that it was possible to make better things than what was available in Hungary.


First creations – a school project

Then, when he was 10-years-old, János got an assignment to build something. He took a beer can, cut a hole in it, installed a socket and put in a lightbulb – it was a lamp, his first official creation.

“I realized how simple it was. You set your mind to it and do it, and then there is something different, something new.”

At that time, he realized that there are individuals – designers – who come up with such objects; they don’t emerge by themselves. “There were people who came up with the Moskvitch and the Lamborghini, and that’s something we can also do.”

While he felt like a misfit in his own culture, his family’s trips to Italy, where the proportions of objects and details seemed more true, were enlightening. 

He explains, “Since I had no other weapon in my arsenal, I decided I wanted to be able to create a future reality, through which one can improve things.”

János went on to create all kinds of things, like furniture for example, deciding to study in the Faculty of Architecture in Budapest, later changing to Interior Design and graduating in both that and architecture.

He says his objective was not to manufacture things but to design a house for someone else, or the interiors of restaurants or shops, creating spaces where people feel good. 

“For a long time I designed shops, because I don’t like to shop,” he says. “My intention was to create spaces that I would gladly enter, where I would understand the products and find what I needed. I had a very basic concept of how I thought a shop should look, and I did my best to realize that – and it worked.”

János says his first real success was the interior design of a restaurant that received a fabulous reception from those who entered.

He adds that he has never wanted to manufacture something on an assembly line. “I’ve always been interested in creating things that have emotional content, something that does entail architectural logic but also moves people emotionally – things that spark interest and conversation.”


A holistic approach fueling creativity

Today, when asked what fuels his creativity, he explains that while working interior design he reached a point in his career where he was aware of his knowledge, but also aware of what he didn’t know. “I had a good perspective on the field that I was working in, and as you go forward in time so many different experiences come together, so that I’m not considering things from the standpoint of a lighting designer but rather how it is possible to improve things out of some sort of logic,” he explains.

“Increasingly, almost anything inspires me and I have an opinion about almost anything I see. From that standpoint, it could be furniture or architectural design that moves me.”

János says that as a designer, one must have an instinct regarding how materials can be used, or how they can be combined; it is crucial to consider what can they contribute.


Classic elements remain classic

As for his approach as a designer with a special perspective, he believes not everything needs to be new or completely modernized.

János recalls one incident which illustrates this: “We designed a restaurant space and a marketing guy showed up and said ‘don’t include arches because they’re not timeless.’

“These kinds of deliberate, scientific perspectives don’t work (for me),” he comments. “Objects, in and of themselves, need to be very technical – they’re created with the sentiment of making people’s lives better. It’s that simple. Sentiments that fall outside of that are a bit constipated.”

According to him, there are some things that will always be a given, like a rainbow. 

“You’re not going to change it because someone believes that it should be upside down in the 21st century. There are some elementary things, which people will always communicate: a sunset, a mountain, a reflection of light off of water – those things, which are universal, are in objects, and those materials and forms which have worked thus far.”




One of the founders of Manooi, János Héder, recalls that his fascination with light goes all the way back to an anecdote from his childhood.

Decades ago, János Héder and his sisters were on a roadtrip with their father in the Hungarian countryside. To make the time pass (and to keep them from fighting in the car), his dad suggested a game of “20 Questions”.

The clue their father gave them was “matter”. The kids began asking yes or no questions to deduce what kind of material he had in mind, but the final answer was elusive: Stone? No. Wood? No. Glass…? No.

And the game went on and on.

Finally, after travelling about 30 kilometres on their journey, 8-year-old János came up with a novel idea.

“Could it be light?” – he asked. 

“Yes,” answered his father, who began to explain to his kids the properties of light – and maybe, just maybe, that’s when he planted a seed in his son János’s head for things that were to come in his life: a deep fascination with light and lighting.

János Héder co-founder of Manooi


The essence of creation

“As I see it, light is magic,” explains János. “If we consider from where we acquire our understanding of the universe, it emanates predominantly from light and this is somehow an ancestral mystery. Light appears at the very beginning, according to the Bible – i.e. ‘let there be light!’ So this is the foremost act – the first creation: LIGHT.”

He observes that if a film wants to portray anything to do with the spirit, creativity or the creation – any kind of wonder – it is shown as light, so in practice these are all the same. “It’s the essence of creation.”


Lightening up everyone’s mood

Decades after the 20 Questions riddle, János, who had studied interior design, and his wife, Judit, who studied ceramics, would start their unique enterprise, Manooi, which designs spectacular chandeliers that bring indoor spaces to life, enlivening those who witness them – their objectives as part of their creative process.

“Light, in and of itself, beyond the fact that it’s total magic, completely determines our mood,” he explains. “People are mainly influenced by the quality and conditions of light. Good lighting, which is carefully chosen and comfortable in practice, is a guarantee that a person will feel good.”

Why does good lighting matter? János recalls a recent visit that he and Judit made to a fine dining establishment, where the lighting had a less-than-desirable effect.

He explains, “We sat there and it was apparent that every aspect of the restaurant had been carefully chosen, but the lighting was a bust – it was in the wrong place and it was too bright, even the colour temperature was off – and it cut our enjoyment of the dining experience by half.”

Proper lighting, he says, can exponentially change such experiences. “It contributes positively,” he adds, “that’s obvious.”


Aiming for the stars

As for what it feels like to manipulate this powerful force called light as an interior designer, János thinks back to his hobby of stargazing. He says that he has built several telescopes and wanted to be an astronomer at one time.

“Everyone’s heard about it before, that that light that you see through your telescope has been travelling for billions of years at a certain speed and it arrives exactly where you’re standing. That spectacle gives a person the feeling that he/she is really alive in an enormous universe in which we are all trying to find our place.”

But looking up into the starry night did not make János feel insignificant at all.

He recalls, “No one ever told me that ‘I’m a tiny speck of dust in a cold-hearted universe’; exactly the opposite, that to the extent that I am a part of the universal game and I can possess the universe – it’s as much mine as it is yours and belongs to everyone.”


Light manipulation as a higher art

Properly arranging and treating light, both natural and artificial, in any interior design project is one of the primary building blocks of any project, he says.

“In the beginning there’s just a virtual space in which we arrange the sources of light and then the solid elements come into the picture. The space offers the possibilities, the light gives it life and all of the material things that come in later just serve those initial elements of the project,” explains János.

According to him, and in line with his ambitions, arranging light in the proper way – which he believes is poetic – is one of the greatest impacts one can make. 

“It’s a bit of a higher art than let’s say crafting a material; light is also a material but it’s the least matter-like material, and crystal, in and of itself, is similar because we don’t see it as material but as something that refracts light.”

Yes, decades later, János Héder is still thinking, and knows all of the answers, about light.


Stay tuned for more stories and insights from the team at Manooi!