They like to sit down in a bright and comfortable working space free of distractions, and slip into a creative focus with a cup of coffee. Besides digital solutions, the Warsaw-based design studio focuses on hand-drawn shapes and patterns, and the unconventional collage technique. We asked the creative duo of Hekla Studio, designers Monika Proniewska and Paulina Ufnal.
Monika and Paulina first met at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and first they organized exhibitions and designed self-published books with a bunch of friends. Later, Paulina started working in a riso print studio, while Monika started working as a social media specialist at the National Museum in Warsaw. Finally, in 2016, they founded a studio together called Hekla, which after two years, brought them so many commissions that they decided to continue their careers as full-time designers.
The studio’s name didn’t come out of nowhere, either: as can be seen in their logo, the name Hekla was inspired by one of the most active volcanos of Iceland. “We see our design process in an expressive way: first we experiment, then we reimagine it in a well-formed project. Choosing an Icelandic volcano to name our studio was a natural choice for us, as we like unexpected geological formations and strange plants. As designers, we are constantly fascinated by abstract forms and analogous textures inspired by nature,” says Paulina.
“Our style is based on playful patterns and images, vibrant colors and delicate tonal transitions. We try to mix fun with function. In our graphic design projects, we play a lot with collages but we also keep an eye on well-designed typography layout,” Monika noted. They added that they have always been keen on studying various archives, collecting postcards and old books. “We create abstract textures ourselves, so it came naturally for us to combine pictures we found with our own material,” they pointed out.
They usually work with cultural institutions such as museums and galleries, as “the cultural sector is open for experiments and a non-corporate approach to design.” One of their favorite projects is a poster designed for the festival of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, where Hekla Studio’s trademark abstract compositions and nature-inspired textures can be observed. In addition, the portfolio of Paulina and Monika also features various publications and scripts, such as a book presenting Polish women photographers from the 1920s, inspired by vintage photo albums. Besides their graphic commissions, they also make room for illustration. “Another collaboration that we love was a series of illustrations for ‘Kukbuk’ culinary magazine. For over a year, we’ve been illustrating texts written by a biologist specializing in food philosophy. We could associate our work with interesting topics, such as the growth of yeast, the scent of a forest or the organisms that live in the glacier. We grasped these with analog collage, textures, patterns as well as the play of abstract forms.”
As a design studio, the girls from Hekla organize different workshops, too, where visitors can try their hand at the collage technique, bookbinding or even designing vinyl covers. In addition to her work at Hekla Studio, Monika also runs printing technique courses, focusing on lino and woodblock printmaking, and Paulina is also running a music publishing company with her husband. As for future plans, they would like to keep the current focus of their studio but are also exploring web design and animation.