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Salát Zalán Péter, book designer and founder of Lead82 open creative community.

Salát Zalán Péter, book designer and founder of Lead82 open creative community.

Published by Leonardo Calcagno


Who are you:

My name is Zalán. I am a book designer and I am from Central Europe. I am the founder of the Lead82 open creative community, its art director, and graphic designer. I am a co-creator of the documentary photo essay Museum: a slow genre.

Your current job:

First of all, I am working on ‘rebuilding’ myself. Some weeks ago I underwent a serious brain operation and currently – following a traumatic rupture of work relations which have been central and important for a decade – I am slowly returning to normal life. I must reassess the emphases of my life, and the correct balance between work, career, and relaxation.

Meanwhile, I am designing the third volume of a book series published under the auspices of the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. It is a volume of studies about the development of Hungary’s museum structure in the 19th century. It shows how, branching out from the Hungarian National Museum, different institutes emerged specializing in various genres during the course of the century, with special regard to the Fine Arts Museum.

Along with my graphic design undertakings, I am greatly enthused about my own book project, tended for years, which doesn’t provide information or any doctrine for readers but concerns the ‘aesthetics of nothing’ as autonomous artistic work. “Something lies hidden in the structure of the perception of nothing, which at the same time is a requirement of the structure of aesthetic experience.” I would like to reflect on the 1913 text of the aesthetician Ottó Schiller with an art book to be completed in the forthcoming period and which deals with a so far never explored ‘theme’.

In which city are you located?

I live in Budapest’s District VI, called Elizabeth Town, in an old apartment block, which itself has a rather disturbing history. According to a decree of 1944, the building was singled out as a ‘starred house’, one designated as the dwelling of citizens of Jewish origin, into which families were forced to live as co-tenants in overcrowded conditions. The decision was intended to facilitate the planned deportations. Budapest Jews were driven from such buildings and lost their lives as victims of the Holocaust.

A word to define what kind of worker you are:

Leader (82) – who facilitates things happening.

What tools are essential to your life (app, software, etc.)

The Dropbox cloud and a Heidelberg printer with its color management specially calibrated for use with an FM screen for our individual printing processes.

What does your office space look like?

It is light, full of natural light with two huge museum oak cabinets, almost one hundred years old, which belonged to the Fine Arts Museum’s restoration department for a century. When the workshops moved to a new building it turned out that it was not possible to shift them up the narrow staircase to the sixth floor. They were left to their fate in the courtyard, so after decades of deterioration, I was able to rescue the valuable items and my friend the furniture designer Dávid Pataki gave them a contemporary appearance. It’s one of those charming central European stories.

What kind of music do you listen to when you are working?

It always depends on where I am in the design process – for the initial phase Philip Glass, Yann Tiersen, Leonard Cohen, piano studies, violin and cello pieces, the sound of wind instruments, and classical music for the feeling of harmony.

Why connect

that black Volga

and the caretaker with the sunglasses

who only does his job

or the armed driver

who can even run a country

or the leather-jacketed old woman

who simply enjoys it all

You see, the stars also fade away from the sky

because which of them can shine

when the boss, the Sun turns up



You think they are giving you

when they are to take it away

They don’t sell you things

but you are sold to them

Advertising war, real lookers

beautiful victims

I’m sorry but I will wear

no one’s face on my clothes

and I don’t know how tomorrow will come

I don’t know what will be waiting for me

but if in 20 years I’ll look in the mirror

I don’t want to see them there

yet, that’s what they want, that’s what they want

they want you to want that

False prophets forever assail you

unscrupulously and tell you all sorts of truth

You can say whatever

but no one listens to you

’cause someone else says

what the world is like

of course, it is beautiful

of course, it is cruel

of course, it is beautiful

of course, it is cruel

(Európa Kiadó)

Then I continue with the suggestive lyrics of the 1980s sometimes banned, sometimes tolerated, at other times supported riotous central European underground bands – URH, Európa Kiadó, Sziámi, Kontroll Csoport, Neurotic, Bizottság. Finally, I finish with the monotonous tones of Kraftwerk. I like their severity, their minimalism, and perfectionism, their decades of truly not being distracted from a worked out concept.

Do you have a way to organize your day to maximize your work?

“The tailor who measures three times makes only one cut.” My approaches and decisions involve thoughtful preparation, logical reflection, and precise execution. This is a slow design. There is one design, but that is underpinned from every point of view.

What tips would you give to improve productivity?

Currently, I am in need of advice regarding this question. My aim is a complete change of lifestyle, now that I am beyond the lowest point of my existence.

You’re better than your colleagues to:

In expression and manifestation of my feelings, with my openness and my sincerity, which are on an unknown level in today’s business environment. At the same time because of that, I am worse.

What is the best advice anyone has given you?

My father would say: “My son, be stupid among smart people, but not the smartest among the stupid.”

What is your best tip for saving time?

Less browsing on Behance, much more attention directed inward, towards our own selves. The depth of submergence and the speed of progress rarely increase together. I believe that in my case they can. Yet I don’t aim to save time, rather I am drawn to experience.

What is your routine start and end of the day?

I read I browse, I scroll. Hard work. I read, browse, and scroll. This carries the danger of uniformity. God protect me from making a routine of my everyday life. Otherwise, I pray for a return of my thinking before the age of the internet.

Aside from your computer and your phone, what gadget can you not go without?

I strive to be surrounded by as few objects as possible. They lock you in, imprison, and give rise to anxiety over losing them. Puritanically, I would like to live occupying just a small place in the world. I have no emotional attachment to objects. However, I always put shoes on my feet.