Made with love: Golnar Roshan on life, work and design

UTS, May 6, 2020

For Australian-Iranian designer Golnar Roshan, life is work and work is life.


Portrait of Golnar Roshan and Ruben de la Rive Box

Golnar Roshan and her partner Ruben de la Rive Box. Photo by Dunja Opalko.


A graduate of the UTS Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, Roshan and her partner Ruben de la Rive Box are co-founders of creative design practice Rive Roshan and branding studio Design&Practice.

"There's a line, work is love made visible; it's from a poem written by Kahlil Gibran," she says.

"Ruben and I once came across it and we were just like, 'Oh, that is so beautiful.' Because we work together, but we're also life partners and we have a child together. We don't really separate work and our daily life, actually - it's all very intermingled."


The couple met in Amsterdam in 2011 when they were both working for leading Dutch designer Marcel Wanders. They quickly discovered a shared passion for truly interdisciplinary design, as well as a shared yearning for the creative freedom of bringing their own ideas to life. 


"We really thought, what would a world look like if we were to create it? And what do we believe in? We became interested in putting forward our own ideas and trying to explore," Roshan says. 


An organic black sculpture

Rive Roshan is an experimental design practice that operates at the intersection of graphic, interior and product design.


In 2015, the pair took a leap of faith and founded their two complementary studios (originally based in London, they moved both practices back to Amsterdam in 2017). Rive Roshan is an experimental design practice that operates at the intersection of graphic, interior and product design. The team produces both self-directed work and commissioned design projects for clients in Paris, Dubai, London, Victoria (Seychelles), Beijing and Sydney, and they regularly exhibit at major events like Dutch Design Week and Milan Design Week.

Recent projects include creating otherworldly 3D sand sculptures with German company Sandhelden, producing a series of tapestries that explore refraction and lenticular effects in textiles for the Musee des Arts Decoratif, and designing an iconic cover for KLM's in-flight magazine as part of the company's 100th birthday celebrations. 


Recently, Roshan and Rive completed a major project for the Hyatt Regency in Amsterdam, using design to introduce storytelling into the guest experience. The hotel's location near Amsterdam's historic botanic gardens was the starting point for their creative process.

"The gardens had a real history of people travelling the world and bringing back specimens and plants and painting them and reinterpreting what they had seen on their travels," Roshan says. 


"We wanted to take that as inspiration and turn it into an experience for visitors."


Interior design by Rive Roshan of the Hyatt Spinoza VIP Lounge

Roshan and Rive re-imagined old-world plants in their interior design for the Hyatt Regency in Amsterdam. Photo by Thomas Fasting.


To do it, they re-imagined old-world plants as they might look in the future, creating a series of carpets, fabrics and wall art to deliver an immersive guest experience. The results are stunning, from floor-to-ceiling artworks and green walls to mirrors embossed with botanical iconography. 


By contrast, Design&Practice is focused on branding, graphic design and art direction for clients in the cultural, luxury and hospitality industries, including Harper's Bazaar, Tom Dixon and Publicis Group. Design&Practice has a clear commercial focus but calls on the research and thinking that's produced through Rive Roshan's experimental approach.


"I think the great thing about having these two studios is that Rive Roshan becomes a real research lab in a way, something with no restrictions," Roshan says. 

"From that, we take this knowledge and then we apply it to real projects." 


Vibrant patissier boxes in Drugstore branding by Design&Practice

In contrast to Rive Roshan, Design&Practice is focused on branding, graphic design and art direction. 


The disparate nature of much of Roshan's work is one of her key strengths as a designer - even as a university student, she says she didn't want to be boxed into a single discipline. As such, the UTS Bachelor of Visual Communication gave her the freedom to explore design in all its different forms.

"At the time, the Bachelor of Visual Communication really touched upon different areas of design," she says. 


"For example, I actually became really passionate about typography, which is really about attention to detail and understanding the subtleties of something, whether it's type or something else. I think that had a really big influence on me."


Combining her degree with the Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, in which she spent a year of her studies in Barcelona, gave her the experience of living and working overseas - and ultimately led her to that fortuitous meeting with de la Rive Box.


"Ruben and I both have a similar vision towards how we see creativity, and we don't feel limited by materials or processes," Roshan says. 


Love made visible, indeed. 

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