Last night, I attended THE NIGHT OF THE ITALIANS. A celebration of Italian design presented by the Type Directors Club in the beautiful new SVA Theatre.
The panel discussion was moderated by Paola Antonelli and brought together a star-studded panel that featured Louise Fili, of Louise Fili Ltd., Francesco Cavalli of LeftLoft, Massimo Vignelli of Vignelli Associates and Matteo Bologna of Mucca Design.
This was one of the best talk I’ve been to. Paola was an entertaining moderator who was funny, personal, and kept things moving along.
The word Fili is Italian for “Threads”, Cavalli means “Horses”, and Mucca means “Cow”.
Francesco and Matteo are both from Milan, and Massimo is from Venice.
Only Louise was born in America. New Jersey to be exact. Unlike the rest who wanted to come to America to pursue their design dreams, Louise was desperate to live in Italy. Ever since the time she first visited with her family at the age of 16. Because of her yearning for the culture roots of her parents, she embraced all things Italian and was influenced by its aesthetics. Her design reflects the most typically “Italian” of the four there.
But they all admitted that although Italy is a great place to be, they could not work there.
Most left Italy for greater opportunity. Masimo left because the ceiling was too low there. He found that NYC has no ceiling when it came to realizing your creativity.
Matteo presented some typical advertisement work being done in Italy and said that THIS is the reason why you don’t want to work in Italy as a Designer. Making the transition from Italy to NYC wasn't hard to make because Milan is a very urban city and is as chaotic as NYC. But living in a city where stores and life doesn't close down for the weekend was very stimulating.
The post-Q&A section generated some very good responses from the panel.
One questioner, noticing that most of the works shown were print based, asked their thoughts on designing for the Internet. Massimo responded that BOOKS ARE DEAD! Yikes! But sadly not shocking. The printed books could only reach the amount of people that it can publish. But the Internet can reach millions around the world. Matteo added that books have had a good run at reaching people for over 500 years but in essence, has hit the ceiling. And the Internet does not have a ceiling in getting your message out. I think I need to look for another line of work.
Another question, “What is more important, the image or the copy?” was met with amused silence until Matteo answered, “The kerning.” This was a reference to Matteo's earlier remarks about his subtle redesign of the Victoria's Secret Logo, jokingly commenting, "We got paid a lot of money to do kerning."
A 4th year design student was concerned that his senior portfolio did not reflect an obvious “style” and would that be a problem for Art Directors hiring. Massimo responded that, “It’s not important to develop your own style but your approach.” To which Francesco added with no disrespect, “You are too young to develop a style.” He described our job as problem solvers and that your voice will come out on its own. Or else, you are just imitating someone else's look.
After the talk, there was Sicilian gelato served from L’Arte del Gelato for which Louise designed the logo. The line was very long and there was only one person scooping s-l-o-w-l-y. But the Stracciatella and pumpkin flavors were really delicious and worth the wait. It was great catching up with friends and the panel members were all accessible and having a great time. I love Louise. My Art Director and Mentor who taught me to be the Art Director and Designer I am today. When I’m around her, there’s a part of me that still trembles in awe. Just like how I felt when I was starting out as her design assistant at Pantheon Books. I was able to snag the event poster designed by Charles Nix. It was a fun night. The event ended with Matteo calling out to me as I was leaving. I turned and saw him flipping me the bird. Now That's Amore. Arriverderci.
Here are videos I was able to take of Louise and Matteo's presentations discussing their work and what it means to be an Italian designer:
Louise Fili-The Night of the Italians: presented by The TDC from Henry Yee on Vimeo. Matteo Bologna-The Night of the Italians: presented by The TDC from Henry Yee on Vimeo. (The Panel Left to Right: Louise, Francesco, Paola, Massimo and Matteo) Louise's grandfather with her young father on the far right. Me and Louise. The Great Massimo.
RIP Massimo Vignelli, 1931 - May 27, 2014 by Michael Beirut / Design Observer