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Grafica e comunicazione

Other planets

A long, intense, rewarding, if at times hectic, chapter in the office, during a grey and rainy summer, which failed to do its job – that of distracting us from writing this Snapshot. In the rare moments of respite (we still have yet to take our holidays) we have re-read some of past Snapshots, which spurred the following reflection. 

Why do I write Snapshots and why do I post them on the home page of my website? Questions my daughter has asked of me. 

While she pulls on my heartstrings, I reply that the Snapshots are an attempt at defining what our job is (and should be); the profession in order to arrive at a higher level, or at least the level of decency. The Snapshots, these streams of consciousness, impromptu and varied, attempt to explain a craft, rather than a narcissistic story told in the first person. The craft is the main character, even when it may not seem that way due to the simple fact that the craft of graphic design tends to encompass everything, by its very nature. In these writings, however, a kind of idealism is clearly at work: it is the world as I see it and how it is represent to me. It is an original attempt - I have never run into someone that explains my craft in this way – and, as such, it is exposed to criticism and encomium, depth and lightness, glimmers of insight and absurdities. And why post them on my home page? I think it is an aesthetic act with symbolic-moral content (like most aesthetic acts: at the outset, I didn’t want the site to appear commercial. It wasn’t intended to be a showcase of products and services for sale. A long, dense, complex text of spurious reflections surely makes the site appear anything but commercial. It also serves to skim our potential customers, informing them of the risk they face by contacting us. And boy, oh boy do I enjoy it when someone says to me, "Your website is beautiful, but why don’t you highlight your work?" I am reassured to know that the “window” of my virtual shop is hidden to the back room. 

And now I will attempt to answer those who ask me why I write so little about contemporary issues. 

Every fact affects our morale, and therefore our work. But not only: every memory may prove successful in developing an ad campaign or a corporate image. And on the contrary, every disappointment may prove fatal. Eating breakfast while listing all of the evils in the world is a false pretense for those of us who are forced to live off of suggestions. We must opt for optimism, by contract, like it or not: we turn to the market, which only benefits from this. We must therefore nourish ourselves with culture and beauty more than history and current affairs in order to keep up our morale: culture stimulates progress and creativity, history terrifies (at least the conventional version, geopolitical and social). "History is the greatest conceivable lesson in cynicism" (Cioran). How can I watch a live decapitation and immediately afterwards "sincerely" work on the design of a bicycle handlebar? I can’t not "believe" in what I write and what I do, whether it is a declaration of love, an insult or an ad campaign. I have to believe, at least at the precise moment in which I am living that fact (the declaration, the insult, the campaign). I find it hard to say that a creative mind must necessarily neglect in full certain information (current affairs), and in this sense I take this opportunity to censure myself: for almost ten years now, I have consciously avoided any kind of political information and news. I don’t read newspapers, watch television news, visit news sites, nothing. Why do I do it? Out of self-defense. Defense of my optimism, first of all. And then in order not to fall into the sprawling unnecessary digression (the media are so spread out and pervasive that the accumulation of information is likely to coincide eventually in total disinformation, with the common aim of total idiocy of the average reader/user). 
But I will not deny that history and current events can teach us great lessons, when interpreted in the right way, or dialectically; therefore one must be cautious, try not to become emotionally involved - and it is emotion that causes me to take maximum precautions, and therefore avoid them completely, which as said is absurd exaggeration. Culture and beauty should instead be our daily bread and butter (or olive oil for us Italians), to be consumed without the fear of getting fat. From culture and beauty (including the "true" history, or that of culture: philosophy, science, literature, arts...) come most of our stimuli, especially when paired with passion, sincerity, sensitivity, and consistency. 
Recently, along with my colleague Grandesso, we have developed a new corporate image and ad campaign of a brand that aims to break boundaries (and with some fanfare) in the field of design of interior components. It’s been a fun job. The crucial moments coincided with two meetings in which we are bombarded with ideas what we then tried to reinterpret "concretely" with words and signs. We took advantage of our memory, our readings, our studies, our emotions, and what we have seen and heard in the past. Various quotes came into mind, helping to form a conceptual structure that was "arising out of nothing." Well, not really "out of nothing." As we look back, the productive meetings with had a motivated and electric client provided us the right stimuli. But before the meeting, all we had was aggregated and impalpable stimuli. But thanks to Seneca, Lou Reed, the principle of contradiction and tautology, Marinetti, Cioran, Plato and Socratic method, D'Annunzio, El Lissitzky, Paola Mastrocola, Deleuze, Le Folie Bergère, John Cale, Proust, Pina Bausch, Andy Warhol ... from memory to memory, from quote to quote, from bond to bond ... we interacted with the past to recreate the present. And we imagined (and created) phrases and signs that held everything together in a new way.  
The meetings were full of enthusiasm, an almost childlike enthusiasm that we kept at bay due to our experience and age. It was not a race, because he enjoyed both getting ahead and falling behind (in a race you only enjoy being ahead). It was a childish game, an "escape from the real world," full of ideas more or less historic, more or less cultures. A game for adults. 

Here are two reflections that arose in the analysis of our game. 

The first is negative. Does one risk a superficial result by working with a concoction of varied and contradictory ideas? Doesn’t one risk creating a monster? And doesn’t one risk disavowing the ideas, with this exaggerated lightness combined surreptitiously - and for little financial gain, after all? Cioran assists me in answering when he says that "what dominates are the things on the surface, never those in depth. And all that is profound denies freedom." That's a wonderful phrase which moreover contradicts many of my previous Snapshot, and emphasizes once again that the history of culture, as well as intelligence, is made of intermittent moments, of inconstancy, of joyful contrasts and contradictions (which just happen to be the main themes of image and communication that Chiara and I are creating for the interior design brand). 

The second consideration is also negative, and has to do with the dangerous loss of contact with reality, with the contingency, in virtue of the games that we create. We have to build the fictitious languages, we must distance ourselves from everyday problems to somehow feed our childish optimism. And here I call upon the quiet brilliance of Paola Mastrocola, in her umpteenth piece of bravura entitled "Other Planets." 
"When we get close to a child, it is possible that all of a sudden we leave this planet. We go to live in his world and we end up speaking another language... It can happen, for example, that one evening in a restaurant, if we sit next to a child, waiting for food that seems to never comes, all of a sudden we pick up the cap of the mineral water and place it over one eye. Transforming ourselves into a pirate, we start talking about the sea and storms, attacks, and treasure islands. And it all seems so natural. We just ended up on another planet, that's all. And we speak that language, in fact, that the child understands instantly. I believe that we should it more often. I believe that we should do this even when, at a restaurant, we sit close to an adult."

17/09/2014 Filippo Maglione