18 March 2010
Athens snapshots: Indyvisuals
‘Athens is old, new, busy, noisy, & politically & economically imbalanced’
Next up in our virtual tour of Athenian design is collective Indyvisuals, writes John Ridpath. Indyvisuals was formed in late 2006 by a group of designers who were ‘tired of working in companies that were killing our creativity’.
The initial two-member team has evolved, and there are now five designers working in the studio and about another five designers, illustrators and programmers they collaborate with when needed.
Top and below: Work from Design Walk 2009. ‘It was right after the murder of a fifteen-year old kid by the cops and the riots that followed. We actually wanted to remind the visitors of the exhibition that this thing happened just a month before and we shouldn’t forget this. The media in Greece tried immediately after the riots to demote what happened like it never existed! It was like, “all right shut up now, go back to work, go consume”. We used this situationist phrase “first of all we think the world must be changed” which reflects our view on politics.’
Eye: Is there such a thing as ‘Greek design’?
Indyvisuals: Well, the only thing that can really be described as Greek graphic design can be found in the signs of old buildings all across old Athens (see ‘Signs of a city’ on the Eye blog). We can’t really say if it is good or bad, or 100 per cent Greek (it was heavily influenced by the American typography of the 1950s), but at least it had an identity. We can’t say this is true nowadays, nothing indicates a strong ‘Greek design’ scene. Most of the designers here are trying to adapt styles from different countries which normally leads to a flat, ‘looks-the-same’ result. To be fair, a lot of the time this is what the client wants, so designers can’t escape...
Eye: What makes Athens a good place for your work?
Indyvisuals: Athens is not a good place to work in terms of dealing with clients and public services. But there are some things that reflect onto our work. Athens is old and new, busy and noisy, politically and economically imbalanced. All of these contradictions, combined with the surrealism you face everyday at the streets of Athens, make the city a huge funnel of inspiration.
Above and below: Poster and draft logo designs for a bar named Myga (‘fly’). ‘We didn’t have much time, but by collaborating all together we managed to get some great results. It was the kind of the project that we were working all night long for several days and although we were pretty tired we really had a good and creative time. It brought us closer together’.
Eye: What are the particular problems facing Greek designers (if any)?
Indyvisuals: Plenty! First of all our profession is not considered as something important. Clients don't value our work. Then, there are the advertising agencies. A bunch of big advertising agencies take the most of the market opportunities, so smaller studios don't actually get what they deserve. We all have worked in advertising and we can assure you that here in Greece, most of these agencies (not all) are doing crap job and charge ten times more than a small design studio. So designers end up working in advertising which kills their creativity and so it goes on ...
Eye: Can you tell us a bit about the collaborative approach of your collective?
Indyvisuals: There are five of us: Petros Voulgaris, Stavros Georgakopoulos, Christos Kourtoglou, Giorgos Chandrinos and Costas Vassilakis (no website - he’s the programmer!). Each of us has a completely different way of working and we believe this is the beauty of collaborative design. There is for example, a type expert who’s actually designing typefaces for Parachute, an illustrator working completely by hand, the Photoshop experts, the Web developer. Of course we can all use various techniques but we prefer to do what we think we are best at. So the process goes like this: everyone makes a draft for each project and then we all together make corrections to them or take them further. This usually has a great result, because everyone is involved, everybody learns from each other and the client has to choose between many different drafts.
Eye: Who else do you admire in Athens?
Indyvisuals: Well there are actually a lot of individuals who are doing a great work. We could mention Charis Tsevis (who we collaborated with at this year’s Design Walk), Chris Trivzas, Panos Vasilliou, Tassos Papaioannou, Yiorgos Yiakos, and from the younger ones definetely Sebastien Nikolaou. We've definitely forgotten some people, but these are the first who come to mind ...
Above and below: Album cover designs for Cast-a-blast, a record label based in Athens. ‘We really have a good time working for these people. After the brief, everyone prepares something using different techniques or following his personal style. Here we have analog and digital versions of a brain for the “think twice” release. We really love this process, it makes us better people, better designers and the clients have three or four different alternatives to choose from!’
Eye, the international review of graphic design, is a quarterly journal you can read like a magazine and collect like a book. It’s available from all good design bookshops and at the online Eye shop, where you can order subscriptions, single issues and classic collections of themed back issues.