Friday, 11:02am
12 March 2010

Athens snapshots: pi6

athens snapshots
john ridpath
Book design
Graphic design
Visual culture

‘Chaos can be very inspiring - Athens is like work in progress’

After a whistle-stop tour of Athens at this year’s Design Walk, Eye decided to catch up with some Greek designers at a more leisurely pace, writes John Ridpath. First up are communication design agency pi6, founded in 2005 by Rena Chrysikopoulou and Michael David Ochs.

Chrysikopoulou is half-German half-Greek, grew up in Greece, studied and worked in Germany, and then returned to Athens. Ochs is half-Spanish half-German, grew up in Lebanon and Germany, and also studied and worked in Germany before moving to the Greek capital.

Top: A poster from ‘I am from Athens’ project, produced in collaboration with the German design studio Human Empire (2008). The typical Greek periptero (kiosk) can be found on every street corner in Athens: ‘You can find everything from toothpaste, condoms, aspirin, cigarettes, newspapers, etc. These mini-supermarkets offer the maximum amount of products in the minimum of space. We took images of the inside and the outside of the kiosks. The final image reflects the structuring-aesthetics of the kiosks, that from the inside look like a patchwork of products.’

Below: Another ‘I am from Athens’ poster (2008). For this design, pi6 made sound recordings of vegetable sellers shouting on a typical Greek vegetable market in our district: ‘Every seller tries to be louder than his neighbour, they come up with funny lines and scream them at the crowd. We took a selection of these phrases and visualised them in circles referring to acoustic waves. Each circle varies based on the loudness of the shouting.’

pi6 - Poster-Laikes-FIN.eps

Eye: Is there such a thing as ‘Greek design’?
pi6: Coming from such multinational backgrounds, we think the quest for national identity in design is needless. The time has passed when aesthetics differentiated so much that it made sense to talk about purely Swiss design, German design or typically British design. Most Greek designers study abroad, in England, Germany, America. And some day they come back to Greece, with all kinds of inspiration. Of course there are regional needs and influences, but in the end design gets its character from the ones who design, not their nationality.

Eye: What makes Athens a good place for your work?
pi6: Chaos and transformation can be very inspiring. Athens is like work in progress: things change from day to day and there’s potential for great development. This causes hope and confidence for the future. However, with the country’s current economic situation, we must admit that it is a fragile confidence.

pi6-01-symbolicvsliteral-13

Above and below: Two of the six brochures pi6 designed for the exhibition ‘Symbolic vs. Literal’ at the 2010 Design Walk. See ‘Athenian walkways’ on the Eye blog.

pi6-01-symbolicvsliteral-20

Eye: Are there any particular problems facing Greek designers?
pi6: Communication design is still not appreciated in Greece as it is in northern Europe. Potential clients rarely appreciate that good design is a profitable investment, and we have to spend a lot of time justifying the necessity and significance of what we do. Furthermore, even though most living expenses are at least as high as, for example, in Germany, the amount we are able to charge for the same projects is about one third (or even less). This is frustrating. We end up working three times as much, having much less time for each project, trying to keep our standards while working to crazy deadlines.

Eye: Who else do you admire in Athens?
pi6: Admiration is a very big word, but we really like the work of studios like MnP, K2, Beetroot (from Thessaloniki, not Athens), G or The Design Shop.

Below: pi6’s award-winning brochure and poster designs for Design Walk 2008.

pi6 - design walk 2008 brochure

pi6 - design walk 2008 poster

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.

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