If you were to define your home discipline. What would you say that is?



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Giulio Vinaccia

VK:


If you were to define your home discipline. What would you say that is?

GV:


That is a difficult question. I always remember XXX (00:33) in my office. Then one morning I have a lunch with her and I asked her do you like your job? And she told me “I like it very much, I really don’t understand what you do but I like it very much”. So thats more or less my, answer. I’m really not aware... I have a hard time to define what I’m doing. I try to follow my intentions and my intentions are to try to do something for people with my small, little knowledge.

VK:


And if you would say somewhere you got your knowledge, what other skills and from where do these skills come which you can bring in... ?

GV:

OK, this is difficult to define. I look at my background, the basic knowledge comes from my experience, from my life experience starting from a childhood, from my family. This is the main reason that I am doing this job. In the sense that my father was an immigrant. So they immigrated from Italy to America trying to find a better place, and there they found a different place, maybe a new place, and so I was traveling all over... and they became nomads... so they travelled all the time they would spends five years in one place and after we would move. So I started learning very early what it meant to be different and what is meant by arriving in a new environment. So that was very formative. It was very strong for me because I never forget that when you are five years old you want to play football with your neighborhood friends. You don’t care if you go to Italy, to America, or from America to... but in the end it remains to you this basic understanding that life is not black and white. There are a lot of grays, and the attitude comes from this story, from my personal story. After that of course my... I mixed this with my design studies. But I can say that my design study was an absolutely orthodox moment of my life because I studied with people from the German orthodox – good form and design full of praxis, and so I did not feel comfortable during these years but I was young so I followed the line.

VK:


And how did you choose design? Where was your first contact with this?

GV:


No, this is a good question. OK, I have a kind of family karma because my grandfather was a renown Urbanist and he used to – he was like 360 degree creator – so he worked on astronomy, he worked as an architect; he was a painter, whatever. My father was also an architect, he was also doing other experiments in design. So I was the last child of my family. My sister was a fantastic painter from 10 years old, she was an incredibly good painter and so my family was divided between who wanted to follow the family and start and who wouldn't follow. So my brother, Valerio (4:44) started to study architecture. Me and my other brother decided to study other things. So my brother studied psychology and I started studying marine biology. Because I was in love, OK I was 17 years old. I wanted to be Jack Cousteau you know. After one year of chemicals and things I said this was not my place, and of course I was feeling comfortable in the design field because it was something that I was led from when I was a child. So it was not a decision like design chose me more than I chose design. In the sense that I felt comfortable, I say OK so let’s remain here and after I really liked it because I found my way. I found a way to be different with all this family story.

VK:


But when you started to study design then you said you had been in a familiar field but you felt unfamiliar because this way of dealing with design was not the way you wanted to use...

GV:

Yeah at the beginning... you know... when you are young and study design and you have... of course I was in love in the beginning with this major success coming from design this dream XXX (6:25) from my family and of course my dream was – a part of my dream – to be a successful designer in a magazine, and be published in a magazine. But this was all ready something of a cover because underground I was already working with XXX (6:48) my thesis was about social design. So I was mixed, I always say I’m not black and white, I’m gray. So after that – this was in South America – so it was not so easy to... so after I received a scholarship to return to Italy because I was interested to see how reality was. Because when you study your family stories and you study magazines, so you take care and say let’s see it. So I went there, I went to Italy and started to do some projects. I was successful and my work started. Many years later I understood that... yes I was in the magazine, I was interviewed in a newspaper and nothing happened in my life. So I said “Okay, I can not spend more time.” I’ll never forget the moment this was about ’93, more or less, ’93 or ’94 I spent one day – I traveled from Milan to Paris with a lot of people from all over Europe to discuss for the whole day the color of the cap for the packaging of soap. So if the pink cap should be red-pink or white-pink and we spent one day talking about that. I said oh yeah this is stupid this is not life we are losing our time. I need to be a part of this because I needed the money but I don’t want to trust this story. I don’t want to be proud of that. Now, you’re talking maybe more or less 20 years later I am very cynical because I know I need to work in my job, and I do design, I do reasonable good designs but I am not always proud. This is a job like the others. I don’t feel like I'm an artist. I don’t feel like a... and I’m creating in a schizophrenic situation a parallel world. I say okay with my expertise maybe I can do something for the other people, maybe I can return to my homeland to do stuff. But I was starting like an amateur and crazy and I developed a work. My small methodology became an attitude, I started to have followers – I don’t how – and so now the international design review this kind of work and a small more part of this international view was created for my work. I am proud of where I am. I am proud about the people who are working with me. I always say that the people who pay to finance this project don't know that I would be very happy to do it for free. In the sense that I am very proud, very happy, and really enjoy what I do. It is the only possibility to have this experience. I know places that nobody can go because you are not in this project. I have the opportunity to meet the people, to have coffee with them to be... I am a good father to a lot of children all over the world, so I create a relations and this I think is fantastic. And this is exactly the opposite of being a designer in an office – isolated and trying to do clean work. I’m not doing clean work. I do really dirt work. I’m trying to create a mentality more than designing anything. I try to explain a life approach because if you work with a very small community that cannot understand how the things will work... but I’m still a designer.

VK:


And that interests me in the sense that, coming back to the skills of when you are doing your dirty work... What are the skills of a designer and what kind of skills are these? Do you have kind of an idea or what is specific about... ?

GV:


The specific skill... I can’t say. I feel that the best skill that one can learn is to learn that you need to study. Its a modesty. Each one of the projects represents for me weeks and weeks of preliminary study. And doing this project the time to reflect and to study about what I am doing is much more than the time I have to do the things. So this is the first skill.

VK:


Which is connotative with design?

GV:


Yeah it’s not very connotative with... because the designer does not like to study too much. They are more practical. In my career I always-found practical design. Product design let’s do it!. But the skill is absolutely necessary.

VK:


Modesty? And modesty, could you have a connotation between design and modesty?

GV:


A very short one because normally a designer has a big ego and so the ego has nothing to do with my modesty – they are opposites. But modesty is more an attitude than a reality. I also have a big ego but I understood that I need to understand better the culture I am visiting and working with, and I need to have a modest attitude. The skills, what are skills? We use a scientific approach, and the scientific approach is the base. We cannot do anything without the scientific approach. We need to do, we need to research, we need to propose, we need to test, and we need to return to the field. The scientific approach is more or less used from medicine until design.

GV:


It is not – I don’t want to mean that my work is scientific. I only say that I use this system like everybody in the field.

VK:

Just to throw some words in, do you have the impression that your design background trained your visual sense for decoding things and coding things as far as...

GV:


Yeah, this is a good question. I’m sure that what I learned in my design school is... I learnt how to read a body, how to read a form, and how to read the meaning of the forms. I also learned a lot about how experimental a design project could be. At university we did a lot of experiments, we took elements that were already established. I never forget, I was realy young and we took the signal lights and asked “why are the signal lights all over the world the same? where are they coming where? So we of course discovered that signal lights come from the rail from the train signal lights. And nobody had studied really why they are like that. So we create a new one. We invited half of the university to do test of reaction and after the six months of work we discovered that if we have a different form for the signal light we have 50 percent more speed in the reaction. So it is much more safe. So this was done in the university and the university gave me the opportunity to create an electronic system to check the reality, to bring 400 people to check that. So this was an incredible opportunity for me to learn that a variety of things not always are true.

VK:


If you would take the Italian word for design progettazione is there a capacity which designers learn to develop projects, a capacity which you have the feeling that you learn by doing design...

GV:

I really learned the base skill to do projects to not to do design. Progettazione is much more serious than design. Of course, and I did this, I learned that in a very difficult situation in a 3rd world country. But it was very good because I have no other... a design student in Italy has a too much background. Everything is all ready done, there is a big master a lot of elements are closed to you. There in Columbia, I was designing in Columbia and you can do what you want. Everything was yet to be realised. I really have good memories of my design school, with a lot of different critics that I have now, but I was more or less prepared to be adaptable. That is important. I used to work with computers but sometimes there is no light so we can work without computer. Sometimes we have car, sometimes we have no car. Sometimes we have money to have material, sometimes we need to use another material. So this adaptability is the same adaptability that I find in my works now. I have no, I never have the money to... why my projects are successful? because they are very cheap. Because when you’re working on developing a system... if you work with an engineer, the engineer says “OK this is the process, the process is wrong we need to buy a new machine” but I have no money so all remains like this. In a design attitude we arrive say “OK, we have no money so we need to use the things we have, and we need to change something to push this system to work.” So this I learned in my design school because we had a lot – we were not rich – so we had to improvise each time. So the improvisation in a good way of seeing the world was absolutely... and is still important.

VK:


Do you then define yourself as a designer? Especially if you come to call... in which context do you define yourself as designer, and which context is it problematic and why?

GV:


No, I think its not problematic. I cannot use another name. Sometimes I say I do projects – a projetista, but everybody then believs that you are industrial project manager or something like that. In the remote field I say I am a designer but It doesn’t mean anything. So you can use the word but sometimes you cannot use it because nobody would understand. But the reality is that the design field is, each day, more open. So I think now design is very very (defective 20:34) because design was very clear in the moment of... until the 80s – in the old society but in this 2.0 society this changes the relationship with everything. So I don’t know, OK I use design, sometimes when I’m joking and very depressed I say “I am an ex-designer.” (laugh) but basically I define myself like a designer.

VK:


Since you are designer who is going into, as you said, in context of crisis, in context of problematic situations... how do you approach the context in which you are going, do you make yourself familiar or getting the information you need for offer something...

GV:

There is no time, there is no time my methodology is sensibility. Sensibility for me was created by my life background. So I know what it means to be different. I know what it means that somebody comes from abroad to explain to you things. So I have the attitude that is open and modest as possible to break the ice. It does normally works. I was working... of course the easier the communication the easier the relations. I was very proud of my works in South America because this is my homeland so I can manage it easy but I was very proud also. I am very proud about the work in Egypt and in the Middle East because I felt France. I felt my community, my Mediterranean relation. That was very different for example in China because my approach time was multiplied by four. Because I spent four times more time to arrive to the same realation because it was too different. I was in a culture that was too extremely different related to my country. So my body language, my expression was not correct, and unfortunately you have only one chance. To do a mistake the communication closes and there goes your opportunity. But basically it’s a problem of time and what the project manager doesn’t understand that you need time to break the ice to have a minimum confidence.

VK:


To some extent you have already answered, but again I formulate the question, what do you think the political impact design could have on society?

GV:


I think we must understand that design has a political action... because we come from too many years of autonomy that the people believe that design is majestic, to do nice things and objects but they have no responsibility. As I was telling you this morning, I was working with a lamp company and my design decision was motivating the end of the work of twenty workers.

So for me it was really an aesthetic decision. OK I want a very small light because for me it was easier to work in a new body with very small light and it is a future, and of course and the idea is this more ecologic and whatever. But what about the ecological of the person that will lose their work, and so design now is used by the politics. In my country in this moment they say we are a proud country, we a have 2000-year history, our products are the best designed in the world, we can reach Europe, we can go out from the crisis. So design is something like Italian proud and we’re proud because we’re Italian and all our small designers. So we have a responsibility because we are a part of this story. But not only because the government used the name design. As you also in other counties but because our decisions create social situations positive and negative. So we cannot say that we do four little squares for our gardens or public parks and we have no social responsibility when we do exactly the part of the bank smaller to avoid that people sleep there, how do you say, that you have no political attitude? you cannot – you are dirty like the others. You cannot say you are only a clean designer. This is the thing that is a typical attitude. Graphic design is the same. If I do graphic design and I do a catalogue and say why are you using this (small) lettering? If you old you cannot read it. Yes but it is nice... so social responsibility. So we have a political responsibility because political means we work within a society.

VK:

So how do you deal with this relationship between a comandante (27:21), you yourself as a designer and people who will finally use your designs?


GV:

I try to be as ethical as possible. I cannot say that I am a perfect man. Sometimes I need to say we cannot produce here, OK, go to China to produce it. I try to deal like the others do as well as possible. I have my ethics. I don’t work with, for example, I don’t try to visit the company that produces the products I design and I check if it is child labour or whatever. I do this job and nobody pays for that. And normally they are not very happy that people come to check that but I did it and I was very strong in some projects, especially in the Middle East because I found a company has no security and I say “I’m sorry I don’t work on this one” and they call me and say 6 months later please come and check now it’s OK. Maybe it was a make-up but they did some changes. So in our very small life we can do small things. I don't believe in the big revolution. I believe in the small revolutions, in the very small, small, small. If each person does a small revolution each day we have a different world. But if everybody is waiting for the big revolution...

VK:

Who delegates the role...


GV:

Yeah!

VK:

In some contexts when you collaborate with Ruedi Baur you both spoke of the function and how the designer functions as a catalyst for a situation or sometimes Ruedi used the word credibilisation. What does this mean for you?

GV:

I absolutely agree because this story, this word went out from a common word. If you are in the deep... you are in Columbia in the middle of nowhere and this artisan small town the artist in the region was very important, was one of the top in the community. After the arrival of plastic, if you do pottery, and the man who sell plastic arrives, then you will die because everybody buy plastic as it’s much more comfortable. So when we arrived to work again we tried to restore this original knowledge. We gave this producer – to these artisans – we gave them a new credibility because a group of white people – I’d say white people – came from very far away to work with them. So immediately if you say, hey why are you not working with the plastic guy? No I want to work with the ceramic and pottery man because it’s much more interesting than the other. So sometimes our work was really about being a catalyst between a community who have already forgotten some stories and the stories that are all ready there. So our presence has modified the history. I always joke when I return to Columbia that this project that we did in the amazon more or less 18 years ago. I go to Columbia and I found in a magazine the project that we did and they become traditional. They say “Look” I don’t know what, the ceramic pot they did with Ruedi “so this is a new design?” I said “No, no this is traditional” and this is one of the elements that I am more proud of. Because our suggestion was integrated, it was modified, it wasn’t adjusted and became tradition. So this what it means when we talk about being a catalyst. We create a chemical... there is two elements


in the chemistry, and there is the catalyst that makes the reaction. And so then basically I do that. I was in the Basque country and I was the only one who could work there because the Spanish government doesn’t want to have a Basque project with a Basque leader – It’s too Basque. At the same time the Basque people don’t want any Spanish leader. So they found me. I am like a Spanish but I’m not Spanish. I am happy to work with the Basque people but I’m not Basque. So they situation: the two organisations were happy because I was no one who can work with everybody. And we worked very well because I was external but close.

VK:


It’s interesting because when Vilém Flusser spoke about the migrant – I see it a little bit like a short-term migrant. This is an attitude I would say. It’s a window to the culture to which they are coming. They are the windows for those who are living in this culture. They have the chance to see in the house they are...

GV:


That is true.

VK:


And I think it’s sometimes... therefore you have to be this window and you don’t have to be maybe a kind of television or something like this. It’s more, as I said this catalyst role and it’s not an ego role, and that’s a question of attitude. Bruno Latour spoke of leaving the cushion of real things and coming to the question of matters of concern. So leaving behind matters of fact discussing this and more coming to what concerns, what’s relevant. You were recently in Haiti and tried to work there. What was your experience when you came there?

GV:

OK, concerns you have everywhere. Especially when it is a very difficult place like Haiti. Of course I had all the classic complaints. I was afraid about the health situation, about the violence, basically that’s enough. You had an epidemic, the same week we had 8000 cholera cases – 8000 in the town – and they suggested that I travel with an armored car with some armed guards... it’s a bad story. How can I approach a community in this way, there is no chance. Fortunately, I had the very good chance to have local staff consisting of Haitian architects and designers who helped me a lot. So after the second day I could leave all this occidental paraphernalia and move myself normally, and in this way we worked very well without any problem, and we had a really good time.

VK:


But you were there, you were confronted with this completely different type of design, which is a kind of dominant design production. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

GV:


Yes, of course, of course. I always say that the international organizations propose that you work in the field – I always say that we are the last chance – so this last chance gives you a good opportunity to move, as you want. Because at the end the international organization just want to have a nice report in their library. They don’t care what you do exactly because they will never go there to check. So using this liberty this freedom I normally change the approach at the moment or when I am in the field, and when they ask me to please write your project I always do a very thin description because I don’t want to be compromised with the action that I would realise in the moment.

I never forget I was in Brazil, in a very poor area to work with a community of ladies, an association of ladies to produce and teach embroidery and I said “What?, funny, there are no dark people here? there are no blacks?” they say “Yes there is a community but they are out of our project.” so I say so let’s go see it. So I went with a friend of mine who was a documentary producer, and we went to this small town, black, and there was a Kilomo (38:22), you know the Kilomo was in the time of the slavery, the slaves escaped and went to the mosques and hospitals to find a safe place to escape and so they remained there for 200 years, and they created this autonomy, you know these very poor autonomous communities. So went there to invite them to be part of the project, and we were shocked because we talked with the grandmother – the mayor – but she was a grandmother and she told us they didn't eat the past 2 days for the community. So we forgot about the design and did social work. We did the social work, we forgot about the design. “OK let’s go, what we can do immediately? we need to resolve that, the children need to eat...” Sometimes you forget absolutely what your official role is. And sometimes you do design. It depends on the situation. What I always try to do, one of my requirements is to work with a local group because my intention is to always create a local group of assistants. Because what I can teach to this group can be very useful because this group is there. So normally a part of my work is not only in communities but in the universities – in the good places of the country – to try to convince a group of students to be a part of my project.

VK:

Its interesting because when you spoke of Haiti, you told us that the first questions they asked

when you came was when will you leave? its interesting. Why do you think they react on this?
GV:

No, I tell you, the reason they react on this is because its a normal question. Its funny when I went the first time I received a lot of the same questions, I never forget, when I arrived in Miami and when I went to show my ticket to the security check the police say “Are you going to Haiti? What will you do there? Why do you go?” so this is the first question “why do you go?” When I was in the plane the second question the hostess asked was “why do you go?” and it was the first time that the hostess gave me a blessing, so this was given by the hostess of American airlines. So it was a sequence of the questions, all the same, what are you doing there? why are you going there? what are you dong there and when do you leave? But this is normal, because they normally have the feeling that the medical equipment arrives and have 20 minutes to see you so they always ask how much time you have, and also it is also a test to see how serious you are so when you say “I don't know, lets see” they say “uh... “ this is a part of the attitude.


VK:

Can you describe shortly, what kind of, you there was a a tremendous group of peoples aid, and it started already in the plane, that...

GV:

Yes, I was the only one who was not branded (laugh) because in the plane, this is not a normal plane, the older planes that go to Haiti are for people who go over to assist or they are for people from Haiti who return from the diaspora. For me it was funny as I was the only one not wearing a t-shirt saying something about Haiti. Christian aid – I'm coming to help Haiti,

Doctors for Haiti, Friends of the Children of Haiti, all the plane was branded, their system was visible before arriving. And all these guys would, I'm sure, return 3 days later. This is the reason that they ask you when you will leave.

VK:

And how many NGOs?


GV:

In Haiti there is 20 000 NGOs (members) and 25 000 soldiers


VK:

And there are also a lot of architects there, doing so called social design, social architecture or emergency architecture...


GV:

Yes, now there are less but at the moment of the crisis, practically all the universities in the US where taking these projects, so it was a real nightmare of students doing container projects. Now there is a second part who are the vultures, this kind of architect. because now there is a reconstruction and the reconstruction is a big business, so it is full of architects trying to do, as I showed you the new government palace, with funny bodies and funny forms...


GV:

Do you think this is a symptom of contemporary architecture and design?


GV:

No , no, this is a symptom of opportunism, this is a symptom of there being an opportunity and I want to do it, that's all.


VK:

And concerning this emergency architecture, did you have the feeling it is useful...?

GV:

I am not the judge of that, because I really don't want the answer, but I use the answer of the people who live there, who say “hey, the money they spent on these camps they could have done normal houses” pay the builders, who are Haitian, or whichever country has the same problem paying them to do a normal house, a normal slum, because there are normal houses in the slum also. So the problem is, as you know, that the emergency environment, the emergency housing is so expensive that the emergency house becomes a normal house, there is no second step, so, I understand that at the first days you have to be really safe but it is important to jump this … I am not saying from my experience, but it is known worldwide

that you just do a very short time in a tent and jump straight to a normal house because the costs are more or less the same

VK:

If you could say, with what kind of disciplines or what kind of persons you collaborated with, what are those which are the most fruitful for you?


GV:

For me, I wok basically with people who have a relationship with he community, normally sociologists. I work with artists, normally the artists are far more open-minded than the architects or designers and I always say that designers need to be very XXX (47:42) to work in design assistance because everyone wants to do projects so I always have a 2 3 day workshop for the designers, an architecture would work with me to explain how they will move, but it works well. I also work with normal people, it is important to work with people who understand the community, who can compromise with the community. In the beginning I believed I needed to work with anthropologists, especially because in the beginning I worked in the amazon with the communities. I had a lot of problems with anthropologists because they are very...the normal ones, I don't want to generalise, but they have a lot of resistance. They study an Indian family for 20 years and you arrive and you change something and they say “hey, I am doing my doctor degree, you can not change this”, they want that, ...most of them are owners of the situation, in the amazon each Indian has an owner, an anthropologist who is studying him, so if you arrive and change something, someone will call you and say “hey what are you doing?”


VK:

What was your feeling, how are you perceived as a designer?


GV:

No one believed me. they say “what are you doing here as a designer?” really, I shocked everybody, normally its very shocking. For the other whites, they are really surprised, because they believe they need doctors and engineers whatever, but not designers.


VK:

Why do you think they are so shocked, what kind of image do you think they have?

GV:

Because they have this image of famous designers, who especially, normally the people believe the designers are fashion designers, so everyone believes you are Valentino, they say “what is Valentino doing here?...”

VK:

And do you think this kind of discourse and this strong image of design isolates the potential of design to have a greater impact on society and evoke more responsibility from designers?

GV:

I think yes, because we already have a pre-constituted image, so when you say your are a designer everyone has a pre-constituted image of what you do. So this puts you in a position to do not serious things, you are a designer, you take care of the body, you take care of the lines, of course this is very useful to sell a product but you don't do anything serious. So this is funny, because at the same time, its like if you are a designer you cant do a poor design, because designers are rich, they move with the stars or whatever. But this image is produced by the school of design. Basically because they want to do this because they want to have students, and the students are motivated – a part of them of course – because they have the star system. I don't know in Switzerland but in Italy it is full of this, there is a very strong star system – the designer arrives with a body guard, because of the shooting photos...


VK:

Where could be the place where another form of discourse on design could be initiated?

GV:

I think we must initiated it, because design was born in Europe. You know the transmission of the message arrived late, if you go to Argentina, in the university, they are still talking about Tomás Maldonado, and they are still talking about form follows function... like if one would fly to the past. So I think we must make this change here of course there is a lot of (52:46) XXX who don't care what you do. I already saw a beautiful experience of participatory design in Chile, I was OK, I also have a story, I was viewing a very nice project in (New Zealand), you know these countries who are not taking care about the star, but I think the change must be realised from where the designer was born, or started to become renown. If you see the relation between the Scandinavian designers, the old Scandinavian designers are very..., I had the chance to meet some of the famous Scandinavian designers when I was in university, and they were absolute normal people, very calm. If you met now the young Scandinavian designer, they are XXX (53:43) with this image of the designer.

VK:

When and why does this, …in the 70s there was a different approach to design, as you said where design was born, its also to some extent, it was also problematic but there was a completely different impact to see the relation between design and society and so on, why do you think this connection has been lost?


GV:

We lost when we lost our ideologies. The last three to four years I was working with the University on tribal branding, so we analysed tribes within the community on the web to see how young people are joined around something, the drummer is no longer the ideologies, there is but a very few, now these young people have common brands. So there is a lot of, ...and we are not the only ones to say that the last generation has changed ideology for brands, so in this moment if you look at macs brand, there is the mac people. OK, but this is normal, but these people are much more, I was working with Nutella (53:35), its for kids, its fantastic for kids, but they have a blog and they have maybe 500 - 600 thousand followers and they have this special language and they do meetings around the brand! So this I think was the moment when it changed, when the young people lost there ideology, we lost the ideology and the ideology was substituted for brands, …so you are a Nike man.


VK:

So the identity is no longer connected with the person, but more with the products they use?


GV:

Yes, the identity is like a t-shirt, as you see, you go to a design conference and they are all dressed in black, I would like to understand why you dress in black? you work directly with colours... you have a dress (code) for a farmer, you dress like a farmer, the designers dress like designers … this is the symbol of homogenisation of our profession.

VK:

If you could formulate a utopia for design, how would you formulate it and what would your conditions or expectations to realise it be?


GV:

I think, in my opinion design must return to the region. The people who work in design, like others in other fields, if you are not a star, you don't believe you will become a star, then you think more about the problems and less about the shapes. I think this could be utopia. But for that, … the problem is that design is not alone, the designers in the end are like painters who need someone to give him the colours to paint. So we can do whatever but if we don't have a society who set us and who don't give us the possibility to create then we become frustrated. Exactly the same as the painter, we have a good eye, but we need someone to give us the colours, or the paper... we have the colour, we have the eye but we can not work alone, we need to work with the community, with the politics, we need to work with the... and this is something we need to take. I cant believe all of South America, all the 3rd world are full of schools of design who have realised social design projects in (58:48) XXX style I don't XXX from that XXX is to convert design to engineering. We are very bad engineers. OK, but XXX an object of the 60s, and not one of these projects were realised, because it was so far away from reality that no one wanted to do it, so what do you do with nice project? without any real result? you use the paper for a fire. So my utopia is to have the chance to realise a world which can be understand how to use it. We always say in Italy, Italy is the country of design but no one uses design in Italy, in the sense that in Italy all the social products are very badly designed. We are full of designers but the bus stop is horrible, the bus doesn't work, all the communication, the graphics of the government is horrible. So this is like a break between the society and the profession. We have a lot of designers but the designs are never used in the society. If you go to Scandinavia, everything is very well done, someone has thought, you take the bus and you take another bus and you realise someone had been thinking. So my dream is that my work is used, I think the most frustrating thing about design is that your work is not useful for anybody, its not used, its like design sits alone (1:00:48) finally.

VK:

And do you think that the designers are the people who can change it? Or how can we empower designers to use their skills in a different way? or do they have to wait?


GV:

We cant, but you are in a position where you can, because this master is a post-grad discourse, civic-design is a way to show that. I think this is a part of... you can not work individually, of course if the schools start to make a change and the new generation have a different way to think, if we, the professionals have an attitude with our work it is also a contribution, but it is a long term work, you can not do it from one day to the other.

And at the same time this change of attitude will change the attitude the people outside have to our work. I already saw the change of the attitude in the meaning of design for example, from the school of my daughter, the school of my daughter –I am the only designer who is a father of a child at the school – and I am a very unusual design, so they invite me each time I do a project in a unusual place I return to the school and talk to the colleges of my daughter about the geography and about the meaning of Haiti or Egypt or Africa, and they understand it very well. And I am sure if you go to this primary school they now exactly this version of design they don't assume that the designer is Versace or whatever.
VK:

I think the products you are doing are the best way to transform the reality. The image and the picture of design transforms and grows just by seeing how design could be used.

GV:

Yeah, but the problem is the only thing I try to explain, is that we don't need to go away to do the same. When I say, and yesterday I saw it, we don't need to go to Africa to find Africa in Geneva. The problem is, sometimes to avoid the problem, you say “I don't want to go to Haiti” but Haiti is here!. So we can not be colonial and fall in love with the exotic, we can not be exotics, the exotic is here, so this is an important element, we are the XXX (1.03:56) (percussion/discussion?) between production – and in my case I'm talking about product design – between products and producers and users, we are the discussion, a discussion that is active can not be XXX (1:04:15). And this is the moment, and this is the attitude that will change. also the relation between the consumers and the product. We always say with Ruedi (Baur) we need less products, but better ones. I don't want to have 10 000 kinds of computers, give me one good one that's all. So that is the responsibility, because in this moment of crisis the people and the producers are really lost, and they don't know what to do. We can not follow this system of if I want to be successful so I will do a new line of computers, because I want to sign. Unfortunately this is very present in product design school. So this must be changed of course.

VK:

Thank you. I don't know if you want to add anything...


GV:

No, I already said/saw a lot of stupid things so... (laughs)


VK:

Its interesting, since you are someone who is already deep in the transformative practice of design its kind of going back to the question, more or less the boring question of redefining the discipline. On the other hand it is maybe important that its precisely people like you with your background and your experience are re-occupying the discipline, because otherwise it cant transform even if you already overcome it. This is a kind of schizophrenic situation, its also a responsibility for what, ...you transform it by your practice, but then your practice has to be seen by the…


GV:

Yeah and finally, the final result is when I talk about my work and my attitude, the younger generation are very attracted to it. So I am not only perceived by very uncommon people...


VK:

Sure I think the desire and that is what we have seen from collection of these questions, as we already said that the level of reflection and the desire is much higher than they can transform it into practice. That is one aspect, everyone is always waiting for a command...


GV:

This is the old system at the same time you need to create your command, I saw a beautiful example at the school, this lady who did graphics, she created her command.


VK:

This is interesting, because this is a strategy which seems to be unsuccessful, but finally as you and Ruedi Baur perhaps show it is successful...

GV:

Yes you create, you are different. For example I spent, two days ago, one afternoon with the art director of Alessi. What is the best dream of a designer to spend one afternoon speaking about life with her. I think she was surprised I didn't propose any product (laugh) – to be with a girl and have no seduction...

VK:

And that is also a kind of liberty the other side needs...


GV:

She told me the level of stress she has... she has hundreds of students a week sending projects to her... and people like Karim Rashid, who takes the catalogue of all the fairs and takes the addresses and starts sending projects to you... “You do lamps, I want to do this lamp, this lamp...!” and sends 100 faxes. In the end you say yes I will do it . And he does this like a factory, this means he has 10 or 12 designer students doing sketches and sends you hundreds of faxes and rolls of sketches until you say “yes please let me do it, I will do it, I wont resist you!”. So he does this with 2000 people a year, and finally he gets 20 or 25 projects. So finally he became famous, he dressed in pink, because he says you have to be unusual so he dresses in pink. But before this he was a normal man! He studied in XXX (1:09:57) here – he was a normal guy.





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