Among the Italian immigrants of the 21st century in the United States there are many brilliant minds, with master’s degrees and a background in research or creative activities. With the previous generations of Italians who have moved to America, they share the hope for a better future. Their remarks reveal New York as a competitive place full of opportunities. For those working on visual or information design, it offers particularly fertile ground, as one of the world’s most important cultural and economic centers.
Information designer Giorgia Lupi arrived here thanks to the doctoral program in Design at the Milan Polytechnic (2011-2014) which brought her as a visiting researcher to the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping. In Milan and New York, in 2011 she founded the studio Accurat, whose clients include Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Fineco-Unicredit Group, Hewlett Packard Italia, Mondadori, RAI, RCS/Rizzoli MediaGroup, United Nations Development Programme and World Food Programme.
“New York,” Lupi says, “is a unique crossroads for the disciplines that make my work possible: from finance to media, the world of art and culture to that of innovation and technological research. It is a city where things naturally become hybrids, and making a living by combining art and science, here I have the possibility every day of growing in professional and personal terms.”
In New York, in fact, she met the illustrator Michela Buttignol, who has lived here since 2011, working with Accurat, New York Times, Boston Globe and Plansponsor Magazine. “I came here for personal reasons,” Buttignol says, “but the choice inevitably influenced my professional life. New York and the United States in general can offer opportunities that would be hard to find elsewhere, because of the way design in all its forms is recognized and valued. Unlike Italy, here I have met people who were ready to give me a chance.”
One important chance was given to Andrea Trabucco Campos, born in Bogota but raised in Lucca, who since September has been working for the prestigious studio Pentagram. The visual designer came to New York in 2008 to study philosophy at New York University. After taking a master’s at the Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan, he returned to New York in 2015, working freelance for Sole24Ore and as head designer for Heritage Food USA.
“New York is competitive,” Trabucco says. “It is a cultural and economic center on a worldwide level and exerts a gravitational force on leading talents in many sectors, including design. There are some big obstacles of density and friction, but you get used to it with time.”
Each has developed their professional approach, investigating the possibilities of graphics, between old and new media. “In the field of information design,” Lupi remarks, “or graphics and visual communication for the representation of data and information, recent technological innovations have led to very rapid evolution of visual languages.
This is because new possibilities of interaction and devices of all kinds facilitate active exploration of content on the part of its audience. Infographics and data visualizations, which were static and linear until a short time ago, are now multidimensional and interactive, for personalized and always different utilization of content. Information design studies how to present qualitatively and quantitatively complex contents in a clear, accessible way.
It is a discipline used to support decision-making or educational activities in an increasingly wide range of contexts: from medicine to industry, finance to the world of non-profit organizations.
Data visualization is a subset of information design and focuses on the creative use of visual models typical of scientific or statistical representation. The data we record are not just online, but have to do with everyday behaviors like movements, purchases, everything that can be detected by sensors, chips and smartphones. This formless mass of data requires visualization that helps us to understand, to combine contexts, to formulate questions or to influence choices and decisions.”
“In the area of illustration,” Buttignol emphasizes, “I do not believe there are many distinctions between the various media, since in any case the matrix of the work starts from the idea, the personal style. The main difficulty is still how to translate a concept into image using the language of forms and colors. And evoking a story without literally replicating what the text already says, instead creating a double narration.
The principal change connected with the advent of new media has to do with timing. Digital tools, from software to apps on devices, let you rapidly make and at times ‘simulate’ manual techniques and style. The digital does not uproot the stylistic and manual matrix, but it becomes part of the process of implementation of the idea.”
On the relationship between graphic design and new media, Trabucco Campos says: “The advent of the digital has still not added anything fundamental to the roots of graphic design. It has only allowed it to grow in new directions. The book continues to be the perfect form for reading, even after the arrival of smart devices, which are simply digital versions of the same paper layouts. Data visualization or the simplicity of designing with new graphics software are interesting aspects.
Nevertheless, the ease of digital creation has led to a paradox: the hand/mouse has become more capable than the eye. It is the harmony between these two elements that permits the graphic designer to excel. Digital tools also permit such speed of production that the final product loses its value. Generally, for publishing content, paper permits expansive exploration, while the web and smart devices permit in-depth discovery thanks to their interactivity.
Paper, a daily newspaper, for example, lets us scan vast levels of information quickly, while the web and mobile devices allow us to immediately zoom in on an article of interest. Nevertheless, the typographical characters link our experience, making it similar. And fonts, which have an infinite expressive capacity, are the manifestation of the spirit of the times.”
Text by Valentina Croci