Graphic art is something that has always been present in human history. The simple term graphic art includes a wide range of arts, such as painting, calligraphy, serigraphy and typography among others. The first drawings on the walls of the caves are something ‘graphic’, a representation of something outside. In addition, the hieroglyphics were a kind of graphic art. Moreover, with the invention of the press, paintings and posters started to circulate and through the centuries, posters became the simplest way to communicate news to the citizens.
Then it came capitalism, advertising, movies and television. Since then the popularity of posters and consequently of graphic design arose stunningly. Another impressive revolution in the history of graphic design occured with the spread of internet. The web, and more accurate design programmes, allows artists and graphic designers to manipulate and create images, texts and photographs, in a high quality format, quickly and colourful.
However, this kind of web graphic design, oriented towards advertising, could be considered as a form of art? Of course, the best web designers or graphic designers are artists. Some posters or images created by them are simply spectacular. There is also a prize for the Designer of the Year, and in addition, some artists have already become part of the history of art, as Dave Shea and Jeffrey Zeldman, and some of them are really influential. Obviously, there are many museums devoted to this form of art, such as the The Department of Advertising and Graphic Design at the MOMA, New York or The Museum of Image in Breda, Netherlands and recently many bookstores sell only books and objects on graphic design. Moreover, with the help of the latest technologies graphic design has become simpler and more suitable for all the creative people. However, in this way, how could an artist stand out?
Let’s ask the opinion of some graphic designers! Here is the opinion of Sara Pitton. “Nowadays everyone could define himself or herself a graphic designer, everyone could become a graphic designer. That happens because on the web you can find free graphic programmes and tutorials for Illustrator and Photoshop. In this way, it is simple to make up ourselves as graphic designers. Nevertheless, the difference between a homemade designer and a professional one is huge. When you work in a studio, you are exposed to an atmosphere which allows you to develop certain skills. All designer/artists have a training, education and talent. The web allows everyone to create logos, posters… but being a professional designer is different. You have an artistic education. You learn true graphic art through study and through the work in studio.” Also Stefania Del Ponte, another graphic designer agreed with her: “Graphic design is a way to communicate, the most creative way to sell a product. But it is also something more, it has a deeper meaning, it has ancient roots and a structured history as everything significant in our world. This kind of communication has to attract the attention, to strike and surprise and be remembered after years. Communication is difficult. Each of us has different paradigms of communication and understanding. For these reasons, there exists a marketing strategy and people that help designers to try to better understand the necessities of the client”.
Sara said also that graphic is something that is linked with personal tastes and, as in every creative field, there are fashions and evolutions. “For example fonts, types of drawings, style and strokes changed through the years. We have to remember that graphic for advertisement conveys a message, it is a work on commission. A part from creativity you have to convey a message all around the world. Moreover, graphic art changes with society, as other kinds of art, but maybe it goes faster because it is linked with technology.” Stefania added that “with the digital era some of the principles of graphic have been lost, for example handmade works or the kind of papers. Many things have been substituted by machines. Once, designers and typographers worked together because collaboration was essential. I still love works on paper, it is something that has not be forgotten”.
New artists have to leave a mark, to create their style to be recognized everywhere in a blink of an eye
Talking about the situation today and how one artist could emerge, Sara stated that “today more talent is required. In the past it was a manual work, it required more time and commitment. Today instead, you work more on the project, because you have some programmes that allow you to do incredible things, for example animations, that were unthinkable years ago. We have developed from execution to planning, which involves a lot of creativity. Now we need talent, because you have to do something new. New artists have to leave a mark, to create their style to be recognized everywhere in a blink of an eye.” Stefania also reported what a great professor of hers when she studied in Venice taught her:
The rule of the 3 Ps: Passion, Patience and Perseverance. A great lesson!
Sara explained that the situation in Italy is complicated. “We have good artists and speaking of creativity sometimes we are forward compared to other countries. However, we are backwards if we speak of acceptation. The public is not ready, it is a mental state. Many things are not accepted and it becomes more difficult to emerge. We don’t lack schools but society do not appreciate some works (especially provocations). If people were ready to accept graphic as art we would have more possibilities to promote this art and to take some risks. However, as I said before, graphic for advertisement is a commercial product, it is different from other kind of arts so it is more difficult to satisfy everyone. Here in Italy, Milan remains the centre for arts, maybe people are more accustomed to ‘provocations’. Around the world, however, some graphic objects have been considered as a kind of icon. Especially some vintage products, such as the old Coca Cola posters or, speaking of Italian products, some old Benetton advertisement posters. Not only society changes graphic but it is also graphic that changes society. We are constantly bombed with images and slogans. It is a manipulation in a way. It doesn’t matter if the advertisement is good or bad, but it sticks in our heads”. Speaking of ‘classic’ advertisement also Stefania remembered those of Benetton and Campari. “These are things that stick in your mind. But it is art, it is a kind of alternative art. We are ‘problem solvers’, we search for comprehensible solutions which can be easily remembered. Summary is our ace in the hole, creativity is our lungs. Strategy is our spinal cord. It is also a difficult job. One month you can work a lot and the next you might have no clients at all. But every day you learn new skills and you grow up. You have to keep up with the times because you cannot stay behind”.
Speaking about new techniques Sara said that the free programmes on the web are not comparable with the Adobe programmes. The free programmes have a low print quality, they are not precise and the have limited functions. “If you use those programmes it can become a hobby. Some of them are not compatible with advanced programmes! Of course, Adobe has the monopoly! Furthermore, you have to know some basics of typography because you have to work with typographers and if you know how they work you can improve your work. You have to know what kind of papers are used, what reliefs, punching and varnishing are. All things that enhance the product. Now with the web design, all graphic artist have to learn some basics of informatics. Because planning for print and planning for the web is completely different.”
And last but not least, Sara gave an advice for young graphic designers: “Determination is more important than talent. Also to be well-read and nurture many interests because graphic art is a very wide sector.
And develop a strong personality! It is absolutely necessary for an artist!
Stefania added that “you have to be curious, read the news because society is our daily bread and the best feeling is to wake up in the morning knowing that for 10, 12, or 8 hours you will do the job that you love, something that keeps you alive. This is what I always wanted and I hope it will continue”.