Although it’s a medium packed full of practical applications, graphic design also promotes the exploration of ideas from a conceptual standpoint and it’s this space that Italian designer Michela Zoppi’s work firmly occupies. Inspired by a host of references that include the typographic experiments of the Futurist Movement, William Blake’s poetry and Jean Lucas Godard’s films, Michela has developed an incredibly conceptual and thought-provoking approach to her work.
Whether working with video installation, poster or editorial design, Michela’s signature is her research-led process. In a recent project, I Do Not Believe in Revolutionary Design (or Non Credo Nel Design Rivoluzionaro) she explored the questions “what does it mean to design today?” And “what is lost of the past of the discipline of communication design that we should revive?”
“An attention to the past and present tools of communication, to different subjects and how they deal with today’s reality made me rethink what I was doing, why I’m doing it and for whom,” explains Michela of the beginnings of the project. As a result, the book takes an essay written by Pierre Bernard (founder of French collective Grapus) as it’s start point to ascertain how a designer’s work can be socially engaged. “The essay is a complex reflection about what design is losing, what projects help them to have a role in society and in which ways they can structure a sane relationship with client, message and receiver,” Michela tells It’s Nice That.
I Do Not Believe in Revolutionary Design is divided into three chapters, focussed on the three themes of Bernard’s essay, each chapter supported by interviews with contemporary designers from France, Italy and the UK. These three sections have the “same starting point and the same visual structures, but all with something original, linked to the theme they are about,” Michela describes of the book’s design. Throughout the publication, the persistence of a grid system and two typefaces provide a common ground from which Michela makes small changes (such as colour) in order to distinguish between the content of each chapter: “the polyhedral figure of the graphic designer”, “the project, the message and the work as a collective” and “the social role of the graphic designer.”
By dissecting Pierre Bernard’s essay in such a methodical way, and in combination with a clear design hierarchy, Michela’s project deals with the ever-changing role of the designer in society. In what are clearly uncertain times, she offers a perspective on how the designer can adapt and change their range of interests and studies in order to reflect, contribute or make change within our society.
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