Filippos Fragkogiannis is an Athens based freelance graphic designer and art director with a focus on typography, print design and visual identity. His projects center around visual identities, posters, and print collateral, and he regularly enhances type foundries with bold imagery.
With an MA in Visual Communication, and a BA in Graphic Design from Vakalo Art & Design College and the University of Derby, his research-based approach is rooted in semiotics, symbolism and the mechanics of visual language.
How did you become a designer?
Going back, I think a number of experiences shaped me, and lead me towards graphic design, like my decade-long involvement in graffiti since the age of 14. Tags, names, and letters were the main elements we were spraying in the streets at the time. This premediated injection of verbal forms in the public space has much in common with the way posters make walls speak. No wonder why my early steps as a graphic designer was making posters for school parties, graffiti stores, and rap artists’ concerts. At the same time, I was, and still am, drawn to language, and its capacity to determine, disseminate, and establish any given information. The way the written word can be archived, shared, printed, and reproduced always interested me. Studying graphic design was a conscious choice, and all of the above not only played a key role in me following this path, but also in adopting a type-focused approach from early on.
How would you define your vision of design, your style?
My interest lies in the way language is used in visual communication and guides our interpretation of society. Whether it’s for advertising, propaganda, political discourse, or the expression of feelings, language is a powerful tool. So, I explore the capacities of this tool to produce designs based on simple forms and condensed meanings, that can make as big an impact as possible. In terms of approach, my design could be described as sharp, transparent, and plain-spoken. It calls for the viewers’ attention and tries to earn their trust, all the while allowing for multiple interpretations. I want the outcome to be direct and honest, to serve its purpose, and get the message across in a straightforward manner. I’m all for a simple, truthful, and type-centered design. I try to avoid adopting one style or another. Instead, I develop a creative methodology that moves from accumulation to condensation and abstraction.
First, I do a comprehensive research on the given subject, gather all the necessary information, then I process these materials, find a sensible hierarchy between them and, finally, take out everything that seems unnecessary or redundant. I experiment a lot, and reject many attempts before arriving at a final result that would be fulfilling to both me and the client. Avoiding verbiage is my main concern, since we live in saturated times in terms of visual and verbal stimuli. I also try to avoid risky certainties and prejudice. My intention is to communicate, through design, messages that speak a universal language and are addressed to a wider, international audience. I aim for designs that are simple, easily recognizable, and aesthetically appealing to the viewer.
A designer or studio you admire?
Artists working conceptually with typography and text in public space such as Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Lawrence Weiner, John Fekner and Josephine Kaeppelin always interested me. At the same time, my designs reflect my affection for fonts, and I’m always eager to collaborate with exciting type designers. Typefaces, to me, are a true inspiration. I think of them as vessels for concepts, moods, and gestures. To spark my creativity, type foundries are my go-tos.
Could you tell us about any of your projects?
A project reflecting my type-oriented approach is my work for NOMAS Magazine, a travel edition for visually wandering the world. Among other things, I got to imagine the code system of the featured countries for which I picked National Codes Pi with the aim of highlighting the font’s application both on paper and online. On the masthead of the magazine, I colored three codes in red, green and blue to hint at both the RGB system and the online continuation of the project.
Another great experience was enhancing Fonts.gr online presence with new features, pushing the envelope further. Along with Georgia Harizani, we created the company’s Instagram and Facebook shops, a Google My Business listing with a comprehensive font directory, and added the finishing SEO touches to their website. Needless to say, designing the foundry’s first AR filter on Instagram was so much fun. You should try it!
What do you like the most in your job?
To me, graphic design is a practice filled with excitement. From concept to design, printing, and delivery, it’s applied nature allows one to have a tangible outcome eager to start a conversation with its end receiver. It’s a practice that’s fueled by interaction and human contact. Therefore, as a graphic designer, I always felt a sense of responsibility about how my work questions and contributes to the values of our society and culture. In addition, graphic design is enlightening on a personal level. Working on visual communication made me more observant, more alert to details, more aware of the appearance and structure of things. It helped me improve both my communication skills and my critical thinking. Last but not least, as I go deeper into signs, symbols, and the metalingual function of language, it gives me a thrill to navigate and try to decode today’s information-saturated world.
For the future, what are your professional projects?
Right now, I’m working on expanding my outreach online and offline, introducing my work to a wider audience, and developing new collaborations with creatives and clients that are open to bold, radical, and unexpected design. Collaboration, to me, is as important as self-awareness, and a deeper understanding of one’s own interests, skills, and needs. I’m trying to find the right balance between research, commercial and personal projects, and collaborate with brands that value design as an asset, and understand its potential to deliver results and lead to renewal. I plan to continue to celebrate contemporary design through blogging, and I am heading towards the future with the desire to push my creativity further, and keep trying to bring something new to the table.
Today we meet Dennis Elbers, founder and curator of @Graphicmatters
“Visual images are everywhere in our physical and digital world. They determine how we see the world and how we act. We don’t always realise that graphic designers help us by creating order out of chaos, providing clarity in complex matters or speaking to our emotions. They visualise urgent matters so we can understand them quickly. Graphic (design) Matters.”
1. What is “Graphic Matters”? When was it born?
Up to now Graphic Matters is a biannual festival on graphic design. We feature mostly self-initiated projects by designers that care about current issues. We like to show attitudes over disciplines. Our main audience isn’t just other designers, but also young professionals in media and journalism. Our projects show the impact of visual communication and hopefully inspires them to develop a more critical view and (re-)value design in their practice.
2. Who is your team made up of and what is your background before “GraphicMatters”?
Currently our team holds 7 professionals working on both Graphic Matters and Blind Walls Gallery. We also have a pet project called 3sec.gallery. Many people expect me to be a graphic designer, but I actually studied painting and printmaking. Graphic Arts was always a fascination. After graduating from art school (2003) I started curating shows in mixed disciplines. This evolved into a speciality in graphic design. In 2008 the Graphic Design Museum opened in Breda. The world’s first (and at that time only) museum dedicated to graphic design. It would show only the tip of the iceberg, in white rooms without context, for people that are already interested and paid for a ticket. As a young curator working on multi disciplinary exhibitions I gained much interest in the power of graphic design. Together with some friends I initiated Graphic Design Festival Breda. A biannual festival that would complement the museum by showing emerging designers, in public space, for everyone and for free.
3. For more than 10 years you have organized festivals and events full of activities. How much work and time is behind it? How you choose locations, artists and topics?
In our team we spend about 3 full time jobs on Graphic Matters, during festivals we have freelancers and over 50 volunteers to help us. In the past a full cycle from developing the concept, finding funding, pre-production, execution and follow-up took almost 2 years. After this some of our projects would start an European tour to be displayed at other festivals. As the main curator I initiate theme’s and develop these with co-curators. I take my inspiration from what I see, hear, read… I try to sense what is going on in society and connect this to the (future) practice of designers. This is why we hardly show commercial work, this is always following fashion, while we try to stay ahead. We enjoy not having out own venue, but to be able to find exciting places and contribute to their development.
4. You have recently collaborated on the “Stay sane, stay safe” project. Tell us more about and how was this collab born?
After the first shock of lock-down we saw 2 kinds of graphic design erupt. Shopkeeping creating/inventing all kinds of messages and signing to inform people about the new situation. This was different everywhere. Often very confusing. It showed design is a profession 😉 On the other hand we saw designers that visually responded to the situation. As their practice was often pauzed they started to create messages of hope. The Hague based studio Lennarts & De Bruijn together with copywriter Overdeschreef did something similar and decide to include others. Their call for Stay Sane, Stay Safe posters reminded my of our biannual Open Call for posters. Designers from all over the world replied, but their work could only be seen online, and mostly was seen by other designers. So to break this we took the projects to the streets in 3 stages. First 6 weeks of lockdown we presented 12 poster designs in 275 A0 sized commercial frames in public space of Breda. As cool designs kept coming we extended he selection from 12 to 46. These posters became part of two pop-up shows that travelled for 4 weeks. The installations were presented in different squares and parks around our city. Currently stage 3 is the exhibition of 75 designs in our 3sec.gallery. A drive-by gallery in the city center.
5. Graphic and visual design surrounds us both in the physical and digital world. How do you think this will be in 10 years?
I don’t think it will be different. But we try to influence the messages behind the images. The content we see right now (specially in public) is mainly commercial. We don’t like the idea of what we see in public space (both digital and physical) is determined by commercial parties. Putting out more artistic and challenging images is our way of making people aware of the impact visual communication has.
6. Any exciting future projects we can expect?
Always! We started a proces to turn Graphic Matters from a biannual festival into an ongoing program of events. Throughout the year we want to set up more events (masterclasses, talks, public interventions and international exhibitions) from our Graphic Matters Lab. Here we research the themes of the festival together with designers and other stakeholders. By doing so the festival will have stronger content, but will also evolve in shape and duration. First Graphic Matters Lab projects can be expected in 2021.