Flavia Cocchi for the agIdeas International Design Forum

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Published:  May 7, 2015
Aidan Connolly

Flavia Cocchi is a Swiss designer and educator, and head of Atelier Cocchi in Lausanne, Switzerland. Working primarily in poster and publication design for cultural institutions such as MUDAC, Beau-Rivage Palace and Théâtre de la Comédie Geneva, her work is ruled both by strict Swiss structure and a strong sense of tactility. Adapting her sensibility over a variety of media, she explores new forms and ideas while valuing her personal history as a designer.

desktop spoke to Cocchi ahead of her appearance at the agIdeas International Design Forum.

 

Interview conducted and translated from French by Aidan Connolly

Cocchi1-Face_au_Mur

Exhibition catalogue for MUDAC, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland.

Exhibition catalogue for MUDAC, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland.

Exhibition catalogue for MUDAC, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland.

Exhibition catalogue for MUDAC, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland.

Exhibition catalogue for MUDAC, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland.

You’ve designed a few monographs, now. What do you think about when you’re designing a book about a single person (as compared to, say, an institution like Archilab or École Hôtelière Lausanne)?

I have my own opinions, and my clients aren’t really into ‘objective design’… I think there are areas of communication where objectivity is necessary (in selling a product for example), but in general we want to sell a fantasy. The delicate point of monographs is that the work is so personal. It’s really someone’s ‘baby’, and often the gestation’s more than 9 months! You must produce ideas while also taking into account the artist’s personality. Succeeding at synthesising their world, by making it feasible and worthwhile while staying at a remove, and above all not being decorative. I try to keep it as sober as possible.

You have written that you are not a designer — simply that you create posters, books and visuals. How does this influence your practice?

No, no, I’m a designer! I’m sometimes asked if I’m an artist, and that I’m not. I have clients and constraints, and it’d never work without them; I don’t have enough discipline to work for myself. I like making a project work for someone, or for an institution, or to promote an artist by making a book or an image for them. I like the exchange, and discovering the wants and needs of the person sitting across from me. Starting from there, I can create.

The variety of my clients is fantastic. Each time I discover a new universe, and I evolve. I’m not a chameleon. I have a precise history. Graphically speaking, I think my core stays the same, even in researching new ideas. I’m in service to the public, but I keep my personality and visual world in everything. I always ask my new clients if they feel comfortable in my universe, if it works them. If so, I can begin.

Cocchi2-Air_en_forme

Exhibition catalogue for MUDAC, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland.

Exhibition catalogue for MUDAC, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland.

Exhibition catalogue for MUDAC, the Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts, Switzerland.

What do you think of the term ‘graphic designer’? 

It has justified its worth. It’s a recent term from the 20th century, and we already want it to disappear. We’re already trying to transform it into infographics, polygraphs… No, it encompasses all of our day-to-day work quite well, transcribing a message with the help of form and imagery.

Swiss design doesn’t typically seem to place much emphasis on the tactile qualities of a piece. You, on the other hand, often make quite overt use of it (such as in your works for MUDAC, which incorporate many materials — paper, card, plastic — and various binding techniques). What draws you to the material world?

Yes, I love touch. It begins with the paper. They are so different and can carry such important sensations, indicating the functions of the subject. Do we want it to be matte, coated, structured, soft, aggressive…? In fact, this was all started by MUDAC; they’re a museum of applied art, so it seems to me that working with the material isn’t always easy, because of the costs. But little by little, we’re succeeding in making ‘books as objects’, and I always try to find for each one its own particularities relevant to the given theme.

For my part, typographic work remains deeply important and rigorous. Plenty of young graphic designers dive into typographic creation, and are greatly influenced by masters like Müller Brockmann and Armin Hoffmann, who worked from the 50s to the 70s, and put in place a real graphic and typographic structure. I think that the personality of Swiss design is still alive.

In your opinion, what designers or studios are producing the most interesting work at the moment?

I really admire the work of Irma Boom, a designer and an artist. She thinks of the A-Z of her books, even the content. She made a book with 2,136 pages. The book designs themselves are equally exceptional. If we’re talking about an agency, I think Spin, in London, is a real success!

Flavia Cocchi will be speaking at this year’s agIdeas International Design Forum. The forum will celebrate 25 years of design innovation and providing access to leading designers from across the globe in a one-day event to be held as part of world-renowned Design Matters Melbourne International Design Week, Thursday, 14 May 2015.

Held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the annual design forum will bring together 13 high-profile speakers, each handpicked by esteemed Australian designer, Ken Cato AO, to share their experiences, tips and insights behind their ideas and inspirations.

For more info on the event that Cocchi will speak at including ticketing, follow this link.

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