Dimitris Papazoglou

For a design to be successful it needs to sum up the very core of its topic

Dimitris Papazoglou

Design that awakens the instinct

Text: Chryssa Nanou || Photographs: Dimitris Papazoglou's Archive
Dimitris Papazoglou
Dimitris Papazoglou

The road to inspiration is paved through personal experiences for Dimitris Papazoglou, top-notch designer/creative director and founder of the DpS/Athens design studio. Analysis, research, instinct, experience, as well as the artist’s emotional engagement, are the key signposts that guide a visual communication project to success.

“Inspiration is to be found in the area of personal experience, which enables you to complete a task within five minutes, instead of five days,” he points out, as he goes on to explain: “Personal experiences speed up your decision-making process.” Whenever he encounters an inspiring new challenge, he resorts to the path of analysis. “It’s like the urge of a child to dismantle an object in order to comprehend how it works. I strive to decode and gain an understanding of all things, even the ones we consider as carved in stone,” he stresses out. “In Greece, we are bound by the dominance of the status quo; when it comes to the country’s mentality, we abide by certain cultural and social standards that we consider untouchable. However, the artist’s role is to question society’s certainties. Therefore, for every representative of the status quo, we need to understand the reasons behind this ascend to the top.”

Dimitris Papazoglou has been an active artistic creator for a whole 25 years. Born in 1976, he has been working as a visual communication designer since 1996. A large portion of his work revolves around the wider area of culture and public institutions, having earned distinctions and awards in competitions and contests of the highest level, both in Greece and abroad.

He has collaborated, among others, with prestigious institutions and companies, such as the National Library of Greece, the National Historical Museum, the Athens & Epidaurus Festival, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Nike, The New York Times daily newspaper, Tate Modern, Renzo Piano Workshop, MoMA, Chicago Design Museum etc. He has served as artistic director of the Epsilon magazine, published as part of the Sunday edition of the Greek daily newspaper Eleftherotypia (2005-2011).

His journey into the field of design started out in 1994 by pure coincidence. “When I moved from Serres to Thessaloniki, to enroll in AUTh’s Polytechnic School, I found myself attending a seminar on typography in urban surroundings. That’s when I realized that I had found my calling. I reoriented my academic life to this direction, studying both in Greece and abroad. Of course, if we go further back in time, my first contact with typography and design dates from the time when I started printing the high school newspaper. I was drawn to the field of design inspired by elements that mostly pertained to the publishing domain. As soon as I discovered the immense spectrum of possibilities offered by design, I felt as if many aspects of my social and political concerns were finally brought forth.”

His initiation into a vibrant and inquiring circle of artists, graphic designers and architects of Thessaloniki enriched his approach to the art of design. “Meeting distinguished personalities such as Stergios Delialis, Kostas and Alexis Petridis and Michalis Katzourakis was a huge boost in my early steps. Among the people that played an important role in the shaping and fueling of my moral aesthetic, after moving from a small provincial town to a bigger city, were architects George Papakostas and Giannis Chatzigogas, poet Ntinos Christianopoulos, printmaker and graphic designer Karolos Tsizek (Karel Čížek). These people influenced my aesthetic, not my technique. I had the chance to witness first hand the spirituality of these great people, amidst the 90s Thessaloniki, a vibrant yet demanding city.”

What is his definition, though, of a successful visual identity? “It depends on the point of view. On a worldwide scale, the most common definition identifies success with whatever serves the client, in other words “whatever functions”. I do not abide by this motto. In reality, for a design to be successful it needs to sum up the very core of its topic. Unfortunately, discovering this core demands a high level of critical thinking and observation. For instance, if we were to come up with a design for Thessaloniki, most people would just settle for Alexander the Great. You need to carry out a research, dig way deep and search for the identifying features before carving the road that will lead to the final outcome of the design. When it comes to commercially oriented design, success is measured in terms of sales. If I had to describe design in theatrical terms, I would compare it to a broad audience satire. Its goal is to achieve the closest possible contact and trigger dialogue and interaction, even aversion, without ever resorting to insult. A design that achieves in awakening an instinct is deemed successful, at least in my book. When we develop and activate our emotional intelligence while interacting with things, we can identify with them.”

When asked whether a designer’s work is purely artistic, here’s what he has to say: “It is said that we perform an applied art and that is true to a certain extent. An artist is expressing with his/her own problems, while a designer takes on the problems of others. Therefore, design contains a purely artistic dimension, as it relies both on the field of perception and that of emotions. At the same time, while it derives from the artistic field, it is fair to say that it’s a rather mathematical process as well; it encloses a touch of architecture, based on research.”

Could he single out his most successful project so far? The multi-awarded designer replies: “Every project has a history of its own, the time axe upon which it unfolds is associated with experience and age. Every project is a stepping-stone for a new one, there’s a sense of continuity in my work. Moreover, it is my firm belief that the purpose of visual communication is to materialize symbolisms and allegories. The path I’m walking on as an artist is solid, even dogmatic to a certain degree one might say, and has been a product of a lifelong course. As I designer, I have a starting point of references and directions I wish to bring forth. I strive to address issues that relate to my beliefs, even when I’m working for major corporations.”

The notion of dismantling, found in the core of his creative quest, played a key role in one his most recent works, when he was assigned to design the new visual identity of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival, which has come to be known through its international title. Until recently, the Festival’s visual identity, created back in 1998, pointed to the company “Hellenic Festival SA”, which hosted the Festival.

Following an open call and a series of candidatures submitted by dozens of creative offices from every part of Greece, the Festival opted in favor of Papazoglou’s candidature, who created the new visual identity of the Athens & Epidaurus Festival, placing emphasis on form and contradictions, as well as on the Festival’s international character. According to the designer, the Festival’s new visual identity meets the goal of “a multifunctional, creatively flexible and experimental visual identity.” Nevertheless, he was forced to tear down a few walls before building a new edifice. “As in real life, in design as well, perpetuating a mistake is nothing short of a disaster. The former visual identity did not correspond to the current reality; it simply did not make any sense. Rationalization and deconstruction were brought into the picture. The Festival changed its visual identity not out of a vague sentimental correlation, but out of an actual need.”

Even though Athens was no unknown territory, his recent moving there from Thessaloniki has affected his daily behavior. He firmly believes that the city one lives or works defines the identity of his/her work to a large extent. “We produce what we receive and consume on a daily basis. There’s only one distinguishing feature that serves as a difference maker between yourself and another artist, which has nothing to do with the quality of your work: your connection with culture. The way I see it, the only way to inject emotional intelligence to a work closely associated with a foreign place, for instance Japan, is to live in that particular place.”

As to his upcoming plans: “The only plans I work on are on paper. I recently became a father. Watching my son grow up is my one and only plan.”