The third edition of the und. Cover project brings us to the company of Greek graphic designer Christos Kotsinis. Born in Athens in 1974, he studied graphic design, but later on the came to work between visual communication, printing and art. His distinct sense of humour is more immediately felt in his ironic souvenir objects, like for example his disgrèce t-shirts, which revisit a classic 1960’s tourist campaign by French designer Freddy Carabott — or the less funny ΣΚΑΤΟΨΥΧΙΑ (shitsoul) mugs. Christos was also behind an amazing indy magazine called AÏ, and he’s currently combining work in silkscreen printing, branding, printing and other applied fields. He also maintains his personal studio, Reach People, as an outpost for more spontaneous and experimental work. We had the immense pleasure of interviewing Christos Kotsinis for und. Athens, and you can read what we talked about below. Make sure you visit our Facebook page to see the covers he designed for us; yes, he made more than one, and we’ll be sharing them with you throughout the month.
Interview by Kiriakos Spirou
All photos courtesy Christos Kotsinis
How would you describe yourself as a creator? What is your practice?
I studied graphic design and I hold a BA from Vakalo Art & Design College. On the practical side, I design logos, corporate identities, artist catalogues and anything that has to do with printing more or less. Analogue stuff. From then on, as part of some exceptional collaborations from time to time, I get myself into various projects that have to do with linoleum printing, handmade posters, objects and also digital design, through my personal studio under the name Reach People. This is where I create things without any particular devotion and attention, things out of the normal, just food for the mind. Another field where I’m very active in is object photography, making portfolios for colleagues etc. Something that always keeps me active is my collaboration with a silkscreen printing company that prints on objects, [which I do] so that I can stay close to production. Staying in touch with the technical side of our profession, with people who are not as much design-oriented — typographers, silkscreen-printers etc — is something special and difficult, but in the many times when things fall in place, magic happens.
You’ve gone through probably every post imaginable in the worlds of graphic design, production and publishing. What is it that still keeps you passionate about your work?
The fact that even though our times are difficult financially, morally even, there is always the potential and possibility for things to be said, wonderful objects to be created and so on. Even when the conditions are always against the creator. We’ll always must try a bit more, in too little time, on a short notice, without any planning o schedule. Many times the result of this not-so-creative process is rewarding. You may lose something else, but the result [of working in] non-conventional conditions is always special.
Is there a boom in the graphic design sector in Greece in recent years?
Creatively speaking, in Greece many things are being tested. Innovation, alternative ways of creativity, creations in the general sense, attempts and collaborations, all beyond common practice. This has brought us to the point where we see many interesting works. But this would normally be accompanied by a financial regularity for the design profession, which is not the case. I mean, everything ought to function with the right conditions, despite the growth. So that it can become huge. I think in a different financial situation we would have a bigger boom, since there are many independent initiatives and different voices, but not all can be funded and come to the light.
It’s a difficult question but I like posing it to people: what is the line between an artist and a designer?
This is the point where the whole misunderstanding usually happens. The designer does something applied, that obeys certain communication rules, readability requirements, practical applications, how lines and letters function. The artist should obey nothing.
Tell us a few words about the AÏ publication.
AÏ was a publishing project that had its roots in the more libertarian area of publications. It’s a work with incredible creative intention and freedom, whose aim was the actual participation of readers-sponsors. Amazing texts, research, images and content, overall. After its issue 0, which received an award in 2011 as the best-designed magazine in Greece — which is incredible considering that it wasn’t a commercial project — two more issues were designed which were never published/printed. Conflicting perspectives and directions of the people who were in charge of it was the reason why it was discontinued. Nevertheless, as people and the conditions mature, there will be other similar challenges. What I learned personally [through this project] is to collaborate, and how to do so beyond normal terms and with people beyond my own way of doing things. Which is terribly difficult, considering that there are clashes in collaborations on the day-to-day anyway.
Perhaps my favourite recent work of yours is the mug Σκατοψυχία (Shitsoul). What is the concept behind this and how would you explain the meaning of this word to a foreigner?
I wanted to comment on the overall decay and festering of society in the present economic conjuncture. Human relationships have collapsed, and combined with the particularities of the Greek construct, horrible dead-ends emerge. Our times demand extreme resilience on every level. I made the mug after a violent incident in my close family circle and the way it was treated afterwards by relatives. The word ΣΚΑΤΟΨΥΧΙΑ, with the accent placed wherever we want to put the emphasis, cannot be adequately translated in any language, at least not in the way we feel and understand it. Ideally, for a foreigner, it describes the darkest side of the Greek soul, in all its glory.
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