An in-depth study into Italian design, history, and culture
italiaDesign is an 8-month undergraduate field school offered by the School of Interactive Arts + Technology at Simon Fraser University that contributes to the discourse of Italian design, history, and culture.
As one of 12 senior design students selected to participate in this legacy project, our team conducted in-field research and interviews which were produced into a film series. These films emphasize the personal design philosophies of 18 designers that can be viewed on the italiaDesign—11th Edition website.
Shannon Boyd, Elizabeth Chan,
Tobi Cheung, Kosuke Futsukaichi, Sean Leach, Michael Lo, Sabrina Ng, Summer-Lee Schoenfeld, Mark Strathern, Sonia Yau, Rana Zokai, Russell Taylor
Art Director, Photographer, Videographer, Visual Design, Experience Design, Video Editor
A LEGACY PROJECT
The 11th Edition of italiaDesign is a continuation of a legacy project. Each field school group embarks on an 8-month long study in Italian design, history, and culture, and then documents the accumulation of the experiences, stories, and interviews into a website.
The field school is comprised of three distinct phases: four months of deep research into the discourse of Italian design, history, and culture, two months of living and conducting interviews in Italy, and two months of post-production work.
Each field school group has the opportunity to create their unique identity and way of representing insights gathered in-field.
Capturing an intimate portrait of each designer and their personal design philosophy
An excerpt from Odo Fioravanti's interview
The art direction behind the production of italiaDesign—11th Edition was to capture an intimate view of each designer and their personal design philosophy. This was a new approach to field school films as the interviews produced in the past were predominantly project-focused.
In order to translate this direction into film media, I was inspired by the short video “Private View: Pla-Narbona” by Anna Pla-Narbona to create similar visual sequences and framing for our content. Many of the scenes in this video often conveyed through film his personality and a level of intimacy by following the artist interacting with his work in his studio. I thought this was compelling visual approach the field school team could apply to our interview videos. Through on my observations on “Portrait of a Place: Doku-Tur” by André Dip and José Menezes, I noticed that slow, long takes of subjects and landscapes had an immersive quality that captivated and drew in viewers.
Maintaining emphasis on designers and minimizing our presence
Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
Prior to commencing this project, I was already exploring several concepts based on photography precedents I observed and found intriguing. For one particular direction, the examples all shot their subject from afar, using their silhouette as a way to anchor the overall composition of the image.
Photo precedents that inspired the direction for the team portraits
My visual exploration of this idea began through my personal photography endeavours when in Italy. I was interested in seeking aesthetic compositions that evoked a sense of marvel and revealed beauty. The concept began to fully develop when I captured several photos of my team members within open architectural landscapes and realized this approach to the team portraits could build upon the established art direction strategy.
From a compositional perspective, the results from their photographs were visually compelling as it highlighted the person within the space while also emphasizing the context of their surroundings. This subtle, distant portrait of the team members not only showcased the (architectural) places experienced in field school, but also contrasted how the designers were being represented.
Cimitero di San Cataldo, Modena
The portraits of the designers were captured at much more intimate scale intending to reveal their personality and character, whereas ours were a way of reflecting our field school experience. From this process, the idea of contrasting scales was incorporated into the art direction and became a key concept during the website design process as a way to minimize our presence and maintain emphasis on the designer.
Industrial Product Designer
Establishing our visual principles inspired by Massimo Vignelli's approach to intellectual elegance, ambiguity and visual power
In addition to following the art direction strategy, the visual design of the website was strongly influenced by Massimo Vignelli’s design principles in his book the Vignelli Canon. The design team was particularly intrigued with his approach on Intellectual Elegance, Ambiguity, and Visual Power which these principles ultimately became identity guidelines for our ideation process.
Pages from The Vignelli Canon written by Massimo Vignelli
In order to form a physical moodboard, the team collected external assets we were inspired by. These assets were then consolidated into four distinct themes the design team wanted to pursue.
Through this tactile ideation process, it was evident that we were interested in designing a website that used a print paradigm and challenged the range of legibility through typographic scale. Although the design team was inspired by these interpretive graphic approaches to creating a website, the visual design also had to lead to clarity in content organization and UX to ultimately produce a well-structured and visually-compelling digital experience.
Preliminary mockups of the landing page and films series section
Final Landing Page
Using typographic scale to prompt a linear sequence of content; through slow hover-interactions viewers can discover the personal interviews of each designer.
Evoking emotion through storytelling
The website aims to evoke emotion and an immersive experience primarily through visual storytelling complemented by slow-revealing interactions. Viewers are first introduced by the headline copy that bleeds off the page prompting them to discover the Film Series.
Within the Film Series section, large-scaled numbers is used to visually categorize the films into three discrete volumes. This structure prompts a clear entry point to the series and provides a linear narrative arc where viewers can hopefully gain a fuller understanding on the contemporary discourse of Italian design.
Accessing past field school experiences
This page provides viewer access to the websites and interviews conducted by previous field school groups from italiaDesign and dutchDesign.
This page was an adaption of dutchDesign 2017’s legacy page iterated to streamline the experience. This design provides the ability to switch between the two field schools—italiaDesign or dutchDesign. By organizing content within a lateral structure, viewers are able to easily navigate from the field school year and to a specific linked video of their choice.
Key insights from user testing with field school alumni
Through user testing, a valuable insight our team gained was that the Credits Page did not meet the expectation of most field school alums. In past websites, this page is typically dedicated to highlight each team member and their personal experience of field school. Our team chose not to reveal any personal content and decided to place more focus on the locations we experienced during our time in Italy through imagery. This way of representing ourselves fell short for field school alumnis who were interested in learning more about each of us.
Through user testing we realized that field-school alumns were interested in seeing a little more about our team
We realized it was important to shift our perspective on our audience to include field school alumni as stakeholders in this project. We needed to arrive at a solution that met their needs but also upheld our team’s direction and strategy that were established for our project. As a result, the team redesigned the layout and experience of the page to include a behind-the-scenes section that showed a glimpse of us in production. This iteration allowed an opportunity to reveal small moments of surprise and delight by featuring the behind-the-scenes section as additional material.
Behind the Scenes
If you want to know about my personal experience in-field, I’d be happy to chat over coffee. To see my behind the scenes adventures in Italy, head over to my Instagram highlights through this link here.