Interviews by Dr. Aikaterini Lambrou, Head of the Press and Communication Office of the Embassy of Greece in Cyprus.
- Aggeliki MK Athanasiadi Visual designer, Founder, Creative & Art Director of Graphic Stories Cyprus
- Rob Snow
Graphic Designer - Illustrator
- Lefteris KretsosGeneral Secretary for Media and Communication
Interviews and insights on the occasion of the 4th Conference on Graphic Design & Visual Communication of Cyprus, Graphic Stories Cyprus
Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) worldwide, as mapped out at the first comprehensive study conducted by UNESCO in December 2015, are significant in political, social, and economic terms. They have been the cement that binds together not only hearts and souls, but entire societies and nations. In a world that faces frequent disruption, upheavals and armed conflicts — economic, social, political and technological — creativity and culture have been the common link throughout history, connecting the past, present and future of humanity.
But culture and creativity are so much more than that; they are in fact essential catalysts for development. They are an economy — nearly 30 million people across the world make a living out of them. With 29.5 million jobs, CCI employ 1% of the world’s active population. Graphic design activities are part of the visual arts sector and an important art, but are also tools in other cultural industries such as advertising, publishing, gaming and animation.
Conference on Graphic Design & Visual Communication, Graphic Stories Cyprus
The 4th consecutive Conference on Graphic Design and Visual Communication of Cyprus, Graphic Stories Cyprus, opens its doors for another creative weekend from 09 - 11 March 2018. Graphic Stories Cyprus is an institution established in the last four years in the field of visual communication as well as the consciousness of creative professionals and students of Cyprus and abroad.
A key objective of the conference is the transmission of specialized knowledge and experience from lecturers to the public, as well as the interaction entailed. With this in mind, the 4th Conference on Graphic Design and Visual Communication, Graphic Stories Cyprus, with the support of, among others, the Hellenic Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media, will welcome on Friday 9 March 2018 some of the most prominent professionals in the field for its scheduled lectures, which will be held at the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation in Nicosia. The conference includes workshops for professional and children, as well as exhibitionsaiming to promote contemporary issues that Visual Communication deal with, to raise questions and to explore possible answers. On the occasion of the Conference, Greek News Agenda interviewed* the founder of the Conference Angeliki Athanasiadi, British designer Rob Snow and General Secretary for Media and Communication of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media Lefteris Kretsos, offering an insight on the current state of visual design in Greece and Cyprus as well as Greek policies for its support.
Why this Conference?
Interview with Aggeliki MK Athanasiadi
Visual designer, Aggeliki MK Athanasiadi, Founder, Creative & Art Director of Graphic Stories Cyprus talked to Greek News Agenda about the incentives and initiatives of the Conference and offers an insight on the current field of Greek and Cypriot design.
Numerous studies and articles state that the contemporary Greek design scene is flourishing despite the intense fiscal-economic crisis the country has been facing since 2009. How can the necessary opening of Greek and Cypriot design to the world be achieved?
With the means provided by modern technology, the world-wide commercial chessboard is now accessible from every point on earth and by every professional. The cultivation of a climate of extroversion, along with the creation of the necessary structures and institutions by the state, can contribute positively to this end. Designers are distinguished for their ability to find solutions to often difficult problems, which is what we call creativity. And it is a fact that during the period of economic crisis, design has been booming. A wealth of skilled professionals existed, but what was missing until now was the design and implementation of a national infrastructure policy at national level to enhance access to information, distance communication, empowerment of the economy and improvement of competitiveness and promotion of economic and social cohesion. I hope that the fertile seeds sown today will soon bloom and bear fruit.
Initiating and holding Graphic Stories Cyprus since 2014, despite prejudices and obstacles, what were the incentives and main objectives?
For many years in Cyprus there have been no such independent initiatives aimed at cultivating the value of visual communication. Our motive was to bring together the designers of the island and to awaken their professional consciousness, not only in terms of individual benefit but also in relation to the general welfare of the field of visual communication.
Graphic Stories Cyprus is not just a celebration of the applied arts, it is the annual Conference on Graphic Design and Visual Communication in Cyprus, which aims to bring visual communication to the forefront and demonstrate its value to the community. It also aims towards the cultivation of artistic education and the development of critical perception about modern graphic arts both at local and international level. At the same time, it contributes to the promotion and the exposure of visual communication and artistic creation, not only in Cyprus but also abroad and encourages the networking with cultural institutions, organizations and contemporary art groups abroad. The organization of exhibitions, conferences and workshops aims to show and promote the value of visual communication to the public, creating culture and values and interaction with society.
Do you believe in the cooperation between private talent and initiative and state policy or it is actually unnecessary?
I believe that encouraging and supporting private initiative, especially when it comes to the arts and culture, must be a state policy priority. The benefits of such a practice are multiple, not only for the creators but also for the state itself as a whole. Αrts are a prosperity indicator for a state and could offer progress in many areas. In education, arts cultivate the imagination and the skills of critical thinking, communication and innovation that are indispensable for a productive workforce of the 21st century.
Arts can play the role of a political catalyst, support a strong democracy, involving citizens in political dialogue, communicating in their own way important issues and encouraging collective problem solving. This enhances active citizenship and strengthens democracy.
From an economic point of view, new jobs are created through arts, business activity is stimulated, revenue from tourism is attracted, and a high-quality workforce is maintained. Arts have proven to be a successful and viable strategy for revitalizing rural areas, urban centres and people struggling against poverty.
And how are things in Greece?
An insight by Rob Snow
Rob Snow, an acclaimed British designer, illustrator and one of the key lecturers, with an exhibition of his work hosted at the Conference, talked* about his experience on living and working in Greece.
As a British designer living in Greece, how would you describe Greece as a country going through an intense financial crisis and its creative cultural scene?
Not sure if it’s the place of an artist to write political commentary, but I feel Greece should never had joined the Eurozone. The whole thing is based on a weak ideology that all Europe could be equal, when in fact it is far from that. Standards of living, wages, cultures and even ways in which we all do business are inherently different, so cannot work with a single currency. If Europe was to take onboard the US method of state and federal government, but uphold the notions that all countries follow a set calibration of economic values, such as minimum wage, RRP on good, etc, then one thing would be for sure, Greece would be a very attractive country. Could you image getting the same wage as Germans, but with the cultural and geographic benefits of Greece? People would flock here.
For myself, I first moved when Greece still had its own currency, the drachma. Life then was wonderful, with people going out all the time, produce was cheap, people were always smiling. It was a very safe and pleasant land to think about bringing up a child. When the euro came along, there was an almost instant change. The realisation that we had to comply to a general standard was a big shock to Greeks. Costs rose rapidly, employment dropped and everyone was beginning to think about that ‘job-for-life’ mentality. As the years rolled by and the changes that needed to be made weren’t, then things got even tougher. Public spending was at such a level that the economy was breaking.
I started out here working in an art college. Over the 15 years that I worked there, I saw many changes that saddened me to the core, so I ultimately decided to stop. These were the standard of educational procedure, the standard of students applying, and the fact that money spent meant a guaranteed education. Arts, like everywhere else, suffer in this country. But I always used to tell my students the old adage that “It’s a bad artist who blames his tools.” Art here in Thessaloniki, has a home; a very small one, but still vocal. More so the music scene and many talented artists live and do work in the city. The big issue is that there is not that much scope to air this expression. Unlike the UK, where you can get lottery grants or art council fundings for personal, self-motivated projects, here there seems to be an onus on self-financing all the way down the line. It gets to a stage where artists are simply wall fillers in local cafes, trying to get noticed in the chatter of social media focused patrons.
Greece could rise again with the arts, but it needs to take onboard the new technology and methodology of the countries that do so much better at supporting their arts students, as do Germany, France and the UK. Better school curriculum for the arts, more emphasis of nurturing children’s passions in the arts and then local and central government funding for the development of better arts arenas.
What are your personal incentives and inspirations to design graphic art and projects?
I can’t describe this, as many a time I have tried to many a lending ear, but my life as a creative is dependent on the blood in my veins. That blood provides the transportation path for my passion that then fuels the inspiration that flows from my brain. There is not one-second my body doesn’t require that blood, there is not one-second I don’t think in a creative way. On a more down to earth level, I gain much of my incentive to see some good in the world. I love nature very much, and take two spells away from the annoying city to visit Mount Olympus, to gain much needed zen time. There I feel a completely different person; I feel alive. Nature is a very important key to me. Even down to the necessity of caring for plants on my balcony. There is something very wonderful in the tactile aspect of nature. Textures, feelings, warm, movement; all this can help inspire art.
I think if it wasn’t for the adoption of my companion dog Honey, maybe the strength of focus wouldn’t be so narrow as it is today, but nevertheless, the eye of nature is a very powerful incentive. Honey gives me a daily bond to that which I enjoy, so I thank her for our relationship by honouring my animal art in her name. It was when she was a puppy of about 2 months, is when I started my Animal Behaviour series, and if she had not distracted me at a specific moment, then maybe I would not have started it; fate being what it is.
My better creative achievements are those done for myself. They seem to me to have the right reasons and logic behind them in order to be initiated; like my Celebrity Sunday caricature series, it was born out of a desire to be better at digital art. I had never done a caricature before, even though asked many a time. So one Sunday I had a need to speed up my digital painting and also challenge myself to attempt a new skill: thus Celebrity Sunday was born. Three years later, I am getting a little following and people even request and commission work based on that achievement. Best plan is never think anything is a waste of time.
Is Openness necessary for Design and other Cultural and Creative industries or not at all?
If, by openness, you are referring to the sharing of an idea, helping others in developing techniques and skills by explaining yours, then that is a very double edged sword. My history has been that I learn to do things. Regardless of it being my artwork, or doing a piece of cooking, DIY or whatever that I am doing. The brain has the greatest capacity to evaluate problems and then use its intellect to solve them. This after all is what the definition of intelligence is: the ability to solve problems. Being given solutions without that work effort makes the process disposable. What I mean by this is, “how many times have you showed a person how to do something and then some time later, they have come back and asked, can you show me that thing again.” It happens more times than not, because their cognitive brain function isn’t processing the problem, it is simply receiving the solution. The brain will then delete unnecessary data that is simple. Learning is more complex than receiving information.
I like to be open and helpful but I find there is a line that needs to be drawn (no pun intended). It’s funny you ask this, as just this morning I received a message on Instagram by a young creative asking what application I use. I told him Photoshop, but then the reply comes, “That is what I need, can you show me how you do your art.” I have to be honest and frank: I don’t set out to show people how I paint my images. I am not looking for competition. What I can show people is techniques, which is a different thing to style. This was apparent at last year’s Graphic Stories Cyprus workshop. I was showing how to do a caricature, using digital techniques and the end results of the students didn’t look like my style, they all looked different. That is because I wasn’t teaching my style. I have become quite adept at using tactile and digital media tools and I have done this by simply picking the pencil up, or the mouse and doing. I have never read a manual, or joined a class on drawing, but have achieved quite a lot. Use the principles of education in arts to learn technique, and then the rest of the time flourish to find a passionate style. The world doesn’t need a planet full of so-called creatives all doing the same look and feel; they want variety. This can only be achieved by looking deep into one’s right side of their brain and releasing the aesthetic abilities they have. If we return to the openness part of the question again: When it comes to design and art, openness can come best in discussion, whether that is debate or critique. People should be open to enter discussions or welcome criticism. Both forms are a great way to understand one’s position and a step to looking at how to improve one’s abilities.
What does the state do?
Interview with Lefteris Kretsos on the policies to support Cultural and Creative Industries
Greek News Agenda interviewed* General Secretary for Media and Communication, Lefteris Kretsos, on the policy of the Greek state to support the Greek Cultural and Creative Industries.
Talent is the lifeblood of cultural and creative industries. According to urban economist Richard Florida, the “creative class”, including designers, artists and high-skilled intellectual workers, acts as an engine for innovation and urban development, structuring creative hubs and networks for the economic, social and cultural development of their native cities and regions. In this context how would you define the role of the state in implementing an effective supportive policy for the Cultural and Creative Industries of Greece?
Florida's research and theories about creative industries and the value of talent in the case of urban centre -based creative professionals are very interesting, to say the least. While I am not particularly fond of the term 'creative class' as it has been defined by Florida (and the specific demographics it is tied to) I think he is absolutely right about the creative industries having multiplier effects on a region, first and foremost in the financial sector. The audiovisual sector is an integral part of the cultural and creative industries: according to latest annual financial reports in the audiovisual media sector, the unimpeded transition to digital production, distribution and consumption in the audiovisual field is of critical importance and has the potential to offer a creative boost for a region's (even a whole country's) audiovisual sector with multiplier effects. These include the creation of jobs, the promotion of tourism, and the creation of high-value-added services. In the case of Greece, this is a long-needed boost that will significantly reduce brain drain (which has been a serious issue in Greece for the past decades).
All this is not possible without adopting statutory regulations and implementing policies that foster creativity and innovation while securing the safe transition of the country's audiovisual sector into the digital economy. The Ministry [of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media]'s aim is to create a fair and healthy media landscape while supporting our country's creative production, since these are inextricably linked, and both central to our country's well-being and economic growth.
Contemporary studies on Cultural and Creative Industries underline the fact that policy makers need to rebalance the current transfer of value in the digital economy in favour of online intermediaries in order to sustain the economy of cultural industries. Can you describe the Ministry’s activities towards this “digitalization”?
The new, converged digital landscape and the expansion of cloud services and OTT technologies have redirected the flow of content into new patterns. As more and more people have access to connected multi-screen devices, the demand for audiovisual content is greater than ever, with the audiovisual and media industries integrating digital technology and social media into their traditional production and distribution practices. The Secretariat General for Media and Communication, as the competent authority for the monitoring and implementation of the new, reformative media legislative policy in Greece, has taken steps for the adoption of development strategies and the implementation of targeted public policies.
Some of our interventions are:
- Launching the online registry ''e-media'', a national operational measure encouraging online media companies to register their activities online, for a transparent, balanced and fair function of the media industry and the main players active in non-linear environment. Part of the new online media registry is the 'Observatory for Plagiarism', a new software mechanism for protecting intellectual property of journalistic content published online, aiming to combat plagiarism and copyright infringement. (Law 4339/2015)
- Creating the road map to the transition to digital radio broadcasting and passing the law for digital radio licensing (Law 4512/2018).
- Introducing an investment incentive scheme (in the form of cash rebate) for the support of audiovisual production in Greece (Law 4487/2017). By embracing the whole spectrum of audiovisual productions, the incentive scheme is aiming to stimulate investment and promote quality works. Video games, whose aesthetics are tied to graphic design, can also be supported through our national incentive scheme. Officially defining video games as cultural products is just an example of a strategic regulatory action taken with digital technology and innovation in mind. Overall, we have worked towards the creation of a single and coherent audiovisual media and communication policy that will remain sustainable and up to date in the digital age, and will maximize the chances for our audiovisual field to thrive the way it deserves to.
- Calling for the creation of the Centre of Audiovisual Media and Communication (C.A.M.C.): C.A.M.C. will be responsible for the support of audiovisual productions in Greece through the implementation of the new incentive scheme. It will also undertake the project of digitization of the country's national archives and it will foster media literacy and research in the field of audiovisual media and communication. (Law 4339/2015)
* Interviews by Dr. Aikaterini Lambrou, Head of the Press and Communication Office of the Embassy of Greece in Cyprus. Aikaterini Lambrou will greet the Conference and inaugurate the Poster Exhibition “Writing, the origins of Civilisation” on behalf of the General Secretary for Media and Communication, Lefteris Kretsos on Friday, March 9th 2018.
Read also via Greek News Agenda: One more reason to film in Greece: A new legal framework of economic incentives, General Secretariat for Media and Communication boosting Greek Gaming & Animation, Lefteris Kretsos on bringing Greece on the global map of the Game and Film Making Industry, 10 Reasons to film in Greece, “Filming Greece”: our new series of interviews on Greek Cinema
See also the programme of the Conference here