THE MAN WHO CREATES CONCEPTS

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- CHAPTER ONE -
THE STUDENT

Curiosity has always been the primary motivator in my life; at an early age, this is what drove me to choose the Scientific Lyceum in Italy, a path of secondary education focused on mathematics, physics, chemistry, natural sciences and biology. In addition, it also integrated philosophy, Latin, history, arts and both English and Italian literature. This vast array of topics enhanced my curiosity and profoundly altered my approach to life, leaving me more open to new ideas and experiences.

After I finished high school, I decided to study Architecture in Milan (Politecnico). It did seem at that time a logical choice: combining rationality, design, technology and artistic expression. I was captivated by the topics: conceptual, functional, cultural, historical, expressive. At the same time I started developing interests in music and performing arts. I become involved in an artistic collective (Parallel Dimensions), mixing live audio-video performances with art installations.

In 1990, I was in the midst of my studies when my roommate introduced me to a life-altering machine: the Macintosh. As a quick learner, I soon became proficient in graphic, 3D, CAD, music, video and multimedia software. Through this, I developed a love for graphic design and visual communication; however, I was still focused on architecture and my course missed the cultural experience and specific skills necessary to successfully transition in to my newly found passion. Although I was taught about design, the functionality of space and colour sensibility, I was never immersed in visual communication.

I therefore dove into the field, searching for knowledge in any way possible; initially purchasing books on such things as packaging, layout, typography, colour theory, branding and advertising. I knew little but wanted to know more and to do so, concluded I needed a change. Although I admit it seems insane on reflection, I promptly decided to leave my architecture course before my final exams and began working in a multidisciplinary studio as a visual designer. 

I was fortunate enough to begin my career under the guidance of an international art director: Renzo Castiglioni. Having worked with Armani in New York in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, as well as Amica, Centocose and Casa Vogue in Milan, he became both a mentor and an inspiration. Indeed, he introduced me to the Incomplete Manifesto by Bruce Mau, someone I consider to be part of the foundation of my creative vision. Yet I still lacked the academic foundation needed to build my skills and expertise, so in 2002 I applied for a place at the International Master Course in Graphic Design in Products (IED, Milan).

Unable to afford the tuition, I applied for a grant, along with 200 others. Whether by shear luck or providence I was chosen to be one of 15 people to be interviewed. After 2 weeks I received a call saying, “the grant is yours, do you want it?”  I answered “yes”, both shocked by the offer and by the ridiculous question it was framed in.
My first day involved the classic introductions, with names and brief descriptions given. There was an art director for Gucci in London and the senior designer for Electrolux among the group and I instantly thought to myself “what the hell am I doing here?” This was a pivotal moment, as I learned to judge myself on my work and, as result, soon found that I was on par with my colleagues. Indeed the work we completed for Rossignol and Gilera during that time was later published in Ottagono.  

This lead me to win a second grant for the University of the Image, founded by Fabrizio Ferri, and was selected to participate in David Carson’s workshop Behind the Seen in Milan.



- CHAPTER TWO -
THE WORKER

My first experience of the industry came through my family business, assisting with the assembly and building of artisan furniture. Working summers and throughout my university years, I came to form the basis of my design ideology; that design is the bones, not the skin. This initial experience taught me design is a process of problem solving; as such, I approach design not simply as a process of creating something aesthetically appealing, but functional as well. Also, as Bruce Mau says, “Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device–dependent.” I have since refined and added to this ideology throughout the years.  

In 1997 I was fortunate enough to start a graphic design department at sRa Multidisciplinary Studio, under the guidance of Renzo Castiglioni. The company expanded and began creating multimedia CDs, architectures presentations, show windows, logos, corporate and visual identities, catalogues, websites, for a variety of brands including Trussardi and Swarovski. Through this I was able to expand my understanding of the basic skills of design and the realities of industry. 

I progressed quickly and was hired as a Senior Art Director at Business Communication, whilst also being asked to act as Multimedia Designer at NMB, the digital arm of the agency, where I had the opportunity to work with such names as San Pellegrino, Feletti and Domino. Whilst I was developing my career, deepening my understanding and forming relationships within the industry, I felt unsatisfied. This sensation, coupled with my partner’s own professional circumstances, prompted us to make a drastic change: move to Shanghai

2004 brought not only a change in location but also a change in roles and approach, as I had quickly started working as a Design Director at REDdot, an Australian boutique agency. 

I had, however, to adapt to the limitations of an emerging economy. These limitations forced me to simplify the crafting, but they also allowed me to truly explore the confines of “the box”. A particularly memorable example being when I worked on a calendar brochure for Nippon Paint. We produced 200 hand crafted sets of 12 fans, with each fan representing a month of the year. One side of the fan was numbered, whilst on the other side, there were hand painted images inspired by the relevant month. Something that could not have been so easily done without having a small Chinese village dedicated to crafting such items. In that sense, Shanghai was a time of both conceptual exploration and development, as well as of dealing with limitations in production and design. I am proud to say REDdot won an award whilst I was there and was published several times on Media Magazine. Besides my role as supervisor of a team of 10 people, I was also directly working on different kind of projects for ClubMed, Bacardi, WWF, BMW, Le Royal Meridien, Sony, Hilton, Quiksilver, Solid Vodka to name a few. 

I departed REDdot soon after it was sold and began to work as a freelance Art Director. Along with working with such agencies as Interbrand, I was involved in the environmental graphics for the Siemens museum in Shanghai. I also collaborated with Francesco Gatti at his interdisciplinary studio 3GATTI on a number of projects, one of which was the Zebar space which recently featured in the 2014 film “Her”. It was during this time that I began to work with an integrated marketing agency called Ortus Group Eight; Initially as freelance, then as an Associate Creative Director and, one year later, as Group Creative Director

With offices in Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and with different departments such as Advertising, Branding, PR, Events, the agency provided me with the opportunity to be a key decision-maker on large scale projects for national and international brands. Although already established its presence in marketing and branding for luxury properties, the agency wanted to expand its portfolio into new business fields.   

In my new role as Group Creative Director, we immediately won a pitch  for a massive B2B event for Coca-Cola. The project included theatrical scripts, scenography, environmental graphics, 3D and 2D animations, a full VI and marketing strategies, to name a few. Despite the difficulty in adapting to more managerial role, the event was a success. Indeed I was able to build on that experience and when Starbucks became a client, profits at the agency grew 18% in a year. My abilities were recognised and I hired additional art directors and designers; allowing me to define the hierarchy and structure of 3 creative teams in Shanghai and another one in Hong Kong. 

Unfortunately, the social environment in Shanghai began to change due to the shift in political climate, stemming from the governments views on foreign workers: I felt no longer welcome. 

I still worked briefly as teaching at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) before being contacted by HTC to become their Creative Director in Taipei (Taiwan) to be a part of their global marketing in-house agency. Although I jumped at the opportunity to leave Shanghai before things became worse, I soon found Taiwan was not the environment I was seeking. I turned my sights back to Europe and, at the end of my contract, concluded I had to return to familiar grounds.


- CHAPTER THREE -
THE ARTIST

My passion for the arts was discovered late in life, during adulthood. However, as soon as I made the discovery I plunged as deeply as possible:
I wrote poems and short stories, made paintings using oil and mixed techniques, acted and made films, explored photography and digital arts and began to learn to use a number of musical instruments. As a member of the collective Parallel Dimensions and through the support of Ente Italia Artistica, I put on art installations and performances in private art galleries and museums across Northern Italy in places like Brescia, Milan, Verona and Bologna. 

Yasutomo Kawai, the Japanese artist meets Europe. 
In 1992 the President of the Italian Artistic Organization was planning a new collective show. During a conversation between him, myself and a couple of other performers, we mentioned a Japanese artist, Yasutomo Kawai, we met in Amsterdam and who was temporarily living with us in Milan. He was thrilled by the idea, however, 3 days after the show was agreed, inexplicably, Yasutomo, decided to leave and go back to Hokkaido, Japan. 

A month later we had another meeting with the President who, trusting our judgement, already put “Yasutomo Kawai” in the posters without having reviewed his works. I am unable to explain why but, either due to social awkwardness or a desire not to disappoint, we did not mention Yasutomo had left the country and that we did not know how to reach him. After a moment of panic we decided “to make” Yasutomo Kawai. We created a fake biography and career together with a picture of a random Japanese guy. Inspired by Yukio Mishima and his love for the figure of St. Sebastian, we scanned Renaissance’s portraits of the Saint and applied indiscriminate filters and effects in Photoshop.

With flyers, posters, a portfolio of printed artworks and an interactive multimedia application allowing users to shoot arrows at St. Sebastian on a big screen, we then prepared the space. For us it was obviously a joke but, unexpectedly, both the public and the critics took the work seriously and praised the Yasutomo Kawai for ‘his works’.

I continued my pursuit of the arts in Shanghai and started Deus Ex Machina with Gianpietro Veronese, a multi-instrumentalist and a medievalist. The duo worked mostly around audio-video live performances, transforming and reinterpreting medieval music and paintings. Inspired by the Middle Ages as a moment of extreme importance for western music, we created a series of live audio-video performances where holy melodies, electronic sounds and jazz harmonies were melting with real-time animated paintings; creating a mystical-contemporary ambiance, where spectators were transported in a new and yet ancient dimension. We researched and examined some of iconographic artworks of the time, created by Italian painters and miniaturists of XIV and XV centuries. In parallel we selected music of medieval musicians like Dufay, De Machaut and Hildegard von Bingen. We then sampled bits from both music and paintings, rearranging them in a more fashionable twist.

As a solo artist I worked on photographic artworks, culminating in two art shows, Isolation and Suddenly Human. I also did promotional materials for Le Maschere (the Masks), the official Italian theatre company based in Shanghai, which promotes the Italian culture in China, by performing the “classics” of Italian theatre.

As a musician and composer I continue to explore ambient, electronic and experimental music, under the name Cupid on Cocaine.