Matteo Civaschi

“Infographics can evolve into something more than useful information, it can also become a “story”

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Executive Creative Director and owner of H-57 Creative Station in Milan, his career path started in McCann, where he remained for ten years, then DLV BBDO for one year and then another 6 years in McCann working as Creative Director. In 2004 he establishes H-57, a Design and Motion graphic studio. Among his most important works there are the project for Lucasfilm “The Force of Typography”, the birth of Shortology with 13 books published all over the world, a Cannes Lion in the design category with the book “Life in five Seconds”.

Your definition for “infographics”
This is a good question, I would like to have an easy answer but it’s not like that. This depends on which kind of infographic level we are talking about, in my case, as “Shortology” author, infographic is all that expresses an object, a situation, a place, an action to make or something not to be done in a shape, synthesis and style understandable by all.

If then, this “shape”, which we could call “pictogram”, is placed side by side another pictogram, we could even have a form of language, a set of “information”which, put together can give a different interpretation.

Let’s take as an example the icon (or pictogram) of a small man in a bed, like the ones you can find in the road sign to show the presence of a hotel or any other kind of place which can offer overnight. The single icon represents the action of sleeping, but if we place this icon side by side to another icon, like a knife and fork, then  the two icons are expressing a wider concept, i.e. where this two icons are placed you can rest but also have a meal.

Moreover infographic can evolve in something more then a useful information, it can also become a “story”. Let’s take again our little man on the bed, very well, if we place other six icons, showing “work in progress”, here it is, we made God’s story, the creation: six days of work one day rest.

So summarising, for me infographic is a synthesis, in the shapes, colours, style, it should not be sophisticated, but at the same time should be refined.

Which are your obligatory references?
During the years my way of “looking around”, to search for inspiration, has changed a lot. Only few years ago, I would have showed off a serie of super links where to take inspiration and stimulus from. For me now everything is much easier and at the same time more complex. Trivially I would suggest to use right “key words” and dive into Pinterest world, a visual database absolutely gorgeous.

Maybe I’m risking to be not so stylish, but I prefer to be more pragmatic , to obtain results in a short time. Time in our job it’s the most precious thing we have, I for example, never have enough of it, being always in a hurry I have to search in an effective way. Instead when I’m lucky enough to have some spare time to dedicate to research, then I prefer to leaf through a good book, for the infographic world I suggest “Otto Neurath – The Language of the Global Polis”, which the father of all of us, infographic lovers and creators.

For the rest, anything can be a good reference, even going to cinema. For example I’m a great lover of the single motion graphic, I will never forget when at cinema I saw “Thank You For smoking”, as soon as the theme song made with all the historical cigaretters graphics started, I thought I was looking at one of the most beautiful things in graphic design.

Since then it has been one of my best reference points, which I always show to my students, when I want them understand the importance of “research” and “taste” applied to graphic design.

It’s not so important to find the perfect reference, but it is essential to let yourself get inspired and get carried away by all that lights up your brain.

Once while I was catching a train to go I don’t remember where , I have in front of my window on the next rail , an absolutely insignificant freight train, looking at it in detail, I was enraptured at the sight of the metallic signs, which I think described the content of the tank, well it was an incredible graphic and infographic composition, with perfect balance, proportions and spaces. I immediately tried to take a picture to keep it as a reference. That’s how the inclination to find something interesting everywhere has been rewarding.

References are always around us, the important thing is to look in the right place and know how to grab them.

What are we going to find in your talk in Malofiej?
My speech will be entitled “The Power of Synthesis”, the title already anticipate what I will try to describe at best, i.e. the power of infographic, form the first “signs” of the prehistoric man in the caves, till the birth of Shortology, which uses infographic as a form of language plain and simple, telling stories and events. 

I will explain how this project has evolved in an ideas incubator and generator.
From the first book in 2012 “Life in five seconds” (with whom we won the bronze prize at Cannes Festival in the design category), till today, a lot of things happened: publication of many other books, included the last one “Cinemology”, to the collaboration with many other brands who wanted to use Shortology as a testimonial.
That’s why I would love to show to the public the best of our video production, the evolution of the written press till the cinematographic movement. The static man who sleeps in the bed, of whom I’m really fond of, got up and started to make a lot of videos, finding himself in TV spot, like musical video clips and many other small stories which are on our Fb page.

How is your work process?
I think that each creative, each designer, has his own way to create his projects. Obviously much depends on what you have to do exactly, how much time you’ve got and for whom your project is. In my case, I built my carrier working on two different fronts: projects for clients who make my living and allow me to pay my loan and the projects which give me the freedom of expression (to my team and me), which become viral, liked by a possible client who eventually gives us a new project which allow us to live (and pay the loan).

I’m also very ambitious and I impose to myself to offer a very high design quality, trying every day with my team to generate as much as possible beauty in everything we do.
This is a fundamental point which should go with each creative process. At least one should always try his best. So, if we speak about a brief given by a client, it is very important to understand his objective, to whom he is addressing his message and how many economic “efforts” he can make.

After this the true job starts, you explain to your collaborators “ the problem to solve”, in how much time they should present the first ideas, these can be infographics drafts, or simple subjects for an animation or spot. It’s essential since the beginning to understand what the “other” did for a similar brief. Study, where is possible, how other companies solved that same problem. It is very important to understand all together what should not be done, to concentrate all the efforts into an effective, focused creativity.

When you start analyzing the first ideas drafts, you should understand immediately what will have a good performance, using the rest of the time to “create” the best possible project. The last thing which should be added as a last ingredient, is a bit of irony, that touch wich makes the project unforgettable and pleasant. If the client is happy, you have generated evident results, that means you’ve done a good job.
For me this is fundamental. As for the other part of our work is concerned, experimentation, free creativity, is not easy to give yourself briefs with a meaning which do not give birth to ideas which are not an end to themselves. It is fine to enjoy with ideas in freedom, but i t is important to recognise if the moment inspiration, which makes you feel you are a genius, will lead you to something real or will just make you loose precious time.
Personally I give a possibility to all ideas which come to my mind during the day, I analyse them, I note them down and I go to sleep. During the night I rework them, I get up and I again note down all that for me looks like a “miracle”. The next morning truth is there waiting for you, looking at what you thought was a great idea, you immediately understand that, that sheet with all those obscure drawings which you loved so much, will be good just for a good throw in kitchen trash bin. My note book is always on my bed side, you never know what your mind can produce, and sometimes a good idea comes.

So, sumerizing: fix objectives, even when you are working in freedom, keep ready to have ideas, look for them everywhere and in every situation. Note them down, elaborate them, let the night destroy everything or consecrate the winning idea.

What do you think?