Aleix Artigal is a graphic designer and founder in 2017 of Familia studio. He graduated from EINA School of Design and Art, began his career at Basedesign studio, and later continued independently with local and international clients, developing cultural, institutional and commercial projects.
At Familia, design is understood as a solution to the issues raised by customers. They have recently developed the signalling for Barcelona during Covid-19 and the “Jo, Nosaltres, Tothom” campaign, which was launched during the de-escalation process with the aim of raising awareness among citizens about the importance of respecting basic security measures: distance, hand hygiene, mask. Both projects were developed together with the Barcelona City Council and will be part of the exhibition “Emergency! Design against Covid-19” that will be in the Design Museum from November 13th.
We spoke with Aleix Artigal about communicating in times of a pandemic, about the Blanc! Festival –which begins this Friday at the Museum– and about the (according to him, mistaken) conception that we have in our country about the relevance of design.
The "Jo, Nosaltres, Tothom" campaign that has been carried out by the Barcelona City Council on the occasion of Covid-19 is apparently simple. Can you explain the conceptualization and message behind it?
During the de-escalation process, the City Council needed to communicate to remain alert with the virus, and in this case the measures were very clear: mask, hand hygiene and social distancing. The City Council wanted to communicate with as much transparency as possible, so we tried to make a campaign that didn’t look as much as a campaign: it rather seems an informative piece, because the message is forceful, direct and not very ornate.
Did you find it boring to create this way?
The challenge is in the project itself, rather than in how you will develop it. In this case the tone was very important: you had to reach people in a direct and unequivocal way, so graphic resources were secondary. It is not the same to run a campaign when things are going well than when things are not going well: you have to understand what the person to whom the information reaches needs.
How do you communicate in times of a pandemic?
For me, the people should be treated in the same way that you would treat your children: saying things as they are, without being dramatic and without sugarcoating reality. Treating society horizontally is the only way for things to go well. If you get too catastrophic, people are scared; if you paint everything with flowers, people won't believe it. We must communicate in the same way we would like things to be explained to us: with honesty and respect. This way people take over the campaign and the cause.
Do you find differences between working for a private client and for the public administration?
I think the way of working is very similar, but what differs are the objectives: in the private sphere they are economic, and in the public sphere they are not, but the work you do is essentially the same. It is true that we really like working with the public sector because we feel comfortable with the tone and with the messages: we like it more than selling. It is also nice to go down the street and see things that you have done, the feeling of helping to build a city is priceless.
Tell us what it is like to work with Nacho Padilla.
Nacho is just another player in the team, he's proactive, he's more like a studio figure than an outside figure. The dialogue with him is constant, which allows us to go together towards common goals while making everything much easier. Working with Nacho is like having an ace up your sleeve.
Nacho and other graphic design studios have participated in the campaign. How do you experience creativity from the point of view not so much of the execution but of the assembly?
Yes, the campaign illustrations are by Forma and the animations are by Gimmewings. We live it as a shared job. When we talk about teamwork, we really think about it that way: we try to make all decisions shared both inside and outside the studio, both with collaborators and with clients. Establishing a family relationship is key to the success that we will all achieve, but if you go with your egos, you’re wrong: wanting to sign on your own is a retrograde practice that has no future.
What is a good design for you?
It is a complicated question. For me, good design is one that is easy to understand, that manages to communicate and that has the right form. I run away from the elitist verbosity of design: a good design is also one that you like, because if you like it, I think it automatically works. If you have the background and the experience, and what you produce gives you a feeling of happiness, it means that it works. What happens is that design is still not understood here.
What do you mean?
Here –in Spain– people still think that 'design' means to do something beautiful, and design is to make things understandable, at least in my opinion.
What do you think this is due to?
I think it is a cultural issue. We had a repressive dictatorship for 40 years, which has set us back at an intellectual and cultural level compared to other countries, which have had much more freedom to move forward. We go step by step, but we must know where we come from! The higher the cultural level of a country, the better the design and the more integrated it is in the collective imaginary.
What can design in Barcelona show off of and what does it lack?
There are many studios that do things very well, there is great self-esteem within the design community, I think we are good transmitters of design and there are people who are really eager to do things. Also, the fact that it is a small city gives us many possibilities for regeneration. But we should internationalize a little more: we have to look for clients outside the Catalan and Spanish sphere, because otherwise everything is very endogamic. Even with Nacho Padilla, there was controversy, which I found shameful and ridiculous.
In this sense, what do you think a festival like Blanc contributes to?
David and Raúl have managed to create a design speaker, normalizing and taking it to a non-elitist terrain: a studio goes, explains a project, and shares ideas, fears, knowledge... that, by someone who does not belong to the world of design, is gold – but for someone who belongs, too, because it lets you see what works and what doesn't. It's like discovering the recipe for a cake that you eat every day but you didn't know how it was made.
I did a talk four years ago, when I had just decided to start on my own, and they invited me because they value experienced people as well as people who are just starting out. For me, Blanc is like the town square: you meet everyone, it is an open place, it is the opposite of a club with a membership card.
What are your current references in design?
I’m a big fan of Rejane Dal Bello, a Brazilian designer who used to work at Studio Dumbar, a Dutch studio that I also like very much. Mevis & Van Deursen are references in institutional and cultural campaigns. At a state level, Tres Tipos Gráficos and Koln, and at a local level, perhaps I would choose Forma, because we share the same way of understanding design. If I were a client and asked them for a project, I would be very calm: it is like giving your child someone to take care of you.
You always take everything to the realm of the family imaginary.
I think that the study world has a lot to do with it: we talk about font families, color families... and I always like to think that this is all a family, that everything consists of making a network and that no element works alone. The family is a place where many things happen: there are different roles and human relationships that are taken care of if you know how to communicate, if you work in a network and build together.