LEGENDARY INTERVIEW

Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Thanatos Digital Agency ("TDA") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.

DL: Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?

TDA : - Dario: I started drawing as a child, and I have cultivated this passion over the years as a hobby. Growing up I went from traditional to digital drawing, and from here I started to get interested in the various forms of digital art, then went on to choose a design school for university. - Roberto: As a child like all children I dreamed of becoming a superhero or an astronaut I never imagined becoming a designer. For sure I have always had a creative vision and with a few simple components I built my spaceship or costume. Growing up, I became more and more passionate about the world of design, I started my studies already in high school, I continued at AANT in Rome and then I never stopped because in this dynamic world, you never stop learning.

DL: What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?

TDA : - Dario: I decided to become a designer after seeing a friend's older sister design the cover for a video game; I remember being amazed not only by the result, but also by the creation process behind it, and so I realized that I also wanted to create things that would amaze those who looked at them. Then during my studies I changed my goal several times: at the beginning I fell in love with editorial graphics with its layout cages, then it was the turn of the codes to develop front-end sites and finally my last love was 3D . After some time I realize that, although different from each other, these things all have a common thread: I became a designer, because I liked working on the structures that shape what people see every day, be it a book , a site or a suggestive image. - Roberto: I decided to become a designer when I understood the importance of this professional figure in a world like ours, everything around us is design. Design can influence our choices, even the simplest ones. For example, at the supermarket between two products of the same price we will always choose the one that is most "beautiful" for us, this aspect has always fascinated me a lot. I'm not talking about the influence or sales aspect, it pushes me the idea of creating something that makes people's lives better. Because one tomato sauce is worth the other but if it has a nice pack life is less gray for everyone.

DL: Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?

TDA : - Dario: I chose to become a designer, during the last year of high school, I immediately fell in love with that world and I didn't spare myself to be able to get what I wanted. - Roberto: I've always wanted to use my artistic and creative skills to live, but I think I really understood that I wanted to become a designer during the academy. I had the pleasure and luck of learning from the best, the wealth of experience that they left me was more important than pure technique.

DL: What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?

TDA : We mainly deal with digital projects, which we love because they are dynamic and constantly evolving. The charm of printed paper is always strong, perhaps it would be interesting to be able to work more often on classic projects such as coordinated images and high-level packaging.

DL: What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?

TDA : - Dario: Legend is perhaps a little exaggerated... there is no miraculous formula for becoming a good designer, unfortunately the answer is the oldest and most boring of all: study, study and more study; in these years I realized that without the technical bases that the academy gave me I would never have been able to do everything I did. - Roberto: I still don't feel like a legend, I feel that I have yet to write the most legendary chapters in my story. I can suggest that you cultivate your professionalism in the same way as your skills. The level of professionalism for me gives the thickness of the designer. For the rest I would like to quote Yoda from Star Wars "Do or do not. There is no try.”, dare with conviction and learn from your mistakes without seeking unnecessary excuses and easy loopholes.

DL: What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?

TDA : A good designer knows the techniques and has an aesthetic and also creative sense, a great designer has intuition and vision that make a significant difference.

DL: What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?

TDA : For us, good design is functional design. We always use "it works" and "it doesn't work" as an objective judgment meter, we would never define a design beautiful or ugly, these are too subjective and unreliable points of view.

DL: What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

TDA : Good design is a powerful communication weapon. It makes customer goals more accessible, it is easier to sell, raise awareness or influence user behavior.

DL: What would you design and who would you design for if you had the time?

TDA : We have experienced in this period of Covid-19 how rewarding it is to participate with our small graphic contribution to non-profit initiatives to raise awareness on the subject, so it would be nice to have much more time to devote to activities of this type for other important social issues. Then instead as good nerds we dream of working for the big software houses that produce successful video games such as Square Enix, Ubisoft, Rockstar or CD Project. For publishing houses that deal with our favorite fantasy novels such as Nord or Bompiani, maybe even comic and manga publishers.

DL: What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?

TDA : During the process, combine analytical and purely technical phases with moments of exploration guided by intuition. This allows us to create something new with a solid foundation.

DL: Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?

TDA : We were lucky enough to have real legends as academy teachers. Listing only a few certainly Fabio Timpanaro with his artistic sense and an unattainable level of technique, the speed of thought and the vision ability of Gaia Zuccaro, Pietro Bartoleschi has transmitted to us the value of professionalism and the moral depth of a true designer and Emanuele Widenhorn who made us understand how humility and simplicity are fundamental to always be ready to improve. We continue to follow them and feel inspired by their advice and their work. Among the Italian agencies we love the courage, the work and the approach of Carosellolab that is making its way among the big names with concrete and fully acceptable topics. On behance we often follow the work of the Graphéine agency in Paris, for us they are real geniuses. Then there would be an endless list of very good designers that we also follow on Dribbble or Instagram.

DL: What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?

TDA : To date, our best project in terms of design is certainly the work done for Boston Tapes in collaboration with MOOX Business Boosters. The restyling of the brand that had a ten-year history behind it was a real challenge, but thanks to the collaboration, it proved to be a great success. The design of the new website was also very inspiring. We believe that the fantastic aspect of this work is in the evolution of a brand that now expresses high emotion technology with an ecological and sustainable interpretation without betraying decades of past history.

DL: How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?

TDA : We believe that we must always question ourselves. Having an open-mind approach to collaborations and external contaminations are opportunities to improve and learn new things.

DL: If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

TDA : - Dario: The choice to follow the path of design at university came suddenly, until before this sudden change I was convinced that I wanted to become a psychologist; I've always liked to enter people's heads and understand their thoughts and I like to think that a little of this old passion has also remained in this job, in which you have to understand the needs of the target to which your products are addressed. - Roberto: I honestly don't know. Outside the work environment, I am a completely unpredictable person, who knows where I could have been and what I could have done.

DL: How do you define design, what is design for you?

TDA : - Dario: For me, design is to find the most functional, and aesthetically satisfying way where possible, to solve a problem or respond to a need. - Roberto: For me, design is an alchemy of aesthetics and functionality that responds to a need or to a digital or analog purpose.

DL: Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?

TDA : - Dario: Getting to where I am today would have been impossible without the support of my family, they never spared themselves to give me everything I needed to follow my dream. Then surely there are all the friends with whom I shared this path, both directly and indirectly. A special thought certainly goes to my boyfriend, who supports and endures me every time I convince myself that I am not able to do something or that what I have designed is completely to be thrown away; he always manages to show me the good in any project, and with his thousand ideas, sometimes even crazy, he always gives me interesting ideas for doing things that maybe I would not have thought of myself. - Roberto: It would have been impossible without the support of my family, the support of my sisters and the trust of my parents who perhaps would have preferred a doctor or lawyer son. The friends and acquaintances who believed in me and who entrusted me with the first projects with which I was able to demonstrate my skills. My girlfriend with whom I share a vision for the future, without the classic compromises, this avoids unnecessary stress and helps me find serenity even in the most difficult moments, today I would not be the same person without his support. Finally Mr. Jimmy, my little dog, we have a strong connection difficult to explain. In its own way, it is a pillar for me.

DL: What helped you to become a great designer?

TDA : - Dario: The ability not to give up, always pushing me to the limit of my ability to always achieve a better result, and above all a strong dose of self-criticism that always makes me question (in a positive way) every choice I make. - Roberto: I am a determined and constant person, this certainly helped me. Then of course all the professionals with whom I came into contact, for better or for worse all contributed to my experience.

DL: What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?

TDA : We don't yet feel like masters, but we will certainly become. Certainly the first obstacle is the cultural one, too often our work is underestimated and trivialized. Sometimes even called simple or frivolous. Our advice is to always proceed with your head held high without being influenced by these negative experiences, or rather treasure them.

DL: How do you think designers should present their work?

TDA : For the presentation to the customer we always recommend a non-boring presentation that highlights the main focuses, even a video presentation could be effective. Needless to bore with too technical details, however, we recommend attaching a well-prepared and above all clear technical document separately.

DL: What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?

TDA : We are always in constant evolution. Every year we set new goals but we believe that sometimes you have to get lost to find your way, exploring and daring are as important as planning.

DL: What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?

TDA : We are very dynamic and constantly evolving people: we like to set ourselves ever higher goals to encourage us to do better. Surely one of the most important goals was to be able to participate, and who would have thought it, to win an A ’Design Award!

DL: What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?

TDA : They are looking for a thinking professional, not a trivial executor, who will propose solutions and help them achieve their goals. The characteristics that most appreciate in our work as an agency are professionalism, precision, punctuality, seriousness and above all honesty and transparency.

DL: How does design help create a better society?

TDA : A designer alone cannot obviously change the world, but we can be a powerful awareness tool for associations that are committed to the forefront on many fronts to which the right attention is not paid. Then in our small way we always respect the principles of usability and advise our customers to always consider accessibility and sustainability. For the rest, the designer is a normal person who, like everyone else, must behave responsibly and sensitively towards social and environmental issues.

DL: What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?

TDA : We are working on a project of high political value, which unfortunately we cannot talk about, but which is very important for us.

DL: Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?

TDA : It is not easy to choose one, we are satisfied with many projects and collaborations that in some ways have allowed us to get where we are today. But surely MAG Bistrot has marked a turning point in our journey, it was our first multidisciplinary project curated completely by us in all phases. Initially the road was uphill but then we also had fun, it allowed us to meet professionals from various sectors and have the pleasure of integrating classic analog and digital technologies and more innovative solutions. This time we felt that the customer was not only satisfied but had fully understood the importance of our work.

DL: Where do you think the design field is headed next?

TDA : Trends are unpredictable and change at the speed with which the world changes. They will follow the needs that users have at that moment.

DL: When you have a new design project, where do you start?

TDA : The research phase is fundamental, it allows us to deepen our knowledge of the customer, the product / service and the target audience. Identifying user needs makes the difference between successful design and failure.

DL: What is your life motto as a designer?

TDA : Small, different & brave!

DL: Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?

TDA : The user defines both as two sides of the same coin.

DL: What is the role of technology when you design?

TDA : Technology speeds everything. It helps in both implementation and management, but one must be careful not to rely too much on technological resources and rely on one's intuition to get out of the box.

DL: What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?

TDA : We mainly use the Adobe CC suite programs, but also Sketch or 3D modeling programs if necessary.

DL: What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?

TDA : These are some of the fundamental choices in a design project. In web design, for example, color is not only important for aesthetic purposes, it helps general usability and in some cases it is an accessibility factor that should not be underestimated.

DL: What do you wish people to ask about your design?

TDA : "Why?". Very often people stop at the surface, asking questions and comments on specific details such as shapes, colors etc., but never ask "why" this was done in this way. Many, if not all, of the choices we make also on an aesthetic level are dictated by specific motivations, which are based on study and research.

DL: When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?

TDA : Whatever we see we like to analyze it to understand first of all how it was made, how it could be reproduced with the tools we have at our disposal and finally how we can integrate and exploit what we learned in a future job.

DL: Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?

TDA : We strongly believe in co-design. We believe in sharing and constructive comparison. It opens the mind to new possibilities and expands horizons that can unlock a series of insights out of reach for the narrow vision of a single person. Our ideal collaborator is proactive and predisposed to sharing.

DL: Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?

TDA : - Dario: Certainly my teachers at the academy: I have met professionals with incredible talents, able to open your mind to things you never even thought of. - Roberto: Without a doubt, my teachers in the academy during the years of study had already formed a solid foundation of what is today my workflow and my approach to clients and projects. Although with every experience I try to use it more and more.

DL: Which books you read had the most effect on your design?

TDA : - Dario: They will probably be trivial choices, but two of the ones I remember with pleasure are two great classics: "Point and Line to Plane" by Wassily Kandinsky and "Design and Visual Communication" by Bruno Munari. - Roberto: Certainly the classics of the great masters such as "Point and Line to Plane" by Kandinsky, "Design and visual communication" by Munari, "Art and visual perception" by Arnheim or "Signs and symbols" by Frutiger. Or other less famous but precious books such as "Characters and visual communication" by F. M. Rossi. I think you need to know and understand the basic rules to try to create something new. Even the biographies of famous advertisers, innovators like Steve Jobs or charismatic personalities like Johnny Depp for me are a source of inspiration to look for new ways to go.

DL: How did you develop your skills as a master designer?

TDA : - Dario: I try to never stop, I'm curious by nature, I like to watch tutorials on YouTube on the most disparate topics, techniques that maybe I'll never use ... but in life never say never. - Roberto: Definitely my academy studies, continuous updating and fieldwork. But I still have a lot of experience to do before I can call myself a master.

DL: How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?

TDA : We are not yet famous and for now we have not collected many awards but we are very satisfied with the achievements, they encourage us to do better and better.

DL: What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?

TDA : - Dario: Without a doubt my favorite color is green, and my hair has witnessed this preference over the years. It is difficult to define a single favorite place... certainly the isolated places surrounded by nature, a beautiful clearing or the winter sea... if we speak instead of a place in the world, certainly Japan, a wonderful country with such a culture. My favorite food is definitely pasta: with any seasoning, but it just has to be pasta. My favorite season is autumn: I love rain, wind... and Halloween! Deciding a favorite thing for me is impossible: I am a person very attached to objects, I keep everything, because everything brings with it a story and memories... having to choose a category, my favorite things are books. As for the brand, perhaps I would choose Apple and Nintendo, for their commitment (in different fields) to always bring innovation into people's lives. - Roberto: I am currently fascinated by blue, I love the serenity of the open countryside and the woods, it may seem a contradiction but I believe that contact with the world around us outside the hustle and bustle of cities will be the key to a digital and sustainable evolution. I prefer the cold seasons and my favorite food could be a banal pizza. The brand is a much more complex choice, perhaps Apple for aesthetic sense and success.

DL: Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?

TDA : We recently found ourselves working on the web interface of a cross-device portal. During the first call to set up the work, the young junior project manager shows up with three mobile screens put together on PowerPoint, with random colors and fonts and a twisted image; this did not seem particularly strange, because we thought they were fast wireframes to give us an idea of the structure to work on, but we were wrong. Finished explaining the interfaces, the PM tells us: "So the mobile layout is practically done, you only have to make the last screen. You can use the graphic ASSETS that I did so you find the work already done. " We also made a fair effort to convince her that we could not prepare a web interface on PowerPoint.

DL: What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?

TDA : When the customer is satisfied with the first proposal, that is a perfect day, you know you have hit the point without making mistakes. Motivating yourself is never easy… luckily among colleagues we take turns pulling ourselves up when we become too self-critical.

DL: When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?

TDA : - Dario: I started drawing as a child, and I have cultivated this passion over the years as a hobby. Growing up I went from traditional to digital drawing, and from here I started to get interested in the various forms of digital art, then went on to choose a design school for university. - Roberto: As a child like all children I dreamed of becoming a superhero or an astronaut I never imagined becoming a designer. For sure I have always had a creative vision and with a few simple components I built my spaceship or costume. Growing up, I became more and more passionate about the world of design, I started my studies already in high school, I continued at AANT in Rome and then I never stopped because in this dynamic world, you never stop learning.

DL: What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?

TDA : We hope for an inclusive, digital and sustainable world.

LEGENDARY DESIGNER

THANATOS DIGITAL AGENCY IS AN INDEPENDENT, FAST AND CONSTANTLY EVOLVING CREATIVE AGENCY BASED IN ROME, ITALY. IT BELIEVES IN THE STRENGTH OF COLLABORATION AND IT COMBINES RESEARCH, INTUITION AND STRATEGY WITH DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY. THANATOS IS SPECIALIZED IN BRANDING, WEB DESIGN AND CREATIVE SOLUTIONS. IT IS OFFICIAL DIGITAL PARTNER OF “ELISEO”, ITALY’S NATIONAL THEATRE FROM 1918, IN ROME. ALSO, THANATOS HAS BEEN WORKING WITH BRANDS LIKE “CIA - AGRICOLTORI ITALIANI” (ITALIAN FARMERS CONFEDERATION).


Thanatos Digital  Agency

Thanatos Digital Agency by Thanatos Digital Agency

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