Arts Abroad: MFA Design in Venice and Rome, Part 3

July 1, 2009

One in a series of occasional dispatches from SVA’s Summer Arts Abroad programs. This dispatch was sent by designer and Summer Arts Abroad student Rachel Gogel.

Imagine having to design a guidebook on a city that you’ve never been to. Now imagine having to conceptualize two of these guidebooks over the span of two weeks.

My Venice: The colors of Venice really stood out to me—reds, blues, greens and purples—but not through the traditional gelato flavors of the day or the bright glass-blown sculptures. I saw the colors in layers, through the ripped poster art (political, social and personal) scattered around Venice’s lovely and mysterious city.

I soon came to realize that this specific topic could only turn into a visual book possibly linking contemporary Venice poster art to the décollage movement of the 50s—Mimmo Rotella and Jacques Villeglé more specifically—not a guidebook to the city. So I picked colorful masks instead. I wanted to remove the cliché from this popular souvenir and introduce the craft and storytelling aspects back into it.

Dietro la maschera di Venezia (Behind the Mask of Venice) managed to categorize masks and reveal their identities in a clear and illustrative way that appealed to an audience. By filling my black and white digital illustrations with color by hand after the printing process, I wanted to make the average tourist aware that the original Venetian mask-maker still exists in the City of Bridges.

My Rome: The letter Q is everywhere in Rome, the birthplace of Western typography. Inscriptions, signs, manhole covers, menus—I saw Qs everywhere.

What really caught my eye was the varying lengths of the Q’s tail. After learning about the evolution of the tail through our lectures and workshops, it seemed only natural for me to create a guide book on Rome called Visual Ques.

This play on words sets the tone of the book—quirky yet serious. While providing a brief history and timeline about the letter Q, the book reaches out to anyone interested in design and looking for a new way to visit a typical tourist attraction. While you’re waiting in a queue, read about Rome from a Q’s point of view. What type geek wouldn’t want that?

Images: Photos by Rachel Gogel, 2009.

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