When our lives were flipped upside down by Covid-19 and Italy became one of the worst-hit countries in the world, Giacomo Felace wasn't just worrying about his friends and relatives; he was one of the first economic casualties, losing his design job.
The Italian art director and creative strategist lives and works in Venice, and has spent the last decade working in the field of branding for cultural and commercial brands. Since March, he's been looking for a new full-time opportunity, but surviving with some freelance consulting in the meantime.
During Italy's lockdown, he also decided to launch a new editorial project that explores the "intersections of race, environment and education to give space to a sustainable future". It seems Giacomo isn't the only one to take a long, hard look at his lifestyle and how he'd like to see the world change. We spoke to Giacomo about how 2020 has affected him.
How did you get into graphic design?
If I look at many of my colleagues, they see design as a calling. For me, I wanted to learn techniques and tools that would allow me to communicate a message while using these skills to travel physically and mentally. I got into it like that, in small steps and prudently. My story is that I grew up in the northeast part of Italy, moving around the globe a lot and continuously figuring out who I was or what I was meant to be. I tried a lot of things. So for me, graphic design is not an end, but a means.
It's tough out there right now, how are you coping?
It's a critical moment for everyone, but I think it'll be a slight turning point for the entire world where collective values will return to the centre of our way of living and working.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I lost my job, so I've recently dedicated my time to rearrange my priorities and understand how and where I want to live. I've also studied, read and wrote a lot, and I've worked on my body. I've launched a website and blog and developed exciting collaborations with people and brands.
I'm proud to have started a new project recently called Under Prospective where I explore perceptions of the future, a snapshot of the present, and history of the past to give space and emphasis to a sustainable future.
The goal is to challenge, inform, and inspire those who are listening to what isn't being said. I think we have lost contact with ourselves and this depends a lot on the speed of our communication, which no longer puts us in a position to linger on anything. Today we need to understand why we are living a life that, in many ways, we do not like.
The design industry, in general, feels hugely competitive these days, it's getting harder to stand out?
I'm not sure. Internet and social media have made the world more competitive and faster, but they have also given us many sexy opportunities.
I think the biggest difficulty that designers and the industry are facing today is to understand the importance of developing their own personality and apply it to different spaces, services, and products that lead them to be medium/brand and not just people in front of their laptop – to feel like a platform and not a service provider. The form and the medium dictate the outcome and attract the client you deserve to work with. If you do a lot of mediocre work, it's going to attract a lot of mediocre clients.
What has worked for you so far in your career? What wisdom can you share?
Everything that didn't work out. Failing so many times and the realisation that failure is just a word. The greatest wisdom I can share is that "we are own worst enemy". You can express that negatively, or you make your own luck, which is the same thing. Still, I do believe that in many cases – specifically if you live in a free Western society, where there is a significant amount of responsibility.
Has the pandemic changed anything for you? Will you be doing anything differently?
It certainly changed the weight of my wallet, but I believe that sometimes in life, it takes moments of crises to awaken us forcefully. Recessions are often periods of reflection and innovation. This moment leaves me the space to step back, reflect, and discuss proposed changes. It allows me to analyse the way I have been living on this planet.
These days it seems like we spend so much time assessing the visual output, but so little time understanding the input. In this critical moment, we have a window of opportunity. We can learn how to do more with less and celebrate collective systems. That said, I'll keep trying to create my space in the creative world, but if I don't make it, it won't be a problem anymore.
Do you think our work lives will ever be the same again?
While the current situation certainly isn't business as usual, many companies have found themselves unexpectedly prepared for the pandemic. Plenty of businesses already had measures in place for volatile, complex, or ambiguous environments; they just weren't utilising them for those reasons. Flexible working was offered to parents, remote working was a one-off occurrence, and video conferencing connected offices.
The pandemic has pushed people and some countries like Italy into the future, forcing them to use the collaboration tools, remote working functionality and communication channels that they promoted as a perk but weren't using as a lifeline.
I think workplaces will become more agile because of the outbreak. The cultural shift towards collaboration and trust will see people from different departments come together to solve problems, rather than working as a single part of the business. This will continue and lead to greater problem solving, innovation and output, while also allowing employees to develop cross-functional skills.
Will you go back into an office when you can? Or will you expect some homeworking?
I expect flexible working to become more commonplace, with companies allowing a mixture of office and remote working and employees happy for a mix of scenery.
Finally, what kind of experience are you looking for next?
I am open to experience both in Italy and abroad in the fields of art, design, fashion, music, or hospitality but what is fundamental for me is the environment, the people I work with, and the mission behind the business. The aspiration is to work with a brand with a clear foundation, values, and personality.