Interview with Filippos Fragkogiannis

Filippos Fragkogiannis is a graphic designer and art director based in Athens, working as a freelancer since April 2019. His projects center around visual identity, posters, advertising, and digital content, and he regularly enhances type foundries with bold imagery. Filippos' research-based approach is rooted in semiotics, symbolism and the mechanics of visual language. In 2018, he founded Certain Magazine, an independent curatorial platform that chronicles contemporary graphic design and celebrates handpicked design projects from around the world.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello Fabio! Thank you for this interview. I am Filippos, an Athens-based graphic designer and art director. With the autonomy and flexibility of a freelance artist, my work delves into the realms of language, symbolism, and semiotics, seeking to strike a pleasing balance between my professional and personal projects. My focal point is visual identity, advertising, editorial design, and the creation of digital content, and I am always keen to find new approaches that will enhance the efficacy of online communication.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in graphic design?

From an early age, the power of music to stir up emotions and the written word, both elements of the expressive aspect of art, piqued my interest. My engagement with graffiti offered me valuable insight into creativity, collaboration, timing, and productivity. More specifically, my tagging experience had an immense impact on my type-centric approach. As I developed a creator mentality, I broadened my skill set by creating digital graphics and posters for a variety of events, such as school parties, graffiti events, and concerts. These experiences eventually inspired me to study at Vakalo Art & Design College.

How would you describe your design style?

There is a transition in my design approach from accumulation to condensation, with no attachments to a particular style. My priority is to create typography that reflects a design aesthetic of simplicity and honesty. The influence of language on advertising and commercial propaganda fascinates me and inspires me to craft designs with minimalist shapes and solid meanings to get a message across. I aim for some affinity between my projects, but more in terms of carrying shared values than conforming to a certain style.

What is your creative process? 

Well, I jump right into Illustrator and test ideas in practice, analyzing and charting how the shape evolves. I always enjoy experimenting with different approaches until I find one that meets both my client’s needs and my own creative vision. Generally, my creative process begins with extensive research on the subject matter to gather relevant information and images. After reviewing this information, I put the pieces in an appropriate order, condense my thoughts, and discard any unneeded bits. Every project, effort, or professional endeavor begins with a mental process where I like to picture where the generated product will be in the future based on my previous experiences.

How much do the city and surroundings affect your creative output?

Athens' contrasting blend of ancient and modern features is undoubtedly an intriguing arena for anyone looking to expand their aesthetic sensibilities. Every city in Greece, its people, and their aesthetics allude to the country’s location at the crossroads of three countries.  Although living here can have both positive and negative effects on my outlook and creativity, I find the rich history and vibrant culture of the city to be constantly fascinating. Despite its hectic pace, I strive to convert my restlessness into productivity. Living in a bustling city like Athens has sharpened my observation skills, making me more attuned to the nuances of aesthetics.

What do you struggle with the most in terms of working and living in a city like Athens?

Athens can be a real test of patience, with its jam-packed streets crammed with people traveling to work at peak hours. Living in such a big city makes it harder to take pleasure in private and exclusive moments in public, which is something I really appreciate about country life.

What are your city’s biggest challenges?

The overwhelming number of parked cars in the city's neighborhoods has had a significant impact on Athens' urban landscape. It is apparent that cities grew rapidly with little consideration of the repercussions of overcrowding. Though more parking spaces and enhanced infrastructure have always been necessary, it is now more essential than ever to make a bigger part of the city center accessible to pedestrians and seek alternate, more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

What are the solutions that your city needs to implement?

As I see it, it is critical to focus on improving the quality and features of public places. There needs to be a vision of what we want our surroundings to be like. In Greece, for instance, hygiene is paramount in private spaces, but there is frequently a lack of order and cleanliness in public places due to government neglect. This does not reflect the culture we live in but rather emphasizes the significance of public space. I really don’t like how much trash ends up on the streets.

The responsibility of the council in every city is to provide a solid foundation of design, art, and cultural facilities, is that evident in Athens?

I am quite hesitant to make any direct comments about the effectiveness of the city council in this context. Providing a solid foundation for design, art, and cultural institutions is, in my opinion, vital for a healthy and dynamic community, and Athens has a long history of doing so. Our city is a living symbol of art, music, theater, and spectacles that have served as outlets for reflection, comfort, and a thorough understanding of current events. However, I believe there is still room for improvement in this area. More resources and support could be directed toward the arts and cultural sector, as well as enhanced infrastructure and facilities to promote the arts and allow the community to engage with and practice them.

Do you think it is also the responsibility of the artist/creative to improve the quality of people's lives in their city?

Since interaction and human contact are what drive graphic design, I've always felt a sense of responsibility for how my work contributes to and explores our society's and culture's values. However, I don't feel it is the job of creatives to improve the quality of urban life. Local authorities are charged with the task of doing just this. That being said, I believe that it is substantial for a creator to be willing to play a role in community initiatives or provide guidance to the degree that is appropriate to each engaged citizen and professional.

What project have you done that you enjoyed working on the most and why?

One of my favorite projects, which is still in the works, is a typeface called Vercetti Regular.  A few months after its initial release, Vercetti received recognition in the typeface design category of Communication Arts' 13th Annual International Typography Competition. It was created with the intention of being a safe choice for professional designers, graphic design students, and the general public. The Amicale License allows users to freely share the font files with friends and colleagues and makes it available for personal and commercial usage. Vercetti Regular has 326 characters, including numerals, symbols, punctuation marks, and accents, and may be used in any European language that uses the Latin alphabet.

If you could add or change something about Athens, what would that be?

Although I appreciate my city's distinct character, I believe that there is potential for growth should we foster a more participatory culture founded on mutual understanding. I would definitely give priority to urban planning and streamlining infrastructure for individuals with mobility issues, as well as promoting green areas and establishing a more pedestrian-friendly environment. I’m also certain that there is still much that can be done to improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. In the process, Athens might become a more viable, healthy, and appealing city for residents and visitors alike.

If you could choose any artist/creative to collaborate with, who would that be and why? 

New York artist Shepard Fairey comes to mind. I've always found this artist's work to be quite captivating. His mixed media artworks, posters, and murals are widely recognized and can be found in a variety of locations. The ambiguity he presents in his works through symbols and words, as well as their socially timeless nature, will remain relevant for many years to come. I love his aesthetics, as well as the enigmatic spirit of his work.

What do you do to switch off?

To maintain a healthy work-life balance, I always make time for my physical and mental health. This means getting enough sleep, indulging in my favorite foods, and taking calming showers. When I want to entirely unplug, I steer clear of digital devices, as they can prove quite stressful. Instead, I enjoy relaxing activities such as going on walks or spending time with friends, so I can feel rejuvenated and inspired when I return to work.

What does home mean to you?

Home is where I find comfort, tranquility, and solace, and where I can concentrate on my projects without interruption. As an introvert, I cherish my alone time because it allows me to introspect, discover new things, and pursue my personal projects uninterrupted. It is where I feel most grounded and capable of cleansing my spirit in preparation for future challenges.

Describe the perfect day for you in Athens. 

A dream day in Athens would begin with a stroll across the city with a good friend and a cup of coffee in hand. Being close to people I can rely on is enough to make for a fantastic day. Owing to the lovely mild weather, practically every day can be wonderful here. The warm sunlight is invigorating and gives me a sense of calm and confidence for the future.

Sometimes people relate a specific smell to the city they live in or the place they grew up, does Athens evoke a personal smell to you?

If I were to be more romantic, I would say jasmine, although this is more typical on the islands. In reality, each neighborhood of Athens oozes its own scent and distinct character. Depending on one’s location and time of day, smells can range from freshly baked pastries and coffee to the calming aroma of the sea in the air.

What do you hope for your city in the next 10 years?

I am hopeful that we will be able to create a more affluent environment and improved conditions for all individuals by making our surroundings safer and better organized. Furthermore, substantial progress in tackling social and economic justice is critical, particularly through focusing on initiatives such as affordable housing and small business support. This would allow this city to offer greater possibilities for growth to more individuals. Education should also be prioritized, as I believe that Athens has the potential to become an educational hub, drawing more foreign students.

If you weren’t living in Athens and could choose any city to live in where would that be, and why?

Leaving Greece would be a difficult choice for me, as I cherish the comfort of familiar surroundings. However, if I had to pick another city to call home, Nafplio would probably be my first option. This historic, quaint town boasts a thriving entrepreneurial energy as well as a rich cultural legacy and history that are integral to Greece's identity. In some ways, it reflects our people's assertiveness and belief in independence and self-governance.

Filippos Fragkogiannis - mixtape

Whether I'm in my car or at the office, music sets the tone for my line of work and upgrades my mental process. Immersing myself in music makes me more inclined to try new things, ignites my creativity, and helps me discover added meanings to various concepts.

athens by Filippos Fragkogiannis

A selection of places in Athens recommended by graphic designer and art director, Filippos Fragkogiannis. See Filippos' citylikeyou profile page here

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