Graphic Design Expert Louise Fili on Where She Gets Her Inspiration – Class Excerpt

Graphic Design Expert Louise Fili on Where She Gets Her Inspiration – Class Excerpt


– Italy is my greatest
source of inspiration, both typographic and gastronomic. I’ve spent decades combing flea markets and documenting signage, which
has had a great influence on my work and my life. Well, I was art director
of Pantheon Books. All art directors in the
industry were so poorly paid that we all freelanced for one another. So, when I started my business, I already had a significant client list and didn’t have to look for work. The book jacket work was enough to keep me and an assistant busy, but this is when I learned two important
lessons of having a studio. Never depend on any one
type of work or client and never sit and wait
for the phone to ring with the perfect job, because
there is no perfect job. Every designer needs to
develop personal projects in order to find a unique voice. I started my studio with one assistant and a revolving door of interns, which made me realize
that it would be better to just hire a second assistant. I have maintained the
same formula for 28 years. I’ve never wanted to go bigger or smaller than two people working for me. The scope of work that I
do is constantly evolving. I started out with book
jackets and book interiors. Then, I added restaurants,
then food packaging. All along, I would always
be working on at least one of my own projects, a
book, a product or a font, which is a recent exploration. By keeping my studio small, I’ve been able to focus on
my very specific interests. My work is often described
as elegant, sensual, European inspired and tactile. Rather than simply
borrowing from the past, I try to add my own
perspective or personality to what inspires me. The typography is a reinterpretation of the historical references that pay homage and build
upon those aesthetics. My work is informed by
all of the reference that I’ve been collecting for as long as I’ve been a
designer, maybe even longer. My sources are flea markets,
second-hand bookstores, and Italian eBay. Lots of sources are free. I’m always photographing signs
or scavenging orange wrappers that have fallen to the
ground in produce markets. Anything with Italian or French type on it has always been magical to me. My studio is a walk-in archive
of all the restaurant menus, business cards, matchbooks
and specialty food packages that I have designed or collected. I keep a lot of the materials in binders on my bookshelves, so that
just by spinning around in my chair I can come face to face with endless inspiration
that I never get tired of, that I will use directly
or indirectly as reference. I tend to plan my trips to Italy around flea market schedules
which are very complicated, and it took me a long time
to navigate that system. But there was one time when
I took a trip to Bologna, and I was there for seven days. I used that as my base, and in seven days I went to eight flea markets. Surrounded by objects that I treasure, perfume labels, button
cards, biscotti tins, I am routinely transported to Europe. My life and my work are
inextricably combined, which is just the way I like it. My style has evolved over the years, mostly due to circumstance. At Pantheon and in the
early years of my studio, I designed without a computer. Once we embraced the technology and as the programs became
more and more sophisticated, it became easier to make the work look more
vintage inspired, more authentic. Ironically, we go to
great pains in Photoshop to make things look like they were not designed on a computer.

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