Karlo Kazinoti was born in 1981 in Split. After graduating from the School of Fine Arts in Split, he enrolled in the School of Design in Zagreb. Upon completing his studies in 2007, Kazinoti worked as a designer in a number of agencies and studios in Zagreb and Split. Since 2010, he has worked as a freelance designer and has collaborated with the Mediterranean Film Festival Split for which he designed the first acclaimed series of festival posters that have been regularly exhibited at exhibitions and published in domestic and foreign publications. In 2011, he founded the Kazinoti & Komenda studio in Split, where he currently works. During many years of design practice, the Kazinoti & Komenda Studio has been active in various fields of design, mostly designing for the cultural sector (long-term cooperation with the Mediterranean Film Festival Split) and developing signage system designs (Fortress of Culture in Šibenik). In 2017, the studio was awarded a special prize by the International Institute for Information Design in Vienna (IIID Award) for the signage system design created for St. Michael’s Fortress in Šibenik.
Karlo Kazinoti also participated in numerous juried group exhibitions, such as the Magdalene International Festival of Creative Communications (Maribor, Slovenia), D-Day, Croatian Design Exhibition 0910, International Spring Laser Summit of Cheap Graphics (Belgrade, Serbia), Exhibition of Croatian Design 1112, In a Nutshell (Vienna, Austria), Croatian Design Exhibitions 1314, In a Nutshell (Brussels, Belgium), Croatian Design Exhibitions 1516 and 1718, (RE) IMAGINING EUROPE, (Zagreb, 2020) etc.
Interview with Karlo Kazinoti was created on the occasion of the Exhibition of Croatian Design 19/20, in which he participated as a selector and a member of the International Jury.
OM: After a brief period of time that you worked for agencies and design studios, in 2011 you founded your own studio – Kazinoti&Komenda- together with your colleague Mišo Komenda. From the earliest to recent joint projects, those created for film and music festivals are particularly interesting. Is there a main thread behind reflection on the visual identities developed for the Mediterranean Film Festival? How have you managed to preserve visibility and recognition of the festival over the years?
KK: The Mediterranean is in itself an inexhaustible collection of “creative” situations and peculiar characters, and every year, through these “ordinary” people, I try to portray a local moment that has enough spirit in itself to intrigue the observer. Through film art, people become fascinated by other people and their destinies, and it is the people, i.e. the audience, that make the festival, which we have witnessed during this year and the crisis. For the last twelve years, this audience has been part of my visual materials via photography. We belong to an environment that cherishes good gossip, so very often I find out from my models how many people have noticed a particular poster.
OM: Upon your return to Split after finishing your studies, together with Gordan Tudor and Rafaela Dražić, you founded an association focusing on the organization of exhibitions, concerts and lectures given by contemporary artists. Among some of the projects that were launched at the time by the association is the festival named Days of New Music, for which posters and programmes were also designed. In a subtly humorous way, the letters and words on the poster become transformed into music. How do you use typography to create the main body of those posters? To which extent does the typography and its central role make it easier or harder to convey the main message of the poster?
KK: Typographic posters are a graphically powerful and direct form of communication allowing designers to take various approaches to shaping an idea when it comes to simply conveying a message or designing an experimental poster. Such posters use a special design vocabulary, by the use of which it is often easier to visualize complex themes, especially if they are intended for the general public. By manipulating letters we can simultaneously obtain several different qualities that make a poster attractive with minimal production costs, which is suitable for small budget festivals, such as the Days of New Music festival.
OM: In cooperation with Iris Klarić, you have designed the signage system for St. Michael’s Fortress in Šibenik. The project was awarded the prestigious the International Institute for Information Design Award (IIID Award). The signage system provided the Šibenik’s fortification system with a new and fresh layer of the 21st century. What is the secret to designing a good signage system? What should be its main characteristics?
KK: Signage is something utilitarian that should primarily serve to meet its purpose, which is to facilitate circulation and provide information in a given space. Depending on the type of signage or facility/space, it is possible to evaluate its quality. These parameters vary according to the required pace of reading, distance from which the information is read and the amount of people using it. So, for example, traffic signage requires a higher reading speed than airport or hospital signage, while some slightly more relaxed places, such as hotels or parks, can have much more creative approach to signage design. In Croatia, we don’t have a rule book or standards that apply such as in the AIGA standards in the US, which prescribe the mandatory signage elements for the blind and visually impaired persons. Inclusivity should definitely be one of the main characteristics of good signage.
OM: At this year’s (Re) Imagining Europe 2020 international poster competition organized by the Croatian Design Association, Kazinoti&Komenda Studio participated with the poster named Have fun! showing a floaty in yellow and blue, as the colours of the European Union, floating in the air in the form of a coffin. What has inspired you to use this solution? Which elements manifest the power of that poster?
KK: As we were thinking about this contest a sea of topics and issues emerged that we thought were interesting to deal with. We started panicking because we were afraid that we would drown in all that and so we found a solution in the floaty. In Western societies, such topics are often discussed and environmental awareness has become a popular cliche. The poster wants to represent the ignorance of an average inhabitant of the planet Earth, in this case a European. The main visual is a plastic floaty designed in the shape of a coffin and having the colour of EU stars used for carefree entertainment and floating at the rising sea level. It is a combination of wittiness and stupefaction.
OM: Very early on in your career, independently and in cooperation with Mišo Komenda, you participated in the Exhibition of Croatian Design. This year you presented your work with film and festival posters, visual identity and packaging, as well as innovative solutions for somewhat different tourist locations in Split and cultural events taking place on the island of Hvar. Both projects (MyMap Split & https://planhvar.com/#ancor21) were created in collaboration with local volunteers and social and cultural associations. How much do you learn about your own environment through such and similar collaborations? How can design solutions help to introduce tourists and citizens to the place where they are staying or living?
KK: Learning is part of any design process, and this also applies to learning about your own environment. Through various projects we had the opportunity to get acquainted with interesting cultural activities in the city and its surroundings, which have been, until recently, neglected in terms of presentation. I think it’s important that design solutions don’t just stem from the intention to introduce tourists to the place they are staying at, which is often the case, but rather from the idea that the city needs to use design to the best benefit of its citizens, and ultimately for the benefit of everyone.
OM: What do you consider to be the identity of your city? How can or should it change with regard to its cultural and historical heritage, Mediterranean heritage and general living conditions and habits?
KK: Split likes to call itself “the most beautiful city in the world”, which, at first glance, is not exactly an ideal foothold for creating an identity. In Split, this prefix “the most” often has both a positive and negative connotation, resulting in bipolarity due to which the local context has almost disappeared. Due to the city’s specific geographic position, in the course of the city’s development the city centre has been dislocated. I believe that the city’s identity should reflect such a stark contrast, which would make it clear to everyone that they would not remain indifferent in it. Apart from the context of cultural and historical heritage, it is really difficult to think about developing the city’s identity if that city is (under) developed or if its development has gone out of hand without a clear vision of what it wants to become.
OM: The visual identity for the recently renovated Vukovar Water Tower stands out as probably one of the most renown and most famous projects. As stated in the explanation of the award, your project stood out since the use the two squares that complement each other outlined the symbol of togetherness and wound healing in the best way. Among many stylized depictions of the water tower itself, you decided to search for its deeper meaning. Can you describe the process of designing this visual identity?
KK: While thinking about the identity of the Vukovar Water Tower we fell into the trap of its characteristic silhouette. To us, that seemed as a rather foreseeable way of thinking and something that actually makes the symbol banal. We were attracted to the information that the tower took 640 artillery hits and still remained standing. We decided to turn these hits into a raster with which we formed two squares which represent the basic idea that the attempt to destroy and injure the city and its symbol actually made the people more connected and stronger. By subtracting the elements, i.e. the circles symbolizing projectiles from one square and moving them into the frame of a new one, our intention was to present this idea. The goal was to come up with a visually powerful, monumental solution that shifts away from the literal shape of the water tower, and to simultaneously convey the main message of the symbol.
OM: This year you are one of the members of the jury of the 19/20 Exhibition of Croatian Design. Have the submitted works met your expectations? What is good design to you?
KK: So far, this has been the exhibition with the most submitted works and I am extremely pleased to have had this opportunity and the honour to get an insight into Croatian design production. I am definitely pleased to note that the quantity has not diminished the quality of the submitted works. A good design – this term is quite difficult to define because its meaning changes with respect to society and technology, so that eventually time shows what was really good. With all the qualities related to good design that you learn through education and practice, sometimes you are surprised by a project that contradicts a good part of them and delighted with a certain emotion that it stirs up.
OM: What would you single out as the most important problems that designers face in Croatia today? What is the future of Croatian design?
KK: I think that designers still have to put an effort into bringing awareness to the public and their clients about understanding our profession and the benefits that design engagement brings. One of our problems is the fact that the market is small and that makes certain production challenges too complicated or unprofitable. Culture and self-initiative projects have always pushed Croatian design, and I think that will not change, but I also hope that better connectivity will remove the borders and that designers with quality solutions will be able to reach the wider public.
OM: What else needs to be done to make the importance and opportunities provided by design practice more present in our society and thus enable further development, exchange of opinions, knowledge and experiences?
KK: I think it is necessary to include design education in the earliest phases of education, through kindergartens and schools (perhaps as part of the art culture curriculum). Society will evaluate design differently when part of creative practice and problem-solving through design become more frequently applied in everyday life.