Friday, 27 July 2012

What's in a logo?

We sat around leftover barbequed food, and in the length it took to reach for a beer, our conversation turned into a (tepidly) heated debate. The argument was such that it would have had any eavesdropper feeling nauseous from the fumes of pretention. Yes, we were talking design. The future of design, no less. More specifically – the future of a logo.
“But how can you design something for a future that is so distant? I mean take the Olympics logo, do you think they captured the year 2012?”
“Trends and derivation is all we ever see anyways. One decade recycles another constantly. It’s the way it goes.”
“Well, I see no problem with having a traditional serif font for a contemporary logo. Just look at the V&A…it still works”
“Yes. The answer is timelessness.”
“No…the answer is looking ahead.”
“There isn’t an answer. All we can do is try to create something that signifies what we’re about at this moment.”

That last one had us all silenced, and we quickly returned to our sausages. Yet the conversation continued to resonate in my thoughts even as the smoky aroma disintegrated into the summer air.
The concluding statement had been donated by a Maltese graphic designer who’s final year at UCA Farnham (B.A. Hons Graphic Communication) had seen him grappling with the question on how to create a visual signifier for a city. Before Ed Dingli left the party, he asked if I would come to his end of year show, just off Brick Lane, on the 12th July, in London. Knowing that student shows can, on rare and miraculous occasions, prove to be a gold-mine of innovation, I accepted with contained vigour.
So a week later, I found myself unwittingly immersed back into that hot summer night, and that conversation about a logo. Essentially what was on trial here was the visual representation of a city. The creation of an emblem which would capture the past, the future, the meaning of one place. A place that for a nation embodied its entire cultural identity.

Maybe a tall order for just one student. But Ed’s intention with this project from the get-go began with finding foundation criteria. What was Valletta (the city he sought to represent) inherently about?
Now, like the project’s creator, I know the city in question well. I’ve worked there, walked up the heaving streets in the treacherous heat of day, and down the balmy limestone steps at night. Therefore, being affronted with a proposal for its branding was somewhat taxing to digest. I had to look at the project with the untainted aim to find out what it is stating, without imposing on it my own version of what I felt the city was.
The design spoke for itself. A visual vocabulary that breathed modernity, yet drew its intrinsic meaning from tradition. The brand was created for a city that sees itself as a capital of culture in six years six years time. It was created for a city with a deeply layered past, full of visual diversity and historical design allusions.
The diversity of thought and sheer magnitude of exploration rings clear in Ed’s sketches for the concept. But out of the gothic, over-embellished motifs somehow sprung a fresh, clean design with an intellectual pattern scheme that ties back to the design hallmarks of the city. In the geometric formations, you can make out the old tiles on the floors of Valletta’s houses. In the palette you can see the night-lights of the city. The lines, although bearing relation to the strictness of the city’s bastion walls, are new; allowing the brand to jolt itself into contemporariness.
I remembered what I had heard Ed say before I knew he had been working on a project which would brand the capital city of Malta, Valletta: “All we can do is try to create something that signifies what we’re about at this moment”. I understood that this, perhaps unbeknownst to him, was not just his graphic vision but also his vision of a cultural identity. Of course, there remains room for this vision to incorporate the conversations and critique of others. Perhaps after that process is over, this design will be in itself the answer to our conversation.

Ann Dingli blogs about Art, Design and Architecture at criticalspeak.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

My Valletta 2012, c’est beau! Hija Sabiħa!

by Matthieu Coulonval

During my two-and-a-half-month-stay in Malta, thanks to the Valletta 2018 Foundation, I’ve been able to experience incredible venues as the Mediterranean Conference Centre, for the Malta Fashion Week, the Manoel theatre and the Verdala Palace, for the Imagine 18 workshops and seminar and, of course, Valletta itself!

That’s why I decided to present you My Valletta. Valletta…where should I begin? I know, my workplace! What a blessing to work in that nice 19th century building, the Exchange Buildings, what a venue to work! Close to it is a lovely cupcake shop called Angelica. How nice it is to have a homemade cupcake with a cup of tea! If you want a piece of advice Valletta has to be discovered walking around in every streets even the smallest to feel its soul. You will find so many little, nice and cosy restaurants with traditional and delicious food. In the front of the Exchange Buildings, you can find a Pastizzeria, which is my pastizzi shop, and my pastizzi:  the Maltese cheesecake, it’s the one; I fell in love with that traditional homemade Maltese goat cheese filled snack.

I went to work with the ferry from Sliema (close to Fort Tigne) to Valletta passing by Manoel Island and its outstanding fort. It was a so nice journey to begin and end a day of work. my perfect spot for the lunch break was the Lower Barracca gardens with a fantastic view on Grand Harbour, Fort Ricasoli and Villa Bighi. You will love to go out for dinner at the Valletta water front. But if you want the perfect view on Valletta for a romantic dinner, go to a restaurant close to Fort Tigne in Sliema, the view on Valletta will blow your mind.

It was a stay with several events. For exemple a feast celebrating the winning of the Valletta’s football team (their 21st title with a straightforward 3-0 win over Sliema Wanderers) and of course the huge event, Isle of MTV in Floriana next to Valletta. Believ e me they know how to party!

When I arrived in Malta I felt a country in change. In Valletta they are refurbishing and rebuilding a city full of history. Several people told me that the mentality is changing as well, divorce, marriage, gay community, more independence from the family, etc.

I’ve noticed as well that Maltese people have a special relationship with the AC and I was surprised when I learnt that Valletta has been constructed to have a natural AC system! The long straights streets allow the cooling sea breezes to circulate, serving like an air condition system for the whole city.

I went to Malta to improve my English so when I started to practice English, even if it’s a really cool language, I realised how wonderful French was. Maltese people are as proud of their language as I am of my Belgian French. A common language in Europe? NO WAY!

I wish to come back in 2018 and see all the changes: social, architectural, economical and, of course, cultural! And see what the dynamic and motivated V.18 team I worked with made of it. Crossed fingers for October! I wish all the best to the team for that amazing and challenging project.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

This is a guest post by Noemi Fiorillo - intern from Italy with V.18


13 febbraio-13 maggio 2012 Progetto Leonardo

Mela, al termine di questa esperienza posso ritenermi assolutamente soddisfatta di aver trascorso tre splendidi mesi a Malta.

Prima di partire, per prender parte al progetto, i miei sentimenti erano contrastanti. Da un lato c’era la curiosità di conoscere un luogo nuovo, una splendida tappa, come da molti definita quest’isola nel Mediterraneo. C’era il desiderio di mettermi alla prova, lasciare il mio paese, la mia famiglia. Acquisire fiducia in me stessa contando solo sulle mie forze. Migliorare la conoscenza dell’inglese.

Da l’altro dominava la paura di “scontrarsi” con una diversa cultura. Intorno a me alcune voci parlavano di un popolo chiuso, inospitale e diffidente. Dicevano frasi come: “i maltesi vi guarderanno con sospetto”, “gente che ha subito anni di dominio, è ora gelosa di ciò che finalmente gli appartiene”, “la cultura maltese non ha una sua identità definita”.
Tutto falso. Fin dall’inizio le mie impressioni cozzavano con quelle voci. Ora posso affermare esattamente il contrario. Moltissimi giovani da varie parti dell’Europa (Italia, Spagna, Belgio, Grecia) testimoniano la bellezza culturale, naturale e storica di Malta. Ragazzi che come me hanno vissuto l’isola.

Un arcipelago di terre selvagge e incontaminate che l’uomo ancora rispetta. Doni della natura che tolgono il fiato.

 Lagune caratterizzate dal verde smeraldo di un mare invidiabile.

 Baie protette da alte scogliere ( Golden Bay, Riviera Bay).

Malta non è solo natura, è anche espressione di un cattolicesimo estremamente radicato. Le processioni, gli eventi religiosi e le innumerevoli chiese lo raccontano.

Quello di cui io vorrei parlare è la ricchezza architettonica,scultorea,pittorica di questi edifici di culto, internamente dominati da un evidente barocco. Tra questi mi ha colpito enormemente la Co-cattedrale di San Giovanni alla Valletta, la cui semplice facciata nasconde un interno di navate e cappelle interamente decorate, nonché i due dipinti del Caravaggio: ‘La decapitazione di San Giovanni’, ‘San Girolamo,lo scrivano’.

Inoltre si trova nella capitale, un incontro di strade e vicoli caratteristici. È piacevole percorrerla, ascoltare i suoni, sentire gli odori di una gastronomia internazionale e poi giungere alla piazza del Governo dove l’acqua della fontana si muove al ritmo della musica.

I maltesi? Un popolo adorabile. Gente disponibile e gentile che considera gli italiani come loro amici, che ama la lingua italiana e che dichiaratamente ne ha importato alcune tradizioni culinarie.

Passanti che con pazienza danno indicazioni stradali. Impiegati di uffici pubblici che ti accolgono con un sorriso. La generazione dei giovani che anima le notti di Paceville. I miei colleghi della Fondazione Valletta 2018 che mi hanno accolto come una del team.
Tutti loro mi rimarranno nel cuore

I will miss Malta, my wonderful experience in Malta

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

photo by Elisa von Brockdorf

Let there be light 
This guest post by Victor Calleja appeared in 

Politics and politicians and turncoats and half turncoats be damned and blasted. I'm really going to keep off that lark or else I'm really going to lose it—it being my readership. And keep in mind that my readership has lately grown by leaping, fanciful bounds from one (my editor) to half a dozen oddballs.

 Intro over, politics buried, here's hoping that we do become the cultural capital of Europe. And I mean this seriously and I poke not any fun—it seems better to make things clear so that the prime minister will not have to read my stuff and give me a shocking scolding for deriding our application. He has enough suffering on his plate.

 Great show at the Manoel Theatre. Nothing to do with theatre really but with the theatricals of how to make Valletta the cultural capital of Europe in 2018. It's so great to see us—tiny particle that we are in the Med—taking it for granted that we are an important part of Europe and recognising that we can contribute to what Europe is.

 We have a heritage and a legacy that is not just the bastions or the art that the Knights left us. We have a voice, a unique voice, a valid voice. This does not make us the centre of the earth or the universe—just as New York or London or Shanghai are not the centres of the universe either. They might be better-known, more populated and more important than us but all they have is a vibrant voice which we in our infinite smallness can have too—even if ours is less heard.

 And please let's not think of ourselves as so European that we think we are exclusively so and cannot be inclusive of other differing cultures. Let's recognise the diversity that has made us and be more welcoming of cultures that brush against us—be they Christian, Muslim or atheist and be they pink, dark pink or black. Yes I have purposely omitted white—not to insult our skin but because the last thing we can call ourselves is white. And being called pink—more akin to pigs—might be a great way of insulting all the racists amongst us who think we are somewhat superior to the "poor" blacks who come to our shores to pollute with their colour, creed and their need of shelter and jobs.

Back to Imagine 18 and the stuff that went on at the Manoel. I loved the lighting—if you haven't seen it lit up do see a photo of it. Even if you hate it you cannot deny its efficacy in making the theatre seem different, more contemporary—and a bit shocking.

Simple effect, simple detail and the mind is left to wander where it doesn't usually go. Isn't the Manoel usually just a fusty place where some theatre happens and the lighting is all oh-so-perfectly boring? The red boxes at the Manoel made me think of days gone by when knights were bold and courtesans were bought and sold. Or whatever knights and courtesans did back then. A bit of light, a bit of colour and voilà the world changes. Being just white or brown or pink can be intensely dense and boring.

That is what Imagine 18 is meant to do to us—make us think, make us realise that size, even if small, can be more than beautiful and effective. Small effects which light up our fantasy and our love for all that is possible in this tough, but great, world of ours.

Friday, 24 February 2012

My Malta experience

by Apolline Thibaux

I've been given the opportunity to go to Malta for a period of 11 weeks to improve my English. As most of other Belgians (or at least I like to think I'm not the only one), I didn't know anything about this country, except the name of the capital city: Valletta. I started to gather information about this “unknown” island and bought THE tourist's panoply: Malta's guide for travelers, a history book about the knights of Malta and, of course, a method to learn Maltese (the latter being especially difficult to find in Belgium, trust me). And that's how I ended up in a country smaller than Brussels...

After having attended a week of English classes and having discovered Maltese life, I've had the extreme pleasure of starting my internship at the Valletta 2018 Foundation, supporting Valletta's candidacy as European Capital of Culture for 2018.
I didn't wait for my colleagues advice to drink local, i.e. Cisk (Maltese beer) and Kinnie (Maltese soft drink), both of which I'm becoming an addict ;-). It's great to work with Maltese people, first of all because they're really nice people (and I don't say that just because I know they'll read this), but also because they tell you what there is to see/visit/eat... and also what to avoid. That's how I had the chance to eat in a typical Maltese restaurant during a work lunch and to try their traditional ftira (a kind of pizza). That's also the reason why I could taste delicious home-made pudina (chocolate and fruit bread pudding) on several occasions.
It was my fourth week in Malta and I was told that I was going to have a day off on San Pawl's day, February 10th. It is a public holiday thanks to Saint Paul, very important figure in Malta that converted people to Christianity. They commemorate his shipwreck on the island in 60AD.
I was expecting a much smaller celebration, I thought it would be like in my village, where the procession for the patron saint is mostly followed by elderly people. On the advice of my awesome colleagues (), I was planning to go to Valletta for the procession on Friday. I knew that the churches here were well decorated but when I got out of work the day before the feast, I saw a completely different city. I went to St Paul's Street on my way back home to have a look at St Paul's Church (and also because a certain sweet shop was in the way, so I could try the prinjolata, Malta's carnival cake). The church front was illuminated with lots of bulbs that lit the whole facade, the bells were ringing loudly and many people were already inside. I entered the Church and could see the beautiful decorations, the crystal ceiling lights and listen to the choir.
The day after was a sunny day. I entered Valletta through Republic Street and could see all the red and gold drapes floating in the blue sky. I quickly headed for St Paul's Street and arrived in a jubilant crowded street. Lots of green and white and red tinsel were hanging in the air and flags were flown from the balconies.

While my family was experiencing temperatures below freezing in snowy Belgium, the only snow I could see here was the confetti thrown by the inhabitants from their gallarija. The crowd was gathered round a big marching band playing national songs. What struck me most was that they were playing without any conductor (or at least I didn't see him) despite the fact that they were very numerous. Every instrument was well-represented: saxophones, clarinets, trumpets, tubas,... all starting playing in harmony after the three strokes of the drums and walking along with the flag-bearers under a shower of pieces of colored paper. The procession was surrounded by hundreds of people celebrating their patron saint in local bars or just listening to the band. Some of them were wearing red sweaters for the occasion. The procession was moving toward the church dedicated to the shipwreck of St Paul, also located in Triq San Pawl. It was funny to see that while some people were drinking and celebrating in the street, others were inside the church, attending an open door English mass about Saint Paul's life.

If you want to see St Paul's statue going out of the church, you have to elbow your way through the crowd, because everyone is flocking to the door to watch it. When the statue appeared, the crowd was in a state of frenzy, people were shouting, singing and clapping wildly while fireworks were blasting above our heads. Then, the procession continued around the streets of Valletta, with lots of marching bands honouring their saint with St Paul's anthems.

That's when I had to leave Il-Belt and let Maltese people celebrate the first festa of the year during the rest of the weekend. This festa was really worth the trip!

Apolline Thibaux

Monday, 16 January 2012

My Malta with the V.18 team

Sophie Leger from Belgium spent an internship with the V.18 team recently. Here, Sophie gives her insights into Malta and talks about her three months with V.18.

Malta is a small island located between Africa and Europe and welcomes a large community of mainly European foreigners, as well as a small North African community. Personally, I went to Malta from Belgium as a trainee; it was a golden opportunity for me to improve my English skills while getting involved in a professional sphere and still finding the time to discover a new culture. Needless to say, I enjoyed every minute of my stay; my three months spent with the V.18 team in Malta flew at lightning speed.

Malta is an island with a wonderful atmosphere and has the huge bonus of having clear seas and a prestigious cultural legacy. It's really a place you leave reluctantly and tell yourself you'll be back. Malta has developed strong identity of contrasts resulting from the many invasions that occurred in the past. The remains of fortified towns and churches are reminders of the Knights of the Order of St. John. But beyond these fortifications, the varied Mediterranean culture is felt in the architecture of the charming cubic houses, the picturesque cities with narrow streets and market flavours and the gentle easy-going way of its people influenced by so many crossed cultures from North, South, East and West.

Despite its small size, Malta features a large variety of landscapes, besides a vast cultural and historical heritage, including prehistoric temples. Dotted around Malta, there are a handful of small preserved and very authentic islands with sand bays, rocky coastlines, and small coves, some fishing villages and family beach resorts. One of my favourite places was definitely Golden Bay where you can admire wonderful scenery made of green grasses, purple hills, blue sea and bare land... I could stay there quite a time.

The Maltese language is quite complex. It’s somehow close to the Arabic language and is influenced by several others languages such as Italian, Sicilian and French. The Maltese language also reflects the centuries-long Arab occupation of the islands. Following British colonization, the English language took a major place in the field of business and administration. Most of the people speak English fluently; that’s why Malta is developing as a country of choice for students and trainees from all over Europe.

Malta is much more than just a geographical link on the Mediterranean. Despite all the influences it has undergone in the course of history, this population has created its own culture and built a strong and distinct personality that deserves to be known.

In this context, Valetta has filed a formal application in order to be designated European Capital of Culture in 2018. The Valletta 2018 Foundation is composed of a dynamic and dedicated team of which I was proud to be part as during my traineeship. I was fortunate to assist the project from the starting phase. Thank you to all the team who coached me so positively and made me supremely involved.

I wish you all the greatest success for the future!

Sophie Leger