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Interview: Rick Valicenti

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How does your personality inform your work? The concerns of our office are usually my concerns. Right now, we’re interested in recoding and decoding and reappropriating. But we don’t announce these concerns specifically; we employ them to make the client’s statement accessible in new way.

I wish I had a serious point of reference. That’s what aggravates colleagues or makes people curious about me. I wish I could tell somebody what it was that drives my work; I wish I could say we’re interested in making evidence of the designer invisible like Tibor or we’re interested in the fusion of technology and the creative spirit like April. Instead, I say “Let’s see what we can do!” The best way I can describe it is that it’s about making the experience of design an experience.

What kind of experience? That’s determined by the genre and the client. But whatever the experience is, it must be a really great experience; not a B movie but a Bartolucci movie, even if you have to use Helvetica. You give the client the best experience you can in the situation. It’s not very complicated.

How has the role of the designer evolved? My heroes satisfied their most demanding business clients and made things happen. But then something happened to suck the spirit out of the process. Maybe it was the introduction of marketing people into design. We had to sell product, and we had to play by the rules. We had to package information in certain ways to create identities that looked like others in the category. As soon as you start doing that as a designer, your role as translator of the intent of the communication process has been put aside.

Ten out of ten clients who contact us are in search of design talent that is willing to listen and respond. You can educate clients about which typeface you’re using and why you chose it, but you can’t inspire them with that type of dialog. You can only inspire them with, “Here’s a great idea. Take a look at this!”

Published in Statements, the quarterly of the American Center for Design, 1991

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