Cinzia Bongino is a Graphic & Information Designer from Turin (IT).
She develops projects focused on current geopolitical issues with a strong research background. Versatile in data visualization, motion graphics, design research, editorial and web design, she employs design tools and skills as a means of investigation and not as an end in itself. Meaningful details and overall vision in every step of the project.
Chambre Fluide: Hello Cinzia! Let's start talking about your career as a graphic designer. How did you find out the creative field was a good path to express yourself?
Cinzia Bongino: Hi there! Graphic design is something I have been doing since I was a teenager: I chose a vocational school with the clear idea of working with images and videos. It is a discipline that is in constant development, and it strikes me how the quality of the work increases every year.
Personally speaking, I don't want to express myself through my design, that is not the point of being a designer.
I am more a kind of medium that communicates through digital or physical media. My work is to help people, organizations, and companies deliver a message or a product. However, my approach cannot be neutral.
Because of this task, I find this practice very relevant and stimulating. Every project I work on is a new world to dive into, with its own rules and needs. As a graphic designer, doing visual research is a very common process, but I don’t limit myself to collecting images or others’ designs on a Pinterest board. I usually delve into the topic of the current projects to the point that I can write an article about it, and that is when I feel like I know enough to start designing it.
In my view, understanding what you are designing about (and who you are designing for) is essential to produce something meaningful.
CF: How was the interest in current geopolitical issues born and How did you develop your ideas reaching the final result?
CB: Well, that is a recent interest born while attending my Master's studies. In these two years, we developed projects entirely on our own: editing, concept, design, prototype, installation, and final publication all carried alone. It was an interesting and challenging task: we had to design the content and the container - something that, in the average working environment, happens only through many other people.
A recurring pattern in my academic projects was a way to frame the subject of my research. None of my works focused on a specific case study. The point has never been doing a nice Wikipedia page but contextualizing what I was learning first by myself and then sharing the knowledge through engaging storytelling. So far, I have been developing this kind of research project on my own, but I would love to work with a journalist, scientist, or researcher, a person who is an expert examining a current issue.
Geopolitics is a big theme. I am probably a bit naive using this word, since I never did any journalistic or political science courses. What fascinates me most are the tangled connections between national and local jurisdictions and global trade.
We take for granted so many goods and services that we notice bugs in the system only when it stops functioning.
When you start to examine the problem in-depth, you realize how many shady transactions happen among state actors
(often taking advantage of loopholes). Keeping up with foreign news encourages a better understanding of national matters.
CF: Graphics are usually closely linked to aesthetics, but in your case it has a strongly social-political connotation.
Do you think graphics can be a tool to change things, or does it remain purely utopian at the end, the desire to do politics through an artistic form?
CB: The way I see it, Graphic design is just one tool of the toolbox. Its function depends on who employs it and what for. I don’t think that graphic design can be promoted as a tool for change. The essential element for change is the ability to activate people. And this depends mainly on the content, not by its container, even if a designer’s work can help enforce messages. Many practices and gatherings are born out of a visual design project. We are so embedded in an interconnected world that it is difficult to distinguish which tools were the most impactful in a specific event.
On the socio-political connotation, yes, it is connected to the topics I tackle through my projects. Design is always political, meaning that works within public life. Any designer makes a political decision when they accept a job or decide to work on a topic. Graphic design is not advertising, but it shares the same purpose: to sell products more appealingly. You help sell goods, services, brands, or information. However, it is without discussion that beautiful things came within the long history of applied arts.
CF: You describe design tools and skills as: <<a means of investigation and not as an end in itself>>. Would you describe us more thoroughly? What do you mean with these words?
CB: I stopped doing posters for the sake of improving my graphic skills or publishing mockups on my Behance or Instagram page. Learning new programs (or programming languages) and testing things out are brilliant ways to increase your knowledge.
What I find useless is inventing fake content to please the composition. It would be better to take advantage of this media to deliver useful messages. And then comes the dilemma: what is useful and what can be labeled as visual pollution? It often happens to find important communications horribly designed, and beautiful layouts that welcome poor content.
In my view, the form follows the content and the context. This means that the final design is the best possible container for the message, depending on its final placement. These considerations often influence the editing and arrangement of the content, as long as it does not affect it. I would like to stress the critical use of the programs we employ as designers.
We might limit our creative possibilities within the mental border of the default options. We often perform actions with the same programs just because we are used to doing so. Instead, exploring other tools and practices improves our adaptability and expands our mental mechanisms. In this way, I see digital programs as a means of investigation: learning (especially non-design) tools and methodologies helps to solve issues faced in other circumstances.
The Weapons' Reputation, 2020, All images © Cinzia Bongino
Graduation project, Master in Information Design, Design Academy Eindhoven.
Bronze prize European Design Award 2021, Student category
The Weapons’ Reputation questions the integrity of the arms trade as a legal transfer of weapons among countries.
Any armament employed in crimes, conflicts, or wars (except for weapons of mass destruction) is categorised as a Conventional Weapon, and its use is regulated by International Humanitarian Law. The production, sale, and transfer of these armaments is structured like any other type of commerce, with standards, codes of conduct, and laws, which are not properly enforced. Underlining the lack of accountability of companies and governments, the project examines the ongoing conflict in Yemen through the type of weaponry employed. Who should be held responsible for the continuation of a war that has led to the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and is fought with weapons manufactured in wealthy northern countries?
The research has been translated into a 17 minutes film, extended by a repository of weapons employed in the conflict, visualised as investigative case files.
The Weapons' Reputation was published (online) in October 2020. It was meant to be an installation to be exhibited during Dutch Design Week 2020, canceled at the very last due to the increase of Covid cases. Then everything (the short documentary and weapons' repository) was transferred into a website (www.weaponsreputation.com).
Cinzia is also going to be involved with her brand new project, a video-installation, as part of the upcoming Geodesign exhibition opening October 9th at the Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven and running until the end of the month, concurrently with the Dutch Design Week 2021. You can discover more on the following website: https://geodesign.online.