|This web exhibition accompanies a current exhibition "Freddie Carabott, Michalis & Agni Katzourakis - Design routes, a design retrospective exhibition" at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece, from January 30 to March 23, 2008. The following text, pictures and portraits were kindly provided by Dimitris Arvanitis, who also designed the 350 page catalogue and the exhibition poster. The three designers are well known for their prize winning work for the Greek National Organization of Tourism in the 60's and early 70's. The two greek pioneers are AGI members, Agni is a famous illustrator and the wife of Michalis.|
and Design routes
The appearance in the field of visual communications of "K&K Athens Advertising Centre" in the early 1960s marks the beginning of the transformation of Greek design from an empirical discipline to a fully fledged new art.
A rational approach, the full control of tools and materials, the application of minimalism in communication strategies, pure design and the deliberate adherence to the principles of Modernism became trademarks of the Centre's projects. Keeping abreast of developments and armed with a cosmopolitan outlook, the team of Carabott and Katzourakis were able to propose fresh and highly creative ideas throughout the broad spectrum of the projects they undertook. Visual communications, printed material, environmental design as well as advertising projects in the entire range of applications are produced with a well-honed dexterity which is often awarded in international competitions (Rizzoli Award) and Biennales.
The election of F. Carabott and M. Katzourakis to the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) in 1968 came to confirm the merit of Greek designers in an era dominated by such great names as Alan Fletcher, Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, George Lois, Lou Dorfsman, Louis Danziger, Saul Bass, Ivan Chermayeff, Ikko Tanaka, Raymond Savignac, Josef Müller-Brockmann. The team of K&K laid the foundations for the proper orientation of graphic design in Greece but not those of design education, since the State failed to make use of these masters' unique gifts and knowledge in any of its special training programmes.
The posters of Carabott and Katzourakis, the illustrations of Agni Katzouraki, the logos of all of them and the team's outstanding campaigns served as a unique source of inspiration for subsequent generations and set the foundations for a Greek style which is still discovered by younger designers today. The logos, slogans and images produced by K&K became familiar sights in social life for decades and are recognised as integral parts of our urban environment. Sportex trainer shoes, Ivi soft drinks, Proderm children's toiletries and the logos for Mitera maternity hospital, the Bank of Crete, Kourtakis and the Spastics' Association make up the 'National heritage' of Greek design.
Their work for Greek Tourism for several years before the military dictatorship of 1967 served as a powerful communication tool for GNTO and secured the First and Second awards for Tourist Posters, followed by the First Prize for Tourist Promotion from the International Advertising Association. On the strength of these successes, in 1965 the State decorated Carabott and Katzourakis with the Golden Cross of the Order of the Phoenix for their contribution to Greek design.
My involvement in this publication was an obligation I felt towards my -our- roots. For over a year now I have been gaining experience as I watch with care their approach to all sorts of problems of visual communication which they are called upon to address. Archives of newspaper cuttings, all sorts of printed material, logos forgotten in folders - everything was a new surprise, as fresh as if they were designed today. Posters that take your breath away. Demanding projects whose simplicity reminds you that 'simple' does not always mean 'easy', too.
I admire their propositions, many of them from as long as forty years back, and marvel at their bold, innovative ideas and designs. Their solutions at all levels are pointing straight towards a clearly defined aim. They manage to create wonders as they work on ephemeral projects. They smash their way through stereotypes and put forwards ideas full of their abundant reserves of humour.
My awe and respect for their work stopped me from going to see them in the early 1970s and showing them my work. Time went by, and I was left with the unfulfilled yearning to meet them. This only happened much later, and since then I have been pestering them with questions about all sorts of things. In this way I inhabit a virtual reality, yet I am full of bliss for being able to talk with them about design or about so many other things that enhance our daily lives. As you must have realized, I admire them and consider them part of my culture even though they were not my teachers in the narrow sense of the word.
I am constantly surprised at various AGI meetings when I talk to some great names of the international design scene and everyone asks with love and admiration after their favourite colleagues. They all have something special to recall about their relationship and their work.
Their course has been a long one. At difficult times, when graphic designers in Greece were known under the derogatory title of "model makers" and design was no more than a dictionary entry, Freddie and Michalis were participating in Biennales while such periodicals as Idea and Gebrauchsgraphik were requesting their contributions.
I was already aware of their talent, and my deep appreciation of their work goes back some four decades. What I hadn't fully realised was the talent and the individual presence of Agni Katzouraki in the realm of design. Yet in recent years, as archives are compiled and the various projects are signed, I have come to see the astounding artistic maturity of Agni. Logos, illustrations, books full of brilliance and freshness make up the legacy of the Maestra to young graphic designers who are bound to discover it very soon.
It is such a shame that none of them was ever asked to teach graphic design and ethics to the young people of Greece.
The three pioneers are moving among us and continue to be active, each in their own chosen field, noiselessly and tirelessly and without getting trapped into the futile vanity of the local lifestyle.
Dimitris Th. Arvanitis