NeonMoiré – interview

Hugo Puttaert on doubt, overbranding and new directions.

Hugo Puttaert is a graphic designer, professor at St Lucas School of Arts Antwerp and organizer of biennial Integrated Conference in Antwerp, Belgium. This upcoming 14 and 15 November he presents the sixth edition of the event. This edition of Integrated focus on the art & design of the civil domain, an ambiguous third space between market and state, where innovative design ideas, both physical and virtual, are more than often incubated in a grey zone between legality and illegality.

Can you tell us about your background?

I graduated in Fine Arts, worked for about ten years as an artist, doing a lot of exhibitions, installations and performances, before starting my own graphic design studio visionandfactory.

It was a fascinating period, since I was pioneering as one of the first graphic designers using a desktop computer. I always combined my design experiences with teaching. Since some years I am directing the graphic design department of St Lucas, School of Arts Antwerp and I am in charge of the international oriented Integrated Conferences. In 2014, MER Paper Kunsthalle edited a book titled: ‘Think in Colour’. When you heat the book, a second sentence becomes visible: ‘Even if you prefer black and white’. This strongly emphasizes my approach, in every way.

What led up to organizing Integrated?

It started with a fascination, already since graduating and being active in the artistic, as well as in the design field. Already in the late nineties, when lecturing in several countries, I became aware that ‘design’ is useless on its own, without a self-critical attitude. Reflection, collaboration and openness might direct designers and artists into new directions. With Integrated, we try to show these evolutions and at the same time, we want to prove that practices are not related to the medium or discipline itself, but to their owners. In other words: we try to tear down the barriers between disciplines or at least: make them visible. Integrated is fairly connected to educational issues, it wants to open the debate on art and design education.

Have you always been an organizer?

I think so, in one way or another. Running a medium large design studio has a lot to do with organizing. When I was asked to curate an exhibition about graphic design, people wanted me to publish a sort of ‘take away’ poster. I used a grumpy, badly copied black and white picture showing a guitar player holding a five armed guitar. I threw a sort of Jamie Reid, Sex Pistols lookalike fluorescent typo on top of it with the text: ‘I rather drum’. In other words: organizing, next to designing, teaching, running a business, editing etc, instead of specializing. It is something I cannot deny, it is in me, it has to do with the way I function.

What is the story behind the conference name, and where does it stand for?

Integrated might sound politically correct. But it has nothing to do with that. Integrated stands for the place, the forum where ideas, visions and working methods interact, struggle or meet one or another. It is a plea for unconventional thinking, beyond borders of media, disciplines or even idioms. …


Written by Thomas Dahm, published on Saturday October 28, 2017 by © NeonMoiré. Photo by © Tijs Vervecken.

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