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Francesco Ermanno Guida

Anti-Disciplinary Communication Design

01 October 2019 — 3 minutes read

My name is Francesco Ermanno Guida. I am an architect, with a PhD in Design and Technologies for the Enhancement of Cultural Heritage, researcher and assistant professor (Bachelor in Communication Design). I have been working on visual communication since the early 1990s, particularly on identity systems, museum signage and publishing. I am the author of the book "Comunicazione coordinata per i Beni Culturali: 4 progetti italiani" Corporate Communication for the Cultural Heritage (Valentino Editore, 2003).

I have edited: "Type design. Esperienze progettuali tra teoria e prassi" (Type design. Project experiences between theory and practice, Franco Angeli, 2011) with Giancarlo Iliprandi and "On the road. Bob Noorda, il grafico del viaggio" (On the road. Bob Noorda: travelling with a graphic designer, Aiap Edizioni, 2011), reported in the Adi Index 2012, with Cinzia Ferrara. Some of my projects have been displayed in group exhibitions in Italy and abroad and published in various national and international volumes and yearbooks. I am a professional member of Associazione Italiana Design della Comunicazione Visiva - AIAP (Italian Association of Visual Communication Design), of which I am a national board member and coordinator of AIAP Centro di Documentazione sul Progetto Grafico (AIAP Graphic Design Documentation Centre). As a member of AIS / Design - Associazione Italiana Storici del Design (Italian Association of Design History), I am a member of the "AIS / Design Journal" editorial board since 2012. Actually I am one of the journal’s associate editors for 2018-2020. In recent years, my research has focused on identity and branding systems applied to new technological and hybrid scenarios, information system design, user-centred orientation and signage, and Italian graphic design history with special attention to the micro-historical approach.

While coordinating the Communication Design Academic Programme’s Final Synthesis Studio, I developed a series of teaching, reflection and research paths through a broad, but circumscribed field. The general objective is to design experiences centred on communicative devices and processes including digital, physical, virtual or analogue ones. In this way, we have shifted the project limits beyond a pure visual dimension and defined a mix of conceptual and strategical levels, technological and visual language issues. The themes function as "activators" of the topic to work on. The objective is to reflect and identify solutions, verify them using prototyping, and testing them with public discussion. The whole design process has been focused on the eternal and straightforward principle of learning by doing, which consists of tinkering, making mistakes and trying again to achieve the best result. This approach allows students to experiment with visual expressions and user experiences across two and three dimensions. Each project must follow a solid and reasoned concept and must be physically verified by creating working prototypes. This path and its objectives are based upon the conviction that Communication Design is an open field, with blurred limits and boundaries. It can be defined as an “anti-disciplinary” discipline where the design of physical and immaterial visual artefacts converges towards system design (Ito, 2016).
Its centre is increasingly shifting from function to meaning (Antonelli, 2011). This centre shift brings value to speculative practice adoption in an educational environment. Generally, Communication Design is a problem-solving practice which uses professional simulations in teaching and training. We must consider the discipline as rarely focused on itself. It is a language and a heading which contains what you want. Sometimes it is a customer who defines this heading, other times this role must be played by the designer. The heading remains a means of communication (Fuller, 2012). It is intriguing to involve students in a process that moves from problem-solving to problem-finding, encouraging them to develop concepts and scenarios where it is neither necessary nor fundamental to consider a precise function. Thus: concept, design and verification of solutions. It is not so much a problem of skills and technique; it is more an issue of intellectual knowledge. It is essential to have a strong motivation to learn uncertain things and manage such uncertainty, critically analyse one's own solutions and question them, rather than learn a professional practice.

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