The field of design has evolved tremendously in the last decade, with some artists and designers taking a more multi-dimensional approach. One artist who has fearlessly explored the field of 3-dimensional design is Alessio de Vecchi, an Italian designer currently based in Tokyo. Alesssio’s work takes shape in different forms through motion graphics, fashion, 3D animation, and many other types of multimedia.
Alessio spoke with us about his career in 3D design, Tokyo’s influence on his Italian education and background, his passions when it comes to art, and more. Check out the interview below, which features image and video excerpts from his portfolio of work.
How did you begin your career? Where do you see your career taking you in the next 10 years?
I studied product design and architecture in Milan at Istituto Europeo di Design. Not long after I graduated, I moved to NYC and realized that product design wasn’t exactly thriving there. In 2008, I started working on more ‘intangible products’ as a personal visual exploration. I had a friend who worked as an account executive at a big advertising agency and that’s how I got into 3D and animation. I have been working in advertising
I’ve always had an inclination towards the arts. I started painting when I was four. I’ve explored different mediums since childhood. I would say that 3D is the medium that I am now more comfortable with as I’ve been using it since 2001. I am progressively moving towards a more artistic side of things. The goal is being able to quit commercial work and focus 100% on personal artistic projects within the next 10 years (or less!). My first exhibition — which will take place in Milan at Fabric Eos — is in the works. And so is a (very) short movie I have written and directed.
What are some of the major differences, in your opinion, between working as a motion-graphics designer and product designer? Having done both, which kind of design do you prefer? Are there aspects you enjoy between both?
In my experience as a product designer I realized that the inspiration, the creative inception that leads to the initial concept happens fast, but then — from the first stages of prototyping to a finished product, can literally take months of ‘perfecting.’ I found it quite frustrating and I felt I was always losing all the excitement in the process. Creating motion-graphics and 3d content is, in my experience, quite the opposite. A lot of time goes into phase one, perfecting the concept and the storytelling and creating style-frames. It’s rare to get to an organic vision quickly, but once all elements you have
in mind un-blur, the execution is quite fast and it’s exciting to see everything come together quickly like LEGOs. Industrial design is more of a Rubik’s cube where tiles keep mixing up.
When I started working in advertising, I realized that visual communication is key. Most industrial products would never sell if the way they were advertised wasn’t spot on. I found that challenge very rewarding. I basically switched from creating objects to creating a perceived value that allows to sell them.
What kinds of trends in design and culture do you see coming from Italy at the moment?
I am really not sure. Italy hasn’t been on my radar so much in recent years.
My country has always been considered the cradle of industrial design, and in some ways, it still is. But its design culture struggles in catching up with fast paced design trends. I’d say industrial design is somehow conservative in Italy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I also think that people are mostly looking at the technology behind products they buy, the sustainability, affordability rather than just their pleasing aesthetics. It’s something to keep in mind, even for the most ‘noble’ Italian design firms.
On the other hand, I feel that fashion is pushing the envelope. Edgy is good. Still unsure about chopped heads on the runway though!
As an artist who works in 3D, what advantages or challenges do you see in comparison to traditional 2D design? Do you think there is room for growth in the world of 3D design?
I consider 2D a different form of art. I assume most 3D artists started from flat graphics, as I did. Being a good 2D artist doesn’t necessarily make you a good 3D artist, and vice a versa. I kind of suck at 2D, to be honest. Some sensibilities are shared between the two. Sense of composition and colors, for sure.
2D is unforgiving. Elements tend to be quite distinct and there’s no way of getting away with less than perfect. In 3D, things move — and usually fast, given the cuts imposed by advertising — so you can throw a lens flare in, add some smoke and direct the attention to what you want the viewer to look at. Sounds like cheating, doesn’t it? It is. And I love it.
There’s definitely room for growth. Software is exponentially growing more powerful, and it’s putting professional tools in the hands of literally anyone who wants to give 3D a shot. I see young artists on Instragram improving so quickly and creating amazing visuals just for fun daily. You can’t keep up with all the innovation all the time, but, as banal as it sounds, each artist is unique and I think that if the idea is good and the aesthetics are unique, there will always be space for anyone to enter the race.
What is 3D’s influence on fashion today, and how do you think it can influence fashion in the future?
I think 3D technology has approached a level of realism that can already trick most eyes. Within the decade to come, I think some models will definitely lose their jobs. And in 50 years, actors too maybe? As for the influence on the design itself, I can say with absolute confidence that it’s major. I myself helped a clothing brand visualize clothes and ended up designing the clothes along with the team. The ability to see how, say, a carbon fiber pattern would look on an average body in the wind at night in a matter of minutes is quite valuable, no?
Then there’s the 3D printing aspect. Iris Van Herpen has been exploring the space for a while and the results are stunning.
Where do you find inspiration for your work? What do you do when you feel uninspired?
I grew up in Italy, so it’s no surprise that I got inspired by the classics in the first place. Anyhow, two people that really inspired my aesthetic are David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Also, Blade Runner and Strange Days were movies that changed my sense of aesthetics forever. Basically anything that has to do with alienation and contains a dystopian element.
I also love hyper infrastructure and hyperbolic urbanization and that’s why I love Tokyo. When I feel uninspired, I mostly lay down and curse. Then I cook. Eat, drink. Smoke a cigarette. And then I usually end up back on track…usually.
How is your life in Tokyo different from life in other cities you’ve lived in? What do you like about Tokyo that you feel you can’t find elsewhere?
Living in big cities is inspiring to me. It’s fascinating how, despite the high density of people, human interaction can be difficult and dry. All big cities are sterile in a way, but also the perfect setting to observe the dynamics that drive people.
Tokyo is quite the ‘automatic’ city. Everything works smoothly, it’s clean, there’s no crime. The downside is that the hierarchies and rules are rigid which pushes some individuals to act like robots, completely alienated. I guess it can be quite the opposite from Italy. Or at least the Italy people know through movies and news… an unorganized cheerful mess!
Tokyo can be much quieter than people imagine. Walk down a random alley and all of a sudden it’s dark, there’s no noise and there’s a little shrine hidden away. I feel the ‘zen’ aspect of this city — there’s definitely a spiritual component. I am way more centered and productive here than I ever was in NYC, where there’s little to no ‘zen.’ NYC is inspiring and the art scene remains the most vibrant I have seen, but I find it difficult to stay focused.
Tokyo isn’t always an easy city for a foreigner, but it offers the perfect combination of quiet and hectic, progressive and conservative, old and new, spiritual and mundane that I have never seen anywhere else. The discovery of this city is never ending. And the food…oh, the food!
The art scene is undergoing a major change here. I feel it’s somehow blooming and becoming way more international.
Can you explain what draws you through your work to the human body? What kinds of creativity do you feel it allows?
Sometimes my humans take the form of food, liquid, or natural fibres, they deform and fall. I guess I am talking about the frailty of being human. Humans are so versatile, and yet so fragile. So impermanent. Definitely so. I guess that allows for exorcising the fear of death, somehow. An attempt to defeat
mortality. And I think that’s one of the most important functions of the art overall. On the other hand, arts that have not been influenced by humanism like European arts during the renaissance, like Japanese art for example, put nature at the center, instead of the human being. Nature is equally frail in many ways and it has a set duration. I think the Japanese see beauty in the temporary nature of things. Think of Ikebana for example, and in their change of state. Flower artist Azuma Makoto has been doing interesting work in that sense. The Japanese have a very different relationship with death and its acceptance as part of life.
What kinds of goals do you set for yourself when it comes to your work? How do you achieve them?
By giving up on a social life entirely! Ahaha
I try to create compelling visuals with a surprising, upsetting element. I want to trigger an emotional response. One of my favorite things to do is read the comments on my Instagram pieces. You quickly realize how the perception of what you do can get very far away from what you intended. The same piece is experienced as funny to some and horrifying to others. I’ve received death threats for pieces that apparently terrorized someone’s son!
Can you explain a bit of your process for your favorite most recent work? What did the beginning, middle, and end upon completion, look like?
My process? It’s all a mess, till it’s not.
I usually have a million ideas simmering in my brain and at some point, a reaction of sorts occurs and I have an epiphany. I jump in front of the workstation and I just grind through the process, sacrificing a lot of sleep.
Have you ever felt limited by technology in your work, like your vision was bigger than what was
technologically available? If so, how do you adjust?
Yes, I have in the past. Then I realized that the limits that technology imposes, can become part of the aesthetic language. I know many might disagree, but I don’t think affirming that is sacrilegious at all. In college, professors kept repeating to never let the tool dictate the form, but I always questioned the validity of such advice. Nothing is sacred to me, aside from the message. The aesthetics can adapt.
However it’s less and less the case. Technology is running at light speed and broadening the artistic freedom by the minute.
How do you see 3D technology evolving in the coming years?