Cyprus Story Telling – An interview with GSC

Graphics Stories Cyprus is a Conference and Workshop initiative that has been running for the past three years now. Set-up and run by Aggeliki Athanasiadi and Miltos Karras, the initiative has included several notable figures from the world of Greek and Cypriot design; myself humbly included. The conference consists of evening seminars from notable figures from design, and guest speakers. Then typically, over the following weekend period there consists a set of workshops and exhibitions all related to aspects of graphic design.

Last year I was invited to participate in these events and was overwhelmed with the experience. This year I have been invited back to continue the lectures and workshops, but also stage my first exhibition outside of Greece. The whole event will be a tiring rush between the three events I have on the roster, but as like last year, I am reassured in knowing that the whole Graphics Stories Cyprus event will be managed and run very well; as previous years have shown.

So, in a little preparation to the event I am opening an interview with the founders to shed a little light into the motivations, histories, and preparations of these events, with some added bits in the middle to add some spice. I managed to talk to Aggeliki Athanasiadi and Miltos Karras (husband and wife team), about their superb initiative.

For the Greek version look here: http://robsnow.eu/cyprus-story-telling-greek/

1) How did the idea for Graphic Stories Cyprus begin?

Having lived for many years in Greece and worked as a professional graphic designer, I have been involved in the local community of graphic designers. I participated in various forums on graphic and visual communication, attended conferences and workshops, and generally tried to stay active in the local community of designers. In 2004, together with a group of friends and co-designers, we created the VCDC (Visual Communication Designers Club) with the respective web forum with the aim to provide information, communication and offering, as well as sharing, knowledge and experience in visual communication. When I moved to Cyprus in 2009, I noticed the lack of similar actions and initiatives concerning visual communication designers as a whole. In July of 2014, I was offered a proposal and started to write for one of the largest newspapers in Cyprus, Politis. My weekly column entitled “Graphic Stories” was the occasion to interact with the professionals and the students of visual communication on the island and in time made the idea of creating an open and independent conference on graphic and visual communication to mature inside me, aiming to fill this gap in information and knowledge sharing, but also to bring together the virtually non-existent community of designers until then. In March 2015 the 1st Graphic Stories Cyprus came to life, and despite the ominous predictions of experts and non-experts, its success exceeded all expectations, lighting the green light to continue and reach, hopefully before the 4th consecutive conference on graphic design and visual communication in Cyprus.

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2) What does Graphic Stories Cyprus entail as far as content?

Graphic Stores Cyprus includes lectures, workshops, exhibitions, and since 2017 an international poster design contest has been included in its program. Lectures, by prominent professionals, cover a wide range of Visual Communication, highlighting the present and exploring its future. The specialised workshops, by experienced tutors, offer accumulated and professional level of knowledge and experience in relation to modern design practices, and are addressed to professionals as well as to students. The exhibitions aim at highlighting the contemporary themes of Visual Communication, creating a climate of experimentation, to raise questions and to explore possible answers. Through the poster contest, we give the opportunity to young and not only designers to promote and showcase their talent and work internationally. This year, 2018, on the occasion of the international competition, “Writing, the Origins of Civilisation“, we have planned workshops for school-age children, in order to raise interest and awareness in relation to visual communication, and to promote the cultivation of visual education in a larger part of the population.

3) How many events have been included over the years, and who has been involved?

Since 2015, where Graphic Stories Cyprus has begun, there has been 25 lectures, 9 creative exhibitions, 9 specialized professional workshops as well as a children’s workshop, 2 international poster competitions have been hosted, with entries from all over the world and we have also organized 2 Behance portfolio reviews for the first time in Cyprus. Also a new initiative is added to our program for 2018, in collaboration with Animafest Cyprus and will be called “Animated Stories“, link http://graphicstoriescyprus.com/animated-stories.

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4) What issues, both technical and bureaucratic, have you faced in the logistics of the conference? How does the initiative managed to cost all the expenses involved in such a mammoth schedule?

From the very first moment, it became clear that such a large project would require very good planning, hard work and support, both in terms of logistical infrastructure in the form of sponsorships and other means of assistance, but also in terms of volunteering from people who offered, their time, energy, knowledge and shared our common vision. Besides, it is important not to forget that the whole effort is non-profit. We initially started as an informal voluntary creative team to be able to create an official nonprofit organisation within three years of the beginning of our activities.

5) How does the initiative managed to cost all the expenses involved in such a mammoth schedule?

First of all, to clarify that for many years in Cyprus there were no independent initiatives aimed at informing and raising the value of visual communication not only to the wider public but also to professionals within the industry. The climate of introversion that prevailed and which to a certain extent continues to exist so far has not left the industry to evolve. Visual communication is by nature extroverted, which unfortunately does not always apply to the respective professionals. When we started in 2014 in order to organise the 1st Graphic Stories Cyprus, many tried to discourage us believing that it would not have the response we wanted because similar efforts in the past did not succeed. We managed, against any projections, in the first event in 2015, to fill a hall of 110 people and another 30 people were left out of the hall, unable to attend. For us it was a bet against ourselves and against the sirens of introversion, about what is feasible to succeed and eventually we managed to win it. Today we have an international contest with 700 entries from all over the world, putting Cyprus on the world map of visual communication while the activities of the last conference attended more than 250 people. I think the spark we first burst has become a flame that is enough to heat even the most skeptical.

6) What have been some highlights of the past three years? Any strange/funny happenings?

Graphic Stories Cyprus is a celebration of graphic arts and visual communication. Every moment is important. For us there are thousands of small, beautiful, happy moments, it is the love of the world, it is every step we take forward and every risk we take every time to improve it in every field, it is the difficult but also the easy moments and the feeling of satisfaction that every time leaves us with a smile on our face that despite the fatigue gives us the strength to go on for another year.

7) What are the plans for the future of the project?

Each event is treated as something new, something radical that is built up from the beginning with the same love, professionalism and consistency in what we do. As long as there is the response and the love of the people, we are moving forward and expanding our activities throughout the whole year but also taking new initiatives in relation to the broader spectrum of visual communication. As I have written in the past, if I could think of a word or concept that really should characterise a visual communication designer, it would be none other than “creativity”. Just like Sisyphus, punished by the gods of Olympus living in the dark Tartara, pushing a rock all the way to the top of the hill, and just before the top the rock escapes, tossing back to the foot, in the same way the graphic designer guided by the demands of each new project he undertakes should lead his creativity to new peaks each time. I think perhaps that Sisyphus will be happy there at the base of the mountain, with the stone in his hands, since the struggle to reach the summit is enough to fill his human heart.

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8) How could a graphic designer participate in the conference?

The Conference addresses all the categories and degrees of both design professionals working in the field of visual communication, print, web, 3D or multimedia applications, as well as respective students. Lectures and exhibitions are offered for free to the public, but those interested should  make a reservation through our site to ensure their seat. For the workshops, early bird ticket availability has started until the 15th of February, while the number of tickets is limited, and until the 10th of March, normal prices will apply. This year, for the first time, participants will be able to order a commemorative Conference KIT at a special price through our site until the 5th of March and they will be able to receive it on the day of the conference. The kit includes the conference bag with silk-screen printing from Tind Silkscreen, a collectors magnet 5.5cm, a wooden pen and a Graphic Stories Cyprus notebook size A5 . All information are included at: www.graphicstoriescyprus.com/ticket

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