Designy-Mind: a Weekend in Milano

Milano, Milan, Jarred Elrod, Graphic Design and Photography

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a weekend of walking + thinking

Milan—what an amazing place. I was invited by my friend and talented designer / design educator Bob Liuzzo to attend a lecture at the Institute of European Design (IED). During that time I was super fortunate to meet Armando Milani and Cosimo Lorenzo Pancini of Zetafonts—what an amazing experience! This was the first design related public event I have attended since our last Ligature Event at the University of Florida that was held in person almost two years ago. Given my status at the UF is on leave at the moment, attending this event brought up a mixed feelings. I felt grateful to be there, in person—with people again talking and thinking about design! On the flip side I felt some real FOMO about not being part of these types of things right now happening at UF. I was there alone for more or less the first two days of the trip (Amanda joined me later). I spent a good deal of time walking the city with my camera reflecting on the mixed emotions I had during the design lecture, which I attended shortly after arriving in the city. As you can see from my photos, I spent most of my time looking up, but did pause to check that my feet were still on the ground on more that one occasion (photographed above).

Milan is a city that culturally / visually / architecturally synthesizes the old and the new—it’s a huge place, but super easy to get around because of the amazing public transportation system. This allowed me to literally explore all over the city on foot in one full day…from the Vertical Forest to the ADI Design Museum (both photographed above). My mood was admittedly a little dark as I walked around the city mentally wresting with complex thoughts of career, creativity, direction, loss, hanging on / letting go, etc… Because of this, I decided to shoot black and white—just looking for opportunities to capture striking frames of light and form. The energy of the city during the day felt good. I chose to lead the post with the image of the Duomo revealing itself as you come out of the subway tunnel. If you’ve ever visited NYC and remember the first time you came out of the subway into Times Square, being presented with the Duomo as the first thing you see is a similar experience. It’s just an unbelievable structure—and it photographs really well on a clear day because of how it contrasts with the blue sky.

We’re coming up on almost a year in Italy, which is really hard for me to Believe. My work more or less felt normal through the Summer because of the rhythms of the academic schedule. Now that we’re into Fall it feels weird not to be teaching design. I’m supplementing income by substitute teaching at the middle/highschool on the Airbase. It does feel good to be back in a classroom in person, but it feels nothing like what I was doing before. The experience of breaking away from what I’ve been doing for the last decade (like the lecture) has brought up a ton of mixed feelings. There are feelings I’ve had about academia for a long time that have been validated in both positive and negative ways. Mostly I miss the students and the feeling of using my mind (one could call it creative problem solving, I guess) to facilitate challenge and growth amongst young designers. I don’t miss the university industrial complex—and we’ll just leave it at that. It’s tough to make sense of those feelings, although I’m working hard to do so. I’m lucky to have such a supportive environment and partner to be able to have the extreme privilege to wrestle with these thoughts. I was listening to an episode of Design Matters with Debbie Millman the other day—Debbie was interviewing Ethan Hawke and he said something to the effect of “everything is good when you are serving the art, it gets tough when you want the art to serve you.” That really resonated with me as I sit here trying to figure out what I’m going to do. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of expecting what you do or have done to serve you in some way. We all do this when we post personal stuff on instagram, or worse, engineer something not totally accurate about ourselves looking for the likes—nobody ever gets real validation no matter how many likes it gets. It’s probably why social media makes us feel like shit most of the time. Hawke went on to say his career always came out of ruts when he remembered to serve his art regardless of what the return might look like—be it financial, notoriety, etc. This is something that’s easy to say and hard to do—especially when it comes to financial realities. Total trust in the process—moving through, not around the discomfort with intention—all the things so many folks talk about—myself included. That’s all for now, but I’ll be pulling on this thread again soon.

Things I brought back from Milan—all things that have nothing to do with Milan 😂. Photographed in color above: 1) A football team scarf for Calcio Catania, made by my friend and talented designer/educator Bob Liuzzo (part of his amazing Catania Project) 2) 120 and 35mm film for my favorite film cameras found at a great little hole in the wall camera shop called Fotomateriale 3) dice gifted to me by Bob from the Logolounge / Bill Gardner lecture at IED Milano. Whew, lots of links there.

📸 + ✍️ + 🎞