There are few bright lights on the Greek horizon right now, but its export performance is probably the brightest one. Greek exports grew by 39% in 2011 and the institutions behind its bailouts believe that traditionally strong areas like tourism and food can reboot the nation’s economy.
Design is not one of those traditional strengths, but a new, exciting generation of Greek design studios is growing its own international following and shaping fresh, engaging identities for the country’s exporters to trade on.
Consumer brands were conspicuous by their absence from Greece’s post-war economic miracle, and a branding culture failed to develop. The 1960s travel posters of Freddie Carabott and Michalis Katzourakis won praise in the international design community, but little else did.
Today, studios such as G Design Studio and Pi6 in Athens, and Designers United in Thessaloniki are winning international competitions, coverage and awards for their intelligent, often arresting work.
Designers United’s brand identity for 5, a new premium range of extra virgin olive oils for international distribution, exhibits the studio’s tendency to reduce and refine, typographically and verbally. “While looking for an appropriate brand name we came up with the number 5,” say the studio, “in which five stands for quintessence in olive oil.” Paired with packaging graphics that dispense with all non-essentials such as sketches of olive branches, and a bottle that suggests an ancient potion, the brand is pure, polished and sophisticated.
Design talent like this could be of enormous benefit to Greece’s exporter brands. If they don’t pick up on it, foreign competitors might, and Greek design could become a new export phenomenon in itself.